First Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe

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.

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