2009 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

Icon in the Making

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2009 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
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There is something about the new Mercedes C63 - something special. We don't want to be overly presumptuous, but judging from reactions to the C63, as well as our own tire shredding impressions, this might just be an icon in the making.

FAST FACTS

1. The AMG version of the C-Class is powered by a 6.2-liter V8 that makes 451hp and 443 ft-lbs of torque.

2. Like almost all Benzes, the C63 isn’t offered with a manual.

3. Hard-core enthusiasts can opt for the P30 package, which raises the C63’s top speed from 155 mph to 186 mph, and includes composite brakes, a locking rear differential and an Alcantara-coated steering wheel

DESIGN: BOY RACER INVESTMENT BANKER

Undoubtedly, the C63 looks the part of a classic in the making. While Mercedes has slowly and very subtly been face-lifting its models, the C-Class has received a complete overhaul. Starting with a base that is easily the best-looking (and most revolutionary) Mercedes design since the CLS, AMG has created a performance variant that certainly looks like a German sedan with a ferocious 6.2-liter engine. For starters, there’s the hood. The massive “power domes” would look bizarre on any other vehicle, but on the C63 they mesh perfectly. The car also gets a bold new front end that looks like it has all the aerodynamic efficiency of a brick wall (even though it has a relatively decent .30 drag coefficient). On top of that, the front fenders are larger than the standard C-Class to accommodate the 1.4-inch wider front track.

What makes this design truly special, however, is how it caters to the perceived audience. It would seem that Mercedes isn’t looking to attract Mercedes owners with this new body, (or with the car’s suspension for that matter), but rather to woo younger buyers away from the competition.

The C63 has just a touch of boy-racer appeal to it – and not in a bad way either. It’s a perfect middle-ground between Audi’s RS4, which is dripping with tuner-car machismo, and BMW’s M3, which is entirely too civilized looking.

And to drive-home just how different this AMG is from the rest of the Mercedes line, take a look at those wheels. Brilliant! The 18-inchers are muscular and sporty and deliver the sort of look people normally go to the aftermarket for.

NO FRILLS INTERIOR – RELATIVELY SPEAKING

Inside the C63 there is also a feeling that Mercedes is looking to attract less-traditional buyers. For a Benz, the accoutrements are relatively Spartan, which could be for several reasons. For starters, it could be that this is really still just a C-Class. It is also likely that Mercedes kept the luxury in check in order to keep the price point competitive – which it certainly is at $56,300. Another strong possibility, and one that we favor, is that Mercedes believes potential C63 owners would rather have power and performance but at the right price. If you stepped out of a CLS and into the C63 you’d be sorely disappointed. However, if you just traded in your 2003 M3, you’d think it was an upgrade. Which, we believe, is exactly the message Mercedes wants to send.

This isn’t to say the C63 doesn’t have some fantastic interior appointments. In fact, it has all the power gizmos you might expect. What is truly impressive is the power pneumatic side bolsters, which you can pump up or down to make the seat as form fitting as possible.

DOMINATING PERFORMANCE

These two successes on the path to iconic status, would, however, be nothing without serious performance to back them up. And back them up Mercedes did. The 6.2-liter V8 produces 451 hp at 6800 rpm and 443 ft-lbs of torque at 5200 rpm. With more power than any other car in its class, including almost 150 more ft-lbs of torque than the M3, Mercedes brought a hand-cannon to a knife-fight. Officially, MB claims the sedan will hit 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, a feat we achieved (on our first try) with a driver, a passenger and at least 200 lbs of luggage and camera equipment.

When Mercedes announced this new 6.2-liter engine, we were skeptical and, to be honest, we’re still not sure it’s the right choice for cars like the E, S or SL-Class. In this small sedan, however, it’s perfect. There is just enough rpm to make winding it up fun and enough torque to turn the rear tires from a solid into a gas quicker than you can say, well… anything.

AMG TUNING

AMG seems to have built an icon here… and they aren’t finished yet. Also available is the P30 package that ups the top speed from 155 mph to 186 mph. The P30 package also includes composite brakes, a locking rear differential and an Alcantara steering wheel.

ON THE ROAD

Behind the wheel of the C63 there isn’t much to have issue with, but there are a few things. Considering the massive amount of power, some wider rear tires certainly wouldn’t hurt.

The suspension is harsh for Mercedes standards although, again, we can’t help but think this was done on purpose. And besides, when the car is pushed, the handling dynamics are superb with a firm chassis, excellent turn-in and less understeer than some of the competition.

The throttle-blip on the downshifts helps to keep the car stable under deceleration – which is a huge benefit on a car with this much gusto. It also sounds impressive, as does the glorious bark and growl when you get on the loud pedal.

The only thing that might hold this Benz back from celebrity status is the lack of a manual transmission. The new Speedshift Plus tranny is great on the downshifts and in the sport mode the C63 always finds itself in a power-optimized gear. It may be the fastest shifting autobox in the world, but that, as they say, is sort of like winning an argument on the Internet. Even a double clutch system would be nice.

Another big flaw is how thirsty this vehicle is. Official ratings put it at 12/19 mpg city/highway but from our test even those numbers seem like a rear stretch.

PLUS

Dominating power
Balance of youthful and elegant design
Ability to turn traction control off

MINUS

Stiff ride
No manual offered
Not enough rubber

THE VERDICT

From the suspension to the Spartan interior, to the exterior design, to the all-important price, the C63 AMG has what younger, affluent, performance-oriented buyers are after. With the exception of there being no manual tranny (something we gripe about on all auto cars, but which is sorely missed, in particular, in this specific segment), the C63’s other drawbacks aren’t likely to faze potential buyers.

Mercedes, it seems, did their homework and designed a performance sedan that perfectly meets the wants of a large segment of buyers who traditionally would have opted for a BMW.

Is the C63 an iconic car?

AMG has done its part to ensure all the right qualifications are in place, now it is up to consumers to decide.

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