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ROAD TEST

Henrie Geyser: motoring editor

ROAD TEST

Smoking Joe Merc C63 AMG

If any of the great composers such as Bach, Mozart or Vivaldi was still around today I reckon one of them would have produced a musical masterpiece after hearing a hot V8 engine howling in anger - particularly if it was coming from under the bonnet of the latest Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 thundering down the main straight of a race track.
The thrill of Merc’s sporting badge is loud and clear from the minute you fire up the engine.
The thrill of Merc’s sporting badge is loud and clear from the minute you fire up the engine.
It has been my pleasure to hear the contagious V8 rumble on a number of occasions, both from inside a car or standing in the pits of a race course, and the sound a massive-muscled V8 engine produces when it is deep into the red zone just has to be one of the greatest aural symphonies man can make without musical instruments. It is a sound that makes most petrol-heads dribble and go weak in the knees.

So it was with delight that I joined a small group of fellow motoring scribes recently when Mercedes-Benz South Africa unwrapped its latest AMG offerings at the Swartkops raceway near Pretoria, handed us the keys and said: "Go and play".

On show were the C63 AMG Sedan and Coupé, the new E63 AMG sedan, and the new C63 Estate AMG and my first thrill of the day was at the helm of the Coupé (which also turned out to be my favourite of the bunch of rich boy-man playthings).

Not for the faint-hearted

Calling them "playthings" is not really doing these sophisticated mean machines justice because they are both sleek and beautiful to look at and scorching fast -100km/h in just 4.4 seconds, which is rapid, really rapid, particularly as this is no small city commuter chariot but a big, heavy, comfortable four-seater. But then it does have a made-in-Germany chunk of metal perfection under the bonnet armed with 6.3-litres of muscle power that punches out all of 338kW and 600Nm!

At R923 700, plus optional extras such as an AMG Performance package at R71 800 and an AMG Driver's package for a further R25 000, the price tag slides easily past the One Big Bar figure which is a "wildest dreams" only sum of money to more than 95% of the world's population.

No surprise then that AMG derivatives make up only about 2% of world-wide sales of the three-pointed star badge. Most of us dream about being rich one day and for various reasons. Mine is out and out selfish - I want a C63 AMG Mercedes-Benz; the latest model, the one I got to drive for a couple of hours both on the track and on a scenic drive to Magaliesberg and from there back to Lanseria Airport.

The thrill of Merc's sporting badge is loud and clear from the minute you fire up the engine and feed it some right-foot leather and then to hear a big cat growl turning into full scale thunder.

The living quarters are classily decorated with a nifty instrument panel with three sections displaying speed, revs, petrol level and coolant temperature.
The living quarters are classily decorated with a nifty instrument panel with three sections displaying speed, revs, petrol level and coolant temperature.
click to enlarge
From the time that take-off commences things start happening rather rapidly with braking zones, corners, apex clipping and flat-out straights requiring full attention, failure of which can easily result in experience and talent failure and embarrassing exits from tarmac to kitty litter and worse.

But jeez, what a ride. My apologies for blabbing on like a schoolboy after his first date but this really is one helluva set of wheels, whether you are purring along sedately in traffic or negotiating a tight mountain pass.

To spell it out simply - the C63 would be my first choice in this class, ahead of anything the other Germans, or the Japanese, British-Chinese and the rest currently produce.

It can walkie the 'torquey'

The heart and soul of the latest addition to the AMG coupé family is undoubtedly its outstanding 6.3-litre V8 engine which made its debut back in 2005 and is still viewed as one of the best-performing and "torquey" eight-cylinder, naturally-aspirated engines under the bonnet of any car in the world.

Typical characteristics of this engine is its powerful traction at low engine speeds, immediate and effortless response, its free-revving keenness and its superb vocal chords blaring out from two wide chrome twin tailpipes.

What makes progress not only scalding rapid but as smooth as a used car salesman's pitch is its link to the AMG Speedshift 7-speed sports transmission with its fuel-saving choice of Controlled Efficiency "C" mode as well as the options of "S", "S+" and "M" transmission modes which provides quicker gear shifts intervals at higher revs (just 100 milliseconds in "S+" and "M" transmission modes!).

Those who insist on being first off the line when the lights turn green can also elect the RACE START option and leave the rest behind.

So, the AMG's rocket power is there in abundance, but smoking launches and lightning quick cog-swapping are no good in any car unless it also has the ability to cling to the tar and stop quickly - and the new AMG excels in both these departments, particularly on a tight, technically-trying race track such as Swartkops. Not that I will put you to sleep with all the intricate text book prattle. For that you should head for the nearest Benz dealership and get one of the blondes or suits there to talk you through it.

