First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

On the eve of the 2011 Geneva motor show press days, the performance division of Mercedes-Benz rolled out three stark white C63 AMG models -- a four-door sedan, a wagon, and a hush-hush, no-photos-allowed coupe that will be unveiled later this spring at the New York Auto Show. All three will hit the market together, first in Europe this July, followed by a U.S. launch, in September.

All eyes were glued to the cars dominating the center of the big room -- a former sewing machine factory that had been transformed into a high-style lounge with black leather couches and red hanging lamps across the tall ceiling -- where new Swedish head of AMG, Ola Kaellenius, held court all night with AMG's product development boss Tobias Moers and marketing guru Mario Spitzner. They made an enthusiastic, laid-back trio, representing a trio of anything BUT laid-back cars.

You will know the AMG C-Class models when you see them by the big three-pointed star dominating a new front end that channels the bold look of the SL63 AMG, and by two opposing L-shaped bumps on the aluminum hood that the AMG team call "power domes." A tight little carbon fiber tail spoiler, a pronounced shark's fin roof antenna, and dark grey, 18-inch twin-spoke light-alloy AMG wheels also look suitably evil, especially on the sleek two-door coupe.

"We didn't just want it to be a styling thing," said the very young, very self-assured and affable Kaellenius, who most recently has been running the U.S. manufacturing facility in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but who comes with real performance credentials from a stint in Formula 1. "For forty years now, AMG has stood for performance. C has become the heart of the AMG family."

As we have come to expect from AMG, the C63 AMG is stuffed with the most popular engine in the history of the company, the handcrafted 6.2-liter V-8 engine -- signed by its builder -- that we have loved in the S-class, the E, the SL, and the CL. The 63 nameplate has become synonymous with a thrilling driving experience. It will be even more so in the new C63 AMG with the optional AMG Performance package.

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