By Don Sherman
MUSCLE cars ride high on the Motor City’s list of most significant achievements. The idea is simple enough for your average gum-chewing, class-skipping teen to grasp: Way too much power combined with a bare minimum of the stuff that slows you down.
INSURANCE COMPANIES and emission controls may have killed off the Pontiac GTOs, Plymouth Road Runners, and Oldsmobile 442s that roamed America half a century ago, but the muscle CAR strain was never rendered extinct. Today, any stylish coupe with a bad attitude and a cramped back seat is the ideal showcase for a carmaker’s hottest engine.
Always eager for an opportunity to nudge archrival BMW out of the passing lane, Mercedes-Benz and AMG are the latest co-conspirators to exploit the muscle-car format. Take one fresh C-class compact coupe, slap a hand-built twin-turbo V-8 under the hood, and you’ve got a speed demon with a Swabian accent itching to dare Shelbys, Hellcats, ATS-Vs, and M4s.
The Mercedes-AMG C63 starts life with 469 horsepower and a $67,925 base sticker. Those seeking to investigate maximum rear-tire meltdown will want the still more powerful $75,925 S edition reviewed here. Indulgent options-checking jacked the as-tested PRICE to just over $100,000, pretty much offsetting the “minimum of stuff” part of the muscle-car formula. The $5550 Premium 3 package contains Mercedes- Benz’s COMAND infotainment system bundled with a dozen or so driver-assist items that may be of minimal interest to devout throttle abusers. The shrewd alternative is Premium 2, which provides COMAND without the extra gear for less than half the cost. The $5450 carbon-ceramic front brakes, the $1600 forged wheels with summer performance TIRES, the $2500 performance seats, and the $1250 performance exhaust system all make perfect sense. We’d also recommend spending $990 for the optional head-up display to help keep eyes on the road during trying times; the remaining $7320 for the optional gear on our car mainly added flashy trim that could be skipped.
Mercedes and AMG dug deep to make the most of this new-for-2017 model. In contrast to its predecessor, this is a voluptuous coupe, not a clunky two-door variant of the C-class sedan. Slightly smaller than a Chevrolet Camaro or a Ford Mustang, the C63 shares its nose with the mainstream four-doors but sports its own skin from the windshield back. A kinship with the Mercedes-AMG GT SPORTS CAR is evident in the C63’s flanks.
Just another Name for Big Horsepower
Like other badges appended to cars wearing the three-pointed star, the 63 in this CAR’s name bears no relation to displacement or any other attribute of the actual vehicle, but it is historically significant. The first V-8 Mercedes introduced in 1963 for its 600 limousine was a 6.3-liter design. Paying homage, AMG revived the hallowed digits for the first engine it engineered and manufactured beginning in 2006, even though that mill displaced only 6208 cc. Those naturally aspirated M156 and M159 V-8s powered some of the most illustrious SPORTS CARS and sedans in history, and tears were shed over their passing two years ago.
This V-8, code-named M177, is a worthy successor to the hottest naturally aspirated engines ever sold by Mercedes or AMG. It shoulders that legacy with grace and the aid of a pair of turbochargers. Also designed and manufactured by AMG, the engine is a hot-V design with twin turbos nestled between the cylinder heads to take maximum advantage of exhaust-pulse energy and to minimize plumbing. In S trim, the 4.0-liter V-8 delivers a hearty 503 horsepower at 6200 rpm, 516 lb-ft of torque from 1750 to 4500 rpm, and an exhaust beat to die for. The intensity begins with the first punch of the start button and continues unabated at most throttle positions with three computer-controlled exhaust-system flaps managing the noise. There’s a whip crack at every upshift and endearing flatulence on the overrun. Craftsman Koray Akdeniz at AMG’s Affalterbach assembly plant built this V-8. We know because his signature is on a plate atop the engine.
Unlike the muscle cars of the ’60s, this coupe is well equipped to make use of its 500-plus horsepower. AMG widened the wheel tracks at both ends and fitted electronically adjustable dampers, variable engine mounts, and a computer-controlled limited-slip differential. Staggered-size Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (255/35 in front, 285/30 in back) are mounted to 19- and 20-inch forged-aluminum wheels. What Mercedes calls a Speed shift AUTOMATICTRANSMISSION has seven speeds, paddle shifters, and a wet-starting clutch in lieu of a torque converter for lower rotating inertia and a quicker response. Rear wheels are located by a multilink setup attached to a rubber-isolated cross member that attaches to the unibody at four reinforced locations.
Drop the Green Flag
The C63 S scored straight as at the test track, topping competitors such as Cadillac’s ATS-V and the Ford Shelby GT350. A handy Race Start launch-control program provides the quickest path to 60 mph, with that vital figure arriving in a snappy 3.8 seconds. The acceleration race against BMW’s M4 (equipped with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic) borders on epic. While the Bimmer beats the Merc to 60 mph by 0.1 second (in 3.7 seconds), the C63 S takes command by 70 mph. The two cross the quarter-mile mark neck and neck in 12.0 seconds flat, although the Mercedes is gaining ground with 121 mph of velocity versus the BMW’s 119. Both rivals are governed at the top end, the BMW limited to 163 mph while the Mercedes is allowed 180. Top-gear acceleration is essentially a wash: The BMW wins the 30-to-50-mph dash by 0.1 second, and the Mercedes hustles from 50 to 70 mph with an identical advantage.
Both cars roll on Michelin Pilot Super Sport radials, one of the best streets TIRES money can buy. In braking, the BMW wins by one foot with a 150-foot stopping distance from 70 mph. In spite of the Benz’s slightly wider rear rubber, the BMW also reigns on the skid pad with a full 1.00-g grip limit versus the C63’s also impressive 0.98 g.
These nearly identical performance profiles are surprising when you cons i d e r the BMW M4’s major s t rategi c advantages: supe r i or f ront-to-rear balance and nearly a quarter-ton less curb weight. In spite of extensive use of high-strength steel in its unibody, plus aluminum for the front fenders, hood, and deck lid, the C63 S is a porker, weighing in at 4102 pounds. At least that’s less than the fastest muscle CAR in the land, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, which weighs 4493 pounds yet is able to rip to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds THANKS to the 707-hp supercharged V-8 residing under its hood.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015