With all this media talk of a gas electric plug-in hybrid clean diesel hydrogen fuel cell future, someone forgot to tell Mercedes that the horsepower war is over. Sure, the new BMW M3 has a 414hp V8, trumped by the Audi RS4’s 420hp eight pot. But who gives a shit? The new automotive arms race: building and selling enough small, high-mileage, low-profit vehicles that various government agencies will let you sell large, low-mileage, high-profit vehicles. Meanwhile, the Mercedes C63 AMG.
Four-hundred fifty-one horses. That’s the headline number produced by the 6.2-liter V8 crammed into the 3993 lbs. C-Class' snout. It sure doesn’t look lunatic. Yes, there are some tacky pieces of body kit, including a gaudy bumper that speaks of Honda Civics down at the 7-11. But the C63 is a butch little bastard whose hunkered stance and müde autoreifen convey more solidity than Brando at the end of Streetcar.
Aside from my test car’s porno-quality cream-colored leather seats and door panels, the C63’s cabin adds nothing to the sense of occasion– which may or may not be the point. A mere three grand buys you hyper-bolstered sport seats, completely unsuitable for anyone who’s ever eaten a deep fried mozzarella stick.
Drive the C63 around town and you'd never know a murderer lives just beyond the firewall. Burbling around the Best Buy parking lot (where DO the ultra rich hang out these days?), the mini-Merc seems like a normal, albeit brisk, shrunken S. In town, the C63’s sublime suspension tackles all; this ain't no hard-edged tooth-chip express.
Toggle the AMG’s transmission from C (for Comfort) to M for (Manubetterbereadyforthis), grind the gas pedal into the carpet and the C63 parachutes into Afghanistan with the Tenth Mountain Division, all guns blazing. As you’d expect from a combat-ready sedan, time suddenly slows down. The C63’s massive meats shriek and hop around as they desperately try to do something, anything with 443 ft.-lbs. of torque (torque is more modest 369 lb ft from 2000-6250 rpm). You can hear the V8 nuking gasoline; the mega-motor is screaming like a pissed off bear with a megaphone. HOLY SHIT!
Time resumes its normal pace. It has been exactly one second since mashing the gas. The tach needle rockets around. The LCD in the center of the speedo flashes "UP! 2" Pull the damn shift paddle! Second gear is gone before it arrives. The engine is doing a passable imitation of a jet exhaust. At 4.3 seconds, we’re passing sixty. I need to upshift again. Third gear at 5000 pm and the deep, throaty roar indicates V3. I’m mainlining sex, and power, and drugs into my arms. And I like it.
After 9.2 seconds, we're in triple digits. The C63 crests 100 miles per hour on its way to Mach 2. And get this: it was totally an accident. I just was just trying to ingest a little more of that engine bellow, the closest approximation to crack/cocaine money can buy, and probably a lot more dangerous. But it's not my fault.
There's so much power lingering about, it's a wonder the C63 AMG doesn't simply implode when you nail the throttle. The only problem: trying to power out of corners in third or fourth gear. With the torque closer to its peak, the wheels can't deal with all the activity. Yes, we're going sideways– in spite of an optional $4k limited slip differential lock. Lift a little off the gas and everything is jake again. You can absolutely massacre corners at arbitrarily chosen speeds.
The suspension is miraculous. If every car was like this, we'd never bother to fix potholes. I swear you cannot feel them, in spite of the low profile tires and 18" wheels. And the huge brakes scrub off enormous speed in less time than it takes to yell “radar!” And thank God for that.
The C63 AMG is not cheap. The $54,565 sticker competes squarely with the legendary BMW M3, not to mention a regular E350. Oh, did I mention my tester punched out at $70k? And the C63 won't get any love from the Prius people, what with single-digit mileage. But this, my chain saw-wielding, carbon positive friends, is a bargain.
The biggest problem with the C63 AMG: many of the C63's virtues are available in, gulp, a regular C-Class. I'm not saying buy a C300 instead. I'm saying you the C63 AMG needs a lot of lebensraum. Otherwise, you’ll spend your life in that special place called “time exposed to danger,” blasting past the guy in a Lexus RX350 who's blocking "the windy road" to work (at 60 mph). But if you can afford the C63 and all the depreciation that AMG implies, and you have the context in which to drive it, the C63 proves that all's fair in love and war.