Tromp on the throttle of the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and it will make you think that the letters AMG on the trunk stand for "Ach, mein Gott," or "Oh, My God" in English.
AMG is the performance division of Mercedes-Benz, but it began as an independent, two-man company 40 years ago. Mercedes acquired 100 percent of the company in 1999.
The C63 is a classic example of the "don't force it, use a bigger hammer" philosophy. Engineers shoehorned a 451-horsepower, 6.3-liter V-8 into the engine bay of Mercedes' newest C-Class sedan that is roughly the size of a BMW 3-Series and an Audi A4.
The normal C-Class sold in America has either a 228-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 or a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6.
The C63 is a four-door sports car whose massive brakes, tight suspension and blistering acceleration - zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.3 seconds - will delight any true auto enthusiast in spite of the high price of gasoline. The top track speed is limited to 155 mph. Most of the buyers who can afford to shell out $66,880 for the C63 aren't going to be deterred by the price of gasoline.
The heart of this beast is a silky smooth, high-revving, naturally aspirated V-8 engine that has been used in a number of other Mercedes-Benz performance cars. The aluminum V-8 has four valves per cylinder, a magnesium variable intake manifold and variable camshaft adjustment. Torque, the force that moves the vehicle, is plentiful from 2,000 rpm, and dipping into the torque curve with the throttle instantly pastes you back in the seat.
As you would expect from a 451-horsepower engine, the fuel economy rating is 12 mpg in the city and 19 on the highway. The gas-guzzler tax is $2,100.
A seven-speed, sportshift automatic transmission is the ideal companion for the 6.3-liter engine. This gearbox not only provides a wide selection of ratios so there is a gear for every situation, but it also executes shifts smoothly. It has manual, sport and comfort modes. In manual mode, the transmission is shifted by nudging the gear lever or using paddles on the steering wheel. The right paddle is for upshifts and the left for downshifts, and that can be problematic at times in turns. It would be more convenient if each paddle could be used for upshifts and downshifts.
Befitting a car of such performance, the brakes are huge and extremely effective. They are things of beauty that can be seen easily through the five-speed 18-inch wheels.
The C-Class cabin is snug for four people. One of my long-legged friends commented that the back seat felt pretty tight.
The deeply contoured front sports seats have electronically adjustable side bolsters and lumbar support. The side bolsters are so large they border on being confining, but their grip is most welcome when you tackle a winding road or dive into a freeway cloverleaf. It would be nice if the bottom cushion could be extended to suit different size drivers.
The C63 gauges are stylish yet easy to read. The speedometer needle floats around the outside edge of the gauge while the middle section is open for digital readout displays.
The navigation and audio system have an LCD screen that pops up from the dash. A knob on the center console operates the COMAND menu system, and while it can be confusing, it is much simpler and more direct than BMW's iDrive.
The C63 isn't a car for the masses, obviously, and it will be sold only in small numbers. But as a rolling resume of mechanical prowess, it is an amazing calling card for Mercedes-Benz.
The test car's base price was $55,100. The navigation and audio system, with a 40-gigabyte hard disc and 5.1 surround-sound stereo, is a $2,980 option. The