First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

"More than half of our customers want to go all the way, " explains Kaellenius. For those performance enthusiasts for whom the smoking 457-hp 6.2-liter V-8 won't be quite enough of a power leap from the C350 V-6's 302 hp, despite the addition of AMG's Speedshift MCT seven-speed sport transmission, the Performance package's powerplant adds another 30 hp. "With that engine, you can drive in manual mode almost like a race car," says Kaellenius. The MCT has four modes: C (for controlled efficiency), Sport, Sport Plus, and Manual. In C mode, the MCT cuts fuel consumption by 10 percent.

Vehicle engineer Moers is proud of the gains made in the already fabulous suspension. "I know the chassis has gotten rave reviews over the years, but we've gone after it again." Everything has been touched or tweaked, from suspension geometry to parts to adjustments. The front end has a bit more camber and the damper forces were modified, especially for better rebound. "In the past, if you went into a turn too early and got sideways, it felt a little funny. Now, the suspension modifications allow you to hammer down at the apex and it goes -- I'll just say, it beats the M3 at Hockenheim."

The MCT gearbox hardware comes from the E63 AMG, "a perfect fit," says Moers. "People who always talk about twin clutch transmissions drive the MCT and don't know what it is."

The coupe is the same weight as the sedan. The tire compounds and Brembo brakes are also the same. Stability control has been recalibrated to correspond to suspension changes, and the steering ratio will be the same.

All three models will launch in Europe in July, where the sedan will cost 71,340 Euros and the wagon 73,890 Euros. Among a vast array of options, trims, and colors ("Your dreams are our limits," says Kaellenius), the Performance package commands a ten percent premium. Both sedan and coupe are expected in U.S. dealerships in September. The wagon will be available by special order, and U.S. pricing and photos of the coupe will be announced closer to the New York auto show, the third week in April.

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