The air is frigid. My breath hangs in the air as if instantly frozen. To my right, the skies above the San Gabriel Mountains are ominous. The wind whips the dry desert sand back and forth, corroding the liquid-looking matte gray paint. A cold, constant drizzle bristles my skin as I fuel the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 AMG S. I put the pump back, hear the metallic click of the fuel cap, and eagerly slide into the warm leather of the bucket seats. The storm ahead doesn’t seem to want me to make it to Las Vegas.
This car shouldn’t be legal on restrictive U.S. roads. Speeds limits are chains, shackles around the C63 AMG S’s suitcase nuke of an engine. It’s addictive and dangerous — 503 horsepower of pure fury from the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 hidden under the coupe’s long muscular hood. It beseeches you to cruise at extra-legal speeds, glide across the tarmac, punch your way through U.S. laws. Every second I spend with this car tempts me to engage in an all-out interstate police chase.
The storm’s wrath hunts me through these nearly uninhabited stretches of desert. The heavy rhythms and unpredictable lyrics from Little Simz’s “Deranged” explode through the car’s optional Burmester speakers; the song and storm in harmonic rage are forces of nature. I inch the C63 AMG S’s throttle pedal more parallel with the road’s surface, attempting to break free from the middling rain and cold winds rapping at the windshield. In the desert’s desolation, the rear squats, the tires lose traction on the slippery pavement, and I succumb to a childlike giggling as the needle effortlessly climbs to triple-digit speeds.
On the pockmarked desert roads, the C63 AMG S sashays over the road’s imperfections like a seasoned ballet dancer. The harsh, teeth-chattering suspension settings of the standard C-Class coupe are a distant memory. There’s never a second where I believe the chassis and I aren’t one. It’s incredibly comfortable and inspires behavior that should only be reserved for closed roads and racetracks. This supple, slightly irresponsible character makes it easy to lose perspective of just how fast you’re going — a problem compounded by the C63 AMG S’ faint exhaust note.
The snarl isn’t there. The turbochargers have muzzled the AMG-built engine and send dull, raspy blubs from the twin exhaust ports. Its lack of sonic fidelity makes you question the car’s cylinder count, and it’s only by opening the hood and counting the cylinders that you accept the specs Mercedes-AMG insists are real. While the automotive world is understandably going to smaller displacement engines with turbochargers, I’m saddened that the vicious yowl and brutal bass of the naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 is no longer available.
Through the speakers, the stark lyrics of Little Simz changes to the heavy percussion of Queens of the Stone Age “No One Knows.” The beat quickens, as well as my pulse. Finally onto the highway, I point the car straight at Las Vegas. Like an arrow pulled back in a bow, its potential energy is ready to be released. Turning onto the ramp, my foot to the floor, the back end slides far left as the tires effortlessly break loose. I tense, countersteer, and slide my way through the corner in a small cloud of tire smoke and smiles. With this, the clouds seem to recoil in fear, opening the road up ahead to the grand splendor of sun-drenched mountains.
Inside, I settle in for the long haul to Las Vegas. The doors, armrests, seats, dash — almost everything is lathered with opulently textured leather. What’s not covered in buttery-smooth cowhide uses aluminum and carbon fiber, perfect matches for the car’s aggressive personality. The two-piece, hard-backed sport seats encase you with cement-like solidity but remain comfortable thanks to the abundant and forgiving foam lining. My three-hour drive suddenly doesn’t feel long enough.
Mile after mile flies by and succumbs to this car’s autobahn soul. Even in comfort mode — the car’s least aggressive setting — there’s no letting up as the sublime seven-speed automatic transmission lets out an auditory “whomp” each time I click through the gears, passing turtle-like Prius drivers. Throttling up, I’ve ignited the afterburners on a fighter jet, and violence envelops me. While quieter than the previous generation, I’m beginning to suspect the twin-turbocharged V-8 produces more horsepower than Mercedes-AMG advertises.
As I edge closer to Las Vegas, the monotonous drone of traffic halts my momentum. This momentary lull allows my mind to drift to this car’s price. As optioned, it’s $92,000, and as much as I have fallen in love with how this car hammers roads, outruns storms, smokes lesser cars — even when those cars are 997 911 Turbo S models — bathes occupants in rich leather, and slides, that’s a huge sum of money.
For that kind of cash you could get any number of things: a Shelby GT350R with a couple days at the track and a spare set of wheels and tires. Or a base 911 Carrera, with similar bells and whistles but with better handling and one of the best manual transmissions ever devised, could be had for this price. My personal choice, however, would be a barely touched previous generation C63. It still offers thrills, good looks, and a premium interior, but you’d get the merciless cacophony of its un-boosted V-8.
Nevertheless, I have my doubts I’d be able to give up this car as I pull up to the valet at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Even after three or so hours streaking through the bleak landscape of the California and Nevada deserts and a delicious steak and Old Fashioned patiently waiting for me, I can’t help but want to drive another 300 miles. I want to sear the tarmac while grinning from ear to ear. This car not only has the presence you want when you pull up to a swanky Vegas hotel, but the speed and g-force to satisfy enthusiasts, and an interior that cossets those luxury-seeking occupants. Its price and lack of soundtrack don’t matter. It’s a true autobahn stormer that can turn up in Saint Tropez without dirty looks from aristocrats enjoying their holiday. The 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 AMG S Coupe is a car for the ages.
2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 AMG S Coupe Specifications
|Price:||$75,995/$92,000 (base/as tested)|
|Engine:||4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/503 hp @5,500-6,250 rpm, 516 lb-ft @1,750-4,500 rpm|
|Layout:||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine RWD coupe|
|EPA Mileage:||17/25 mpg (city/highway)|
|L x W x H:||184.4 x 71.2 x 55.3 in|
|0-60 MPH:||3.8 sec|
|Top Speed:||180 mph|