Each engine is signed off by the sole technician who assembled it at the AMG plant in Germany; a small metal plaque in the engine compartment confirms this.
Each engine is signed off by the sole technician who assembled it at the AMG plant in Germany; a small metal plaque in the engine compartment confirms this.
click to enlarge
But even all that together means zilch if the car you are driving fairly fast doesn't go accurately in the direction you are aiming it. In this department the speed-sensitive power steering on this latest AMG addition is probably the sharpest of any Merc I have ever driven, honed as it by a 3-stage Electronic Stability Programme with three individual modes offering the choice of "ESP ON", "ESP SPORT HANDLING MODE" and "ESP OFF", the last of which is fun, but to be treated with due respect.

Stopping power, too, is excellent thanks to internally ventilated, perforated brake discs all round which showed no signs of fading and even after extended track time (two days of Media journo punishment included) there was no sign of overheating or fading even though engine temperatures were running high.

Typical of expensive, fast cars the latest AMG looks the Full Monty with its low profile, long, sleek bonnet, steeply sloping windscreen and tapering roof. Up front the make-up kit includes an all-new AMG front apron, LED daytime driving lights and the newly enlarged Mercedes-Benz star on the radiator grille.

Sporty and comfortable

Viewed from the side the "6.3 AMG" legend, AMG side sill panels and gleaming light alloy wheels are quick to catch the eye and unlike many modern cars, Merc didn't neglect the tail end which brags with a distinctive AMG rear apron with a black diffuser and three diffuser fins and two chrome twin bazooka tailpipes.

The blatantly sporty nature of the C 63 AMG is also carried forward to the living quarters which are classily decorated with a nifty instrument panel with three sections displaying speed, revs, petrol level and coolant temperature. Other display options, incorporated into the main menu, are accessed via multifunctional buttons on the metallic steering wheel, sportily flattened at the top and bottom.

The sports seats with integral head restraints and Easy Entry adjustments are comfortably wraparound and in spite of the its sexy coupé shape, this is a dinkum four-seater with good boot space that can be even further increased by folding the rear seats down.

Enjoy the ride.
Enjoy the ride.
No doubt a popular feature on the latest model will be its bundle of new telematics with features and functions such as quick and easy operating, larger displays, phone book transfer, display of SMS messages, wireless music reproduction via Bluetooth and a USB interface housed in the centre armrest.

The multimedia system COMAND Online now also provides internet access for the first time. When the car is stationary, customers are able to browse freely or surf to a Mercedes-Benz online service whose pages load particularly rapidly and are also easy to use while on the move. The integral services include weather information and a special destination search via Google, as well as the option of downloading a route that has been previously configured on a PC using Google Maps and sent to the car.

The navigation system of COMAND Online also has the ability to record routes covered and to repeat them later on request, specific personal destinations which can be imported via an SD card, and four alternative route choices which can also be displayed on the navigation map.

'Zis vas mein, ja!'

Other issues you can chat to the Merc salesperson about are features are ABS anti-lock braking, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Attention Assist, Electronic Stability Programme, Headlamp Assist, Intelligent Light Systems, Parktronic including Parking Guidance, Pre-Safe and Cruise control with Speedtronic variable speed limiter.

The C63 AMG Coupé joins the AMG family's other sleek variants, the CLS 63 AMG Coupé and the CL 63 AMG Coupé and everything about it flashes AMG DNA, from its enthusiastic performance and dynamic handling, to comfort, safety and luxury features, not forgetting the snob value of AMG's one-man, one-engine philosophy (each engine is signed off by the sole technician who assembled it at the AMG plant in Germany and there is even a small metal plaque in the engine compartment to confirm this).

The sound makes most petrol-heads dribble and go weak in the knees.
The sound makes most petrol-heads dribble and go weak in the knees.
To ease some of the pain of the purchase price the latest AMG is also fairly eco-friendly, depending of course on how eco-friendly you are going to drive it. What's more, you will be able to sleep quite well, knowing that you car is covered by a six-year/120 000km maintenance plan and a full vehicle warranty of two years/unlimited kilometres.

Most Mercedes dealerships these days house a special AMG sales department so if your credit card can survive high melt-down heat and your trousers are on fire for a new AMG, you know where to go to sign up for membership of the exclusive circle of AMG owners. And if my Lotto numbers come up you might bump into me there as well...

E 63 AMG technical specifications
Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Coupé

C Class Coupe specifications.

Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Coupe video review


Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG MSN Cars test drive


The New E 63 AMG


2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG - Hot Lap
    
 

About Henrie Geyser: motoring editor

Bizcommunity.com motoring editor Henrie Geyser () has worked as a journalist in Cape Town, London and Windhoek for the Argus Company (now Independent Newspapers) and spent 12 years at The Cape Argus in Cape Town. He then owned and ran a public relations consultancy for 13 years. He joined the online publishing industry through iafrica.com, where he worked for five years as news editor and editor. He now freelances for a variety of print and online publications, on the subjects of cars, food and travel, among others; and is a member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.
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