Big engine, two doors, rear-wheel drive. Every car guy has this formula coded into his genes. And while BMW has offered the M3 as a coupe over four complete model generations, AMG has been content to let its C63 sedan do the heavy lifting against its crosstown rivals.
Enter the no-brainer. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe marks the first time you can get a version of the much-loved C63 with fewer than four doors. Viewed through the lens of recent history, the form factor of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe suggests something even more enticing — that it's the spiritual successor to the mighty CLK63 AMG Black Series.
It's not, but that doesn't diminish the C63 coupe's appeal one bit.
M156 V8 Still a Gem
AMG's normally aspirated M156 6.2-liter V8 finds perhaps its final home in the C63 coupe. Poke the starter button and the big-cube eight fires with a crack and the revs flare up briefly as if to signal to everyone on the block the potency within. It's a bit of engine-geek theater that's strictly unnecessary, which makes it totally necessary.
In base form, the C63 stirs up 451 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 443 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. Our C63 coupe tester's optional P31 AMG Development package ups the ante to 481 hp. The P31 package includes a crank, rods and pistons plucked from the SLS as well as a revised engine calibration, though the latter is arguably the sole contributor to the P31's 30-hp bump.
Whatever the case, the engine remains so tractable and linear and smooth at part throttle that you could hand the keys to your grandmother. Be aware that she'll want to hoon the living beejezus out of this thing — the temptation to open wide the M156's throttles is irresistible whether you chew your food or gum it. The M156 has a whomping great exhaust note, torque everywhere and a Jekyll-and-Hyde character of the best kind.
It's also got an appetite for fuel that's matched only by the way it compels its driver to sate it, which is why AMG is gradually phasing out the M156 in favor of turbocharged variants. Still, this is one of the great engines of our day. The M156's combination of civility, soundtrack and ass-kicking-ness is unmatched by any other production cross-plane V8 on the planet. With this engine, the Germans have out-America'd America.
At the track we measured the C63 coupe's sprint to 60 in 4.2 seconds (3.9 seconds if you're using 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip). The quarter-mile flicks by in 12.3 seconds at 116.3 mph, a few clicks quicker than the fastest C63 sedan we've tested (4.4 seconds to 60; 12.5 at 113.7 mph). It's down to a cleaner launch and more power, and not weight reduction — the C63 coupe's portly 3,990 pounds undercuts the sedan by just 11 pounds.
More significantly, the C63 coupe flattens the BMW M3 coupe, the most recent of which we've clocked through the quarter in 12.8 seconds at 111.2 mph. However, both are pipped by the Cadillac CTS-V coupe's 12.2-second run at 117.5 mph. Maybe AMG's twin-turbo 5.5-liter mill won't be such a bad idea after all.
The C63's "Race Start" launch control mode is consistent but our driver was able to extract the best acceleration with the traction control fully off. Besides, engaging the launch control is a hassle, entailing a fiddly button-pushing sequence that has about a 20 percent success rate.
Part of what makes the C63 fleet yet docile is its gearbox. Mercedes started with its familiar planetary automatic-based gearbox, binned the soul-sucking torque converter and swapped in its place a wet clutch pack. Called AMG Speedshift MCT, the result works brilliantly.
At a crawl the MCT behaves with the grace of the best automatics but with less slushiness, and in the next moment it can rip off quick, smooth and — unlike the autobox in the CLK63 Black — rev-matched gearchanges. Seven forward gears ensure that when you hold the throttle to the floor, the big V8 remains dead smack in the thick end of its power delivery.
Four shift modes — Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Manual — allow various levels of aggression to match your mood. Really, Comfort and S+ are all the automatic modes you need. Comfort mode slurs gears imperceptibly and early, and while gearchange times in S+ and Manual are brief, the transmission's response to a paddle pull isn't as instantaneous as in a good dual-clutch unit. Manual gearbox fans will continue to bemoan the absence of a row-it-yourself option.
All this talk about the engine and acceleration might have you thinking the C63's a one-trick pony. Not so. On the road, it's a knapsack full of ferrets.
Hammering the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe through a knot of your favorite canyons is a riot. By all rights, this near-4,000-pound coupe should be totally out of its element here. But it works. It feels lighter on its feet than it should, and the handling has a balance that's adjustable, as though a rheostat's been connected to the throttle. Edge it up to the limit and the front end succumbs benignly, or bring the tail around with a dose of right foot; it's up to you. It's predictable, too, thanks to a bedrock-stable platform. And stiffly sprung though it may be, the ride isn't nearly as punishing as previous iterations of the AMG Development package that included dampers apparently stuffed with iron filings.
Its synthetic suede-wrapped steering wheel looks a bit cartoonish — exaggerated grips, nonsensical flat bottom, glitzy silver paint — but feels terrific. Turn-in is immediate, and the quick rack has the right amount of heft and conveys the bite at the front end naturally. The whole thing feels fairly unflappable: precise yet stable. And with the exhaust percussions pummeling the atmosphere and the periodic rip-snarl punctuations of each rev-matched downshift, it's an experience for which you'll want the windows down.
Too bad about the C63's tires. The handling of any car is ultimately capped by the capability of its tires, but in the C63, well, it's too capped. The fact that the chassis is so hilariously at ease with the 0.89g provided by its 235/40 front and 255/35 rear Continentals suggests it could easily deal with more stick. Similarly, the C63's slalom run of 68.5 mph is quick but limited by tire grip. There's clearly more chassis than tire here.
Stopping the C63 coupe from 60 mph consumed 112 feet, a performance that's on par with every C63 sedan we've tested. The pedal feel is solid and intuitive, and there's a surprising amount of heat capacity — repeated stops didn't faze them one bit. The ABS system, too, seems calibrated to a stickier tire than what's on the car. Clearly, AMG wants you to burn these tires to the cords.
Head-Scratching Comes Standard
What's baffling about the C63 is its option mix. A limited-slip diff — which really should be standard equipment in a car that pours 443 lb-ft of torque to only two wheels — is a $2,000 option, while a big, dumb panoramic sunroof is compulsory. Worse yet, there's no sunroof delete option.
That P31 AMG Development package? It's a $6,000 option that aside from the 30-hp bump and a pair of two-piece brake rotors is otherwise a host of frilly cosmetic stuff. And so on. All told, our C63 coupe tester rings in at $81,715, a far cry from its $64,005 base price including destination and gas-guzzler tax.
Fortunately the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe is also a far cry from a Camaro with a three-pointed star on the hood. This is a performance car with a huge dose of refinement. Interior appointments look and feel well-crafted, and unwanted noise has been banished from the cabin. Cabin controls move with slick heft, the leather is supple and the creature comforts are numerous. Visibility is great out the front and side glass, though the C-pillars are beefy. Surprise, it's a coupe. Its resemblance in profile view to a Honda Accord coupe is, however, unfortunate.
The C63's front seats forgo the crazy-aggressive lateral bolstering of earlier iterations of the AMG Development package, which turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Today's seats don't force your shoulders forward unnaturally or hamper ingress, yet are plenty supportive for all but full-attack track drives.
Take Your Pick
Beyond the more difficult access to its rear seats, the C63 coupe is the same usable and comfortable car as the sedan. Ultimately the choice between C63 coupe or sedan comes down to preference, though be aware that there's a $2,500 cost penalty for two fewer doors.
Neither a committed hard-core sports car nor a GT car, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe can manage easily in a daily driver role with the beast always lurking just below the surface. That gray area between attitude and civility is where the C63 coupe — and the BMW M3, for that matter — thrives.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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