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Steve Thomas BMW
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      09-29-2007, 06:34 AM   #1
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Sparkling C63 review

Looks to be a value priced competitor for the M3

"SEDAN … automatic … Mercedes-Benz … how could we possibly be talking about one of the most exhilarating new sportscar experiences in the world?

Especially one that is based on the latest W204 C-class series – which, while certainly sharper and much more involving to drive than its softer predecessor, isn’t at the top of its league (to borrow a phrase from the providers of the car, that is) for sheer driving pleasure.

It’s true though. The C63 AMG is a thunderous reinterpretation of the fast German sports sedan, a bolt of lightening in both inspiration and on the limits of the autobahn.

Weaved within the strong and sturdy C-class base are a 35mm-larger front axle for a wider track, redesigned suspension geometry, refettled AMG speed-sensitive steering and an optional 19-inch wheel and composite brake package that gives the C63 the reflexes to control power and torque outputs that – just a few years ago – were the provenance of supercars such as the Porsche 911 Turbo.

So at an indicated and speed-limited 253km/h on the German autobahn, the Mercedes sedan feels rock-solid stable. Our car – fitted with the ceramic stoppers – then would pull up with the force of a massive anchor thrown overboard.

At the other end of the speedometer spectrum, flooring the accelerator on the bone-dry roads will certainly smoke the rear tyres if you want it to, but explosively quick yet clean take-offs are the norm.

In fact, unlike some previous AMG efforts, it is the bits in-between – and all the times in-between lairy launches and cross-continental warp speeds – where the C63 AMG shows its true mettle.

Certainly, you can trundle along in congested city streets or quiet country towns, as you try to reduce the 20L/100km-average we recorded after some ballistic highway runs to the 13.4L/100km official combined average.

Or, without lag or hesitation, putting your down at 80km/h will almost instantly add a ‘1’ in front of that figure. Slow down after spending time at speeds what may land you in prison in Australia and 180km/h feels like 80km/h.

Better still, lift-off to slow down at speed, and the seven-speed automatic blips and snarls as it changes down, in an instant, to provide you with an aural sensation that is initially totally unexpected but always absolutely delightful.

The gearbox also performs far beyond our expectations, as it seemingly anticipates the driver’s desires by serving up the right ratio almost every time, whether we left the lever in Drive or played with the well-situated paddle shifters.

Only when we were prodding the accelerator repeatedly on purpose (to record some of those glorious V8 harmonics) did we confound the transmission.

There is a newfound finesse in the way this supercar soaks up road surfaces as you flow through corners. No more rough edges, no more skittish progress, and no more jarring ride. The Mercedes sweeps you along like you are a child straddling the shoulders of a long-legged adult.

Meanwhile the steering – which is nigh on perfectly weighted at 240km/h as it is at 24km/h – is lovely in its linearity and feel. The regular C-class cars could do with some of this AMG magic dust.

After blasting around the roads of central Germany, we soon forgot about the slightly disappointing lack of occasion inside, which really is too regular C-class for something so special

Yep, we loved the sensationally grippy seats, placing you perfectly in place to see the two ridges that ripple along the bonnet. It gives the C63 an air of sinewy seriousness. But the interior itself is a little too C280 Avantgarde – cliched flat-bottomed steering wheel aside – for this honed supercar.

Also reminiscent of the luxo littlie is the air-tight quality of the cabin, which makes a very welcome return to all C-classes after going truant in the last iteration.

What the C63 AMG does most spectacularly – besides looking like a cultured lout in its lavish outfit of gills, flared wheelarch and ready-for-combat stance – is completely upturn preconceptions of how a luxurious and refined V8 automatic sports sedan should behave.

It left us questioning the need for a manual gearbox, in a way that sequential clutchless automated transmissions like the ones BMW, Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and (we know we are being sacrilegious here) VW and Audi – have never quite been able to do.

We wondered whether – extra rear legroom side – luxury sedans, wagons and SUVs aren’t made redundant by a sports sedan as dynamic yet cosseting as this.

But most of all, we are left to ponder whether the seductive C63 AMG will translate as fluently on our stuttering roads as it does on Germany’s brilliant blacktop.

If it does, the M3 will no longer be the automatic default choice in this segment.
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