2008 Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG

The Good:
– Generally handsome looks
– Seriously muscular engine
– Greatly entertaining handler
The Bad:
– Addicted to petrol
– Very firm ride
– Delayed throttle response

Every once in a while, we get to drive a truly insane vehicle. The Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG is one such car. Unleashing such high-dollar insanity on unsuspecting rich people might not be the smartest thing to do, but at least it keeps the world of cars interesting.

Starting off with a basic C-Class, the C 63 AMG pumps up the original design with random body bulges, bumper vents, and mild skirt kit. The huge 19-inch alloys and quad exhaust tips add to the subtle styling upgrade, although most of the general population still won’t be able to spot an AMG even if it spun out and ran over them.

The interior also continues the muscular enhancements, slapping on some seriously sporting seats, beefy flat-bottomed steering wheel and carbon-fibre trim all over the cabin. Otherwise, most of the dull interior remains the same as that of the standard C-Class, forming a sea of high-quality matte-black plastics. The soft-touch materials on the dash and doors are still too hard for our liking, and while the interior is upholstered in nice smooth leather, the only bit of alcantara trim is on the steering wheel.

The front racing-style seats have humongous adjustable side-bolsters, offering constrictive chairs that even slightly-fat people will never fit in. For them, there is the rear bench seat, although they’d have to be short to not rub their knees on the one-piece hard-plastic backing for the front seats. Headroom remains pretty decent, as is the good-sized cargo area out back. Four covered cup-holders are spread about the cabin, but there aren’t any useful storage spaces besides some small cubbies.

The amount of gadgetry is in keeping with the car’s price, with features such as navigation, digital a/c for front as well as rear passengers with separate controls, large sunroof, great CD stereo, Bluetooth phone, HID headlights with bumper lights that turn with the steering wheel, common power accessories, intelligent keyless entry and start, cruise control, and multiple airbags. The a/c is strong enough in the summer once the car gets going. The nav screen pops out of the dashboard in a complicated-looking dance, and then is complicated to use thanks to a stupid rotary knob-based control system instead of a touchscreen. The cruise control is easily controlled via a separate stalk, as has been with all Mercs since the 1980s, but it can be confused with the indicator stalk.

Hiding underneath the handsome blandness of the C-Class is a 6.2-litre V8 heart made of pure plutonium. The engine is so insanely powerful that it wouldn’t out of place in the engine bay of an off-roading monster truck, or a Ferrari, or an aircraft carrier. Badged as a 6.3 by Mercedes-Benz’s marketing department, the naturally-aspirated motor redlines at 7200 rpm, pumps out 457 hp at 6800 rpm, and 600 Nm of torque at 5000 rpm, all fed to the rear wheels through a 7-speed automatic with paddle shifters.

Acceleration is brisk from any speed, with limitless power throughout the rev range. There are button-operated normal, sport and manual modes that change the gearbox response, but contrary to what some believe, suspension settings do not change, as the AMG has regular sport-tuned shocks and does not use the stock C-Class’s adjustable air suspension. Sport mode allows a bit of wheelspin before the stability control kicks in and reduces power, and using this mode, we clocked off a 0-to-100 kph time of 5.8 seconds. Undoubtedly, it can go much faster with all e-nannies off and a 5000 rpm launch. Have too much fun, and your wallet becomes lighter, as fuel consumption averaged around 18 litres/100 km.

The 7-speed gearbox actually has one too many gears, as it has to shift multiple times for simple overtaking. This becomes more noticeable in manual and sport modes, as shifts are quick and harsh. In manual mode, there is a very slight delay between paddle inputs and the actual gear-changes. But more annoying is that the throttle responds half-a-second after sudden inputs, so it isn’t the most responsive of machines.

The stiff suspension offers a very firm ride, and it gets jittery over uneven surfaces, but it was manageable as long as we stuck to Dubai’s ultra-smooth roads. The car is largely quiet, except for a noticeable amount of road noise at highway speeds. The wide 235/35 front and 255/30 rear tyres are very low-profile with razor-thin sidewalls, so curb-damaging the 19-inch wheels was always on our minds. But cruising and parking the car is easy thanks to parking sensors, good visibility and compact size. The strong ABS-assisted disc brakes are faultless, although we didn’t like the parking foot-brake replacing a handbrake.

The penalty in ride quality goes towards a good cause, as the flat handling is phenomenally exciting. The wide tyres offer excellent grip on the tightest corners, although uneven or excessive throttle input can slide out the back, but the oversteer is easily caught by the quick stability control. Keep it in sport mode, and a bit more slide is allowed before the nannies bring the car back in line, so it makes for some safe fun. Turning off all the electronic help and depending on our limited skills alone, we found it impossible to hold a powerslide without spinning out again and again. The sharp steering has just the right amount of weight, but has almost no feedback from the road. Combine that with excessive power, and it becomes hard to control drifts for amateurs like us. In contrast, we managed much better with a BMW 335i, with its better steering feel and less power. Generally, it is best to keep the ESP on at all times when in public with this Merc.

The C 63 AMG is a musclehead among cars. Muscleheads live at the gym, and are strong in a fight, but they’re never going to be a track-event winner. This powerful Merc does a lot of things well however, and is a lot of fun when enjoyed in moderation. Even though it can do much more in the hands of a pro, it isn’t exactly a machine that can be handled by amateurs in its true unrestricted form.

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