The addition of a two-door coupe to the C-class lineup has given AMG the opportunity to expand the family of its popular C63 AMG model. Currently offered as a sedan and (in Europe) a wagon, the C63 adds a coupe variant for the 2012 model year. Mechanically, the coupe and sedan are identical, with one significant upgrade coming to both for 2012. The two-door is the same size as its four-door sibling, but its lower body, more intimate cabin, and sportier styling make it a racier distillation of the C63 formula.
The C63 coupe’s 6.2-liter V-8 is an engine that we know (and love) from the C63 sedan-and elsewhere in the AMG line-up. What do we love about it? The deep rumble on start-up, its quick bark during full-throttle upshifts, the roar as it passes by at full gallop, and of course the tremendous response, which is both linear and lag-free. But the big V-8 actually is on its way out; it has already been replaced by a smaller, 5.5-liter bi-turbo V-8 in the CL63 and the S63, the blown 5.5 powers the new CLS63 AMG, and for 2012 it steps in for the 6.2-liter in the E63 as well. Why not use it here? The answer, from AMG’s head of product development Tobias Moers, is that the 5.5-liter biturbo makes more torque than the smaller C-class chassis can handle (516 pound-feet in the E63).
The naturally aspirated 6.2-liter’s output is lower, although it’s still considerable: 451 hp at 6500 rpm and 443 pound-feet at 5000 rpm. That’s the same as in the C63 sedan. Ordering the AMG development package increases horsepower to 481 hp, thanks for a revised camshaft, lightweight pistons and connecting rods, and a reprogrammed ECU. The extra oomph shaves the 0-60 time by a fraction, from 4.4 to 4.3 seconds. More importantly, the development package provides increased bragging rights, in the form of a top speed raised to 174 mph, from 155 mph. Little wonder, that our C63 coupe test cars were so equipped.
The C63 coupe provided our first opportunity to drive the 6.2-liter together with the seven-speed Speedshift MCT wet-clutch automatic transmission in a C-class body. That powertrain combo has been available elsewhere in the AMG lineup, ever since it debuted in 2008 on the SL63 AMG, but the C63 previously used a traditional, 7-speed torque-converter automatic. That transmission disappears for 2012, as the C63 sedan will make the change to the Speedshift MCT in tandem with its new coupe this fall.
The MCT is just a sterling piece of equipment. AMG cars have long been automatic-only, a fact that has been bemoaned in the enthusiast press. But the MCT is so good and so smart that it’s hard to make the case that even the keenest driver is missing out on anything here. As in its other applications, the gearbox has four modes. The default is C, for Controlled Efficiency, which means smooth gear changes and early upshifts, designed to eke out the least embarrassing EPA numbers possible. Sport mode quickens the shifts; Sport-plus is faster still, with logic that mirrors what an enthusiast driver would do himself if he were manning the paddles. There’s also a Manual mode, which will hold your selected gear until you’re bouncing off the rev limiter. In any mode, however, you’re always free to grab a shift paddle and shift for yourself.
All that said, it’s the execution that’s so impressive. Even in Sport-plus, the transmission was smooth as a torque-converter automatic as we crawled through morning rush-hour traffic in Seville, Spain. Once outside of town, we loved the rev matching and the way the gearbox would know to downshift as we braked for a turn (in Sport or Sport-plus). But it was on the track that the gearbox was an absolute revelation. I’ve never had an automatic transmission that, left to its own devices, grabbed the right gear, every time on a race circuit. But pop the MCT into Sport-plus and that’s exactly what it does. My hands were poised at the paddles, but there was no need to use them. The MCT downshifted aggressively going into the corners, and held each gear to the redline coming out onto each straight.
Track days made easy
As in the C63 sedan, the coupe features a wider track front and rear compared to the standard C-class, with an AMG-specific strut front suspension and multi-link rear. Changes from the 2011 C63 include increased wheel camber and revised spring and damping rates, the latter to mellow the ride without losing performance. (AMG’s Moers claims that the 2012 car is one second faster at Germany’s Hockenheim circuit, and that the new coupe’s ‘Ring time is “very near 8 minutes.”) The C63 does not offer driver-selectable damping, so tuning for a livable on-road ride is important. We found it to be exactly that on the smooth roads of the Spanish countryside, but it might well be a different story on the beat-up pavement in the States. Perhaps with that in mind, Mercedes will not be offering Americans the most extreme wheel sizes; we’ll get a choice of eighteen-inch wheels, nothing larger.
As is the case with the transmission, the chassis’s electronics are particularly impressive. The stability control’s sport mode is more generous than most, allowing you to freely explore the C63 coupe’s limits before it ultimately takes steps to rein you in. (It can also be switched off altogether.) Despite the big-displacement V-8 under the hood, the coupe feels very well balanced, and there’s more than enough power to get the rear end loose. Steering that’s sharp and quick helps you keep the car right on the edge, and also helps you gather it up when you push it too far.
On the subject of reigning in exuberance, the C63’s brakes are considerably upsized over the civilian C-class, at 14.2 inches diameter in front and 13 inches at the rear, with all rotors ventilated and perforated. Aluminum and steel two-piece front rotors are part of the AMG development package and are denoted by red calipers. We found the brakes easy to modulate, and they held up well during our track session.
Taken together, the stability control’s lenient, tail-out sport mode; the transmission that thinks like a DTM driver; and the engine that has the muscle to rocket you down the straights, create in the C63 coupe a car that makes track driving deceptively easy. Any C63 AMG owner owes it to himself to get his car out onto a track at least once. It’s an addictive experience.
Race Start’s DNF
For all the C63’s race-day goodness, its Race Start function earned a DNF. Engaging it requires a series of steps so convoluted that even the AMG guys had trouble getting it to work. First, you need to call up the stability control’s sport mode; then you select Race Start with the transmission mode knob. If you’re lucky, the dashboard message center will tell you to confirm the selection by hitting the upshift paddle. Instead, we kept getting the message Race Start Not Available – See Owner’s Manual. There can be many reasons for this: your foot is not on the brake, a window is open, the steering wheel is not pointed exactly straight ahead, the stars are not in proper alignment.
If you do manage to get the elusive program to engage, you have only a brief moment to actually execute the start or you get the Race Start Cancelled message, and you get to begin again. When we finally got it to work, it proved rather unspectacular, so we instead switched off the ESP entirely and did a nice smoky burnout.
The AMG look, inside and out
The coupe isn’t any smaller than the sedan, nor is it any lighter-its 3816-pound curb weight is about 160 pounds heavier than the 2011 version of the four-door C63. Some of the extra pounds stem from the two-door’s standard panoramic glass sunroof. The glass top helps brighten the interior, but this is still a more intimate driving environment than you get in the four-door, due mostly to the lower roofline and more close-coupled front and rear seats. The driver of an AMG coupe is well positioned behind a thick steering wheel whose sculpted rim is flattened at both the top and the bottom. High-backed sport seats do a good job holding you in place without being too confining. The standard upholstery is cloth and MB tex; leather (in a single color or several two-tone combinations) costs extra. Compared to the standard C-class, the C63 also features more richly upholstered door panels as well as aluminum and gloss black trim.
On the outside, the coupe’s AMG-specific bling largely mirrors that of the sedan. Beyond the uniquely styled hood, the flared fenders, and black roof, there’s an aggressive front air dam, more prominent lower-body cladding, and a large rear diffuser. A carbon-fiber trunk-lid spoiler is a special tip-off that denotes a car equipped with the AMG development package.
The 2012 C63 AMG coupe arrives together with the 2012 version of the C63 sedan this fall. The extremely well rounded two-door should only add to the appeal of the C63, which already is the second-bestselling AMG car after the E63. AMG officials wouldn’t yet reveal pricing on the new coupe, but they intimated that it will command a roughly 5 percent premium over the sedan. That works out to about $3000, putting the C63 AMG coupe at around $62,000, before any gas-guzzler tax (which hits the 2011 C63 sedan to the tune of $2100). The four-door is likely to remain the majority of C63 sales, but the coupe should easily account for 1 in 5 sales. The choice for BMW M3 or Cadillac CTS-V shoppers is going to get a lot harder.
2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe
Base price: $62,000 (estimated, plus gas-guzzler tax)
13 / 19 / 15 mpg (estimated)
Engine: 6.2L V-8
Horsepower: 481 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 443 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Drive: Rear -wheel
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Damper strut, coil springs/multi-link, coil springs
Brakes: Vented and perforated discs, ABS, Brake Assist
Curb weight: 3816 lb
18 x 8 in front, 18 x 9 in rear
Tires: 235/40R18 front, 255/35R18 rear