First Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series

There’s something charmingly mischievous about the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. Drive one after spending time in a BMW M3, for example, and it’s like someone just lifted a statewide ban on fun you didn’t even know existed. The Bimmer is measured and balanced and honest—the AMG is totally unhinged and wild.

BMW makes an even more M3-y version of the M3, the GTS. It’s not available in North America, but it’s even faster, quicker, and more precise than the regular M3. AMG is now making a more AMG-y version of the C63, which means it’s even more insane. The Black Series is the Mercedes equivalent of a rambunctious high-school senior lighting his farts on fire in the middle of first-period English Lit the day before parent-teacher conferences. In a world full of sanitized, politically correct, socially responsible, lawyer-tested/spouse-approved hybrids, this car is just plain nucking futs.

The body kit is, frankly, reason enough to Baker Act the Black Series. Built on the base of the C63 AMG Coupe, the Black Series wears thermoplastic polycarbonate panels that flare the front fenders 2.2 inches in front, 3.3 inches in rear. Why so big? Because the Black's track is also increased massively -- by 1.6 inches front and 3.1 inches rear. Tobias Moers, AMG's head of vehicle development, laughs as he admits that his team used rear suspension components from the much larger E63 AMG.

The Black Series certainly looks like it's bulging at the seams. It wears a vented aluminum hood, and a front fascia that sucks in so much air and is so tall that it should be called the Hoover Airdam. Then there are the enormous side skirts, vents behind each of the wheels, and of course, the de rigueur rear diffuser. If subtlety isn't your thing, the Black Series is available with an Aerodynamic Package, which adds carbon fiber flics on the front apron, a carbon fiber splitter low and sharp enough to decapitate ants of larger-than-average stature, and an adjustable and completely over-the-top carbon fiber wing.

The massive tires and forged wheels are the same size as those on the larger E63 -- and so are the rear rotors, which are pinched by four-piston fixed calipers. Up front, though, the Black Series has even bigger cross-drilled rotors -- 15.4 inches! -- wearing six-piston fixed calipers.

And all of this might be absurd if the Black Series didn't have the go to match the show. Affalterbach fans will immediately recognize the Tasmanian Devil exhaust note that can only belong to the sadly-being-phased-out AMG 6.2-liter V-8. Upgraded here with the Gullwing's forged pistons and lightened crankshaft, the 32-valve V-8 twists out 510 horsepower and nearly as many decibels of acoustic assault. The tach needle will need to be pointing to 5200 rpm before the engine will whip out its 457 lb-ft of torque. Why? Because real engines need revs. Besides, the Black Series will suckerpunch you if you question it.

Moers also could barely contain a laugh when he told us that the mechanical limited-slip differential has a 60-percent lockup rate under power and that the suspension (coil-over-shocks up front, multi-link in back) was adjustable for both compression and rebound. He stopped laughing, however, when he said that the factory setting was perfect.

And so we squeezed ourselves into the manually and barely adjustable bucket of a European-specification Black Series. U.S.-spec cars will have eighteen-way power adjustable seats, and a bench rear seat is optional for either market. The only transmission is the C63's familiar seven-speed automatic, which uses a multiplate clutchpack instead of a torque converter. We put the transmission into manual mode, engaged the stability control's sport mode, and headed out onto the race track.

With 59 more horses and 14 additional lb-ft of torque compared with the already almost-too-fast C63, the Black Series should be a lot faster. Except that Mercedes says it weighs some 235 lb less, so it's a LOT faster. It's crazy fast even right off the line when the engine's half asleep. And then the torque curve explodes upward as five grand approaches, the Black Series surges forward with the ferocity of -- dammit now you're in the rev limiter. When the transmission computer finally stops ignoring what must look like a grand-mal seizure to the computer monitoring the upshift paddle, it whacks off a lightning-fast 100-ms shift into the next gear. Right into the rev limiter. Repeat, add speed, and repeat again.

Like the C63's predecessor, the 2008 CLK63 AMG Black Series, the clumsy automatic transmission is the only thing that stands in the way of what could only be described as an orgasm of on-track idiocy. Like its predecessor, the new Black Series is one of the most thrilling race track drives on the planet. It’s a big, heavy linebacker of a car that somehow whisks itself through corners with the grace of a ballerina wending through the padded hallways of a state-run sanitarium. The tight diff allows the rear end to break free smoothly and progressively, and the Black Series is happiest tackling corners with just the slightest bit of throttle to nix the hint of static understeer. It rewards smooth driving with unbelievable speed and poise, but it practically begs you to partake in tail-out stupidity just for fun.

Just like the CLK63 Black Series, this latest AMG is the silliest of the sillies. It's the fastest of the fasts. It's the dream of an AMG designer making a sketch of an absurd version of an already absurd car while the rest of the office was out on vacation. No, seriously, it is -- that's how this Black Series came to be. It's one of those cars that makes you wish you were rich and powerful, if only because the only somber part of this party animal is that you can't have one. Less than 100 will be coming to the United States, and they're all spoken for. Damn.

lucky2bhere
Not that long ago, there was a huge outcry about government regulations choking the life out of everything with wheels. Specially four of them. How long we can make and buy excessively emotional cars like these remains to be seen, but this is clearly the golden age of motoring, and the C63 Black is a luridly shining example of just how clever we can be when pushed (specially at $43K?? - might want to fix that). If that's what it takes to get us off our collective butts, then bring it!

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