2008 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

Benz fans will have little trouble figuring out what this model's name means - "C" stands for the C-class, Mercedes' smallest sedan. The "63" and "AMG" mean "watch out" - there's a 6.2-liter monster under the hood.

Stuffed in the C-class, the monster inhales enough fuel to spit out 451 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. And that's enough to propel the 3800-lb four-door in 4.5 seconds.

The twin power bulges in the hood give the impression that the monster is trying to get out. (Did his horns make the ridges?) The AMG-specific front fascia has large intake holes that let enough air in for the monster to breathe, and hot air from his oil coolers out through the vents in its side.

The C63 receives rear treatment similar to the CLK 63 AMG Black Series - a small, carbon-fiber-look rear spoiler and a large black diffuser with pronounced fins. Four chrome tailpipes broadcast the monster's scream to the world. AMG modified the basic C-class front suspension kinematics by designing an all-new three-link front setup that widens the track by 35 mm and doubles the suspension's wheel-locating rigidity. As part of the AMG sports suspension calibration, the C63 also gets a larger anti-roll bar, new suspension bearings, and stiffer dampers. In the rear, AMG increased the track by 12 mm, added more negative camber, and substituted more robust drive shafts. The AMG sports steering has a quick 13.5:1 ratio, which, combined with the suspension changes, should result in improved steering feedback.

No AMG model would be complete without big wheels, so the C63 AMG comes with staggered eighteens wearing 235/40 rubber in front, 255/35 in rear. Optional are nineteen-inch alloys that are 8.0 inches wide, 9.0 rear (the eighteens are 8.0 and 8.5), but are wrapped in the same width rubber. Hiding behind the front wheels are enormous 360-mm cross-drilled rotors straddled by six-piston calipers. The rear rotors are also cross-drilled (unlike the standard C-class) and measure 330 mm. Four-piston calipers are sufficient there - apparently twenty pistons' worth of braking force is enough to quiet even this monster.

The C63 AMG uses the familiar seven-speed Mercedes automatic. We've lamented the lack of smoothly executed, predictable downshifts from this transmission in previous AMG applications, but that's now fixed. This version, called the AMG Speedshift Plus 7G-Tronic, adds the first-ever blip-throttle downshifts in a Mercedes. Like before, the transmission has three shift modes, C (comfort), S (sport), which reduces gearchange times by thirty percent, and M (manual), which cuts them by fifty percent - and will hold the monster up against his rev-limiter (presumably reading him his Miranda rights) until further instruction from the driver.

The C63 is also the first AMG model to feature a three-stage stability control. Previous AMG ESP systems have been either on or off - this new version adds an ESP Sport mode that is activated by holding the ESP button for a few seconds. ESP Sport mode raises the system's thresholds to eliminate unwanted interventions during spirited driving. In all modes, ESP is active under braking, and continues to provide limited-slip duty.

We've just spent some time in a C350 Sport, and walked away impressed. The C63, then, should be a stellar performer. This fall, we'll see the new BMW M3, the Lexus IS-F, and shortly thereafter, the Cadillac CTS-V, and while none of those cars will have an underhood monster of such large proportions, they will all likely be as quick as the AMG.

Thus, the biggest differences will come down to the details. And that comparison test will be a spectator event so compelling that it'll drag even the most bashful monsters out from under the bed to watch.

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