First Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe

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.

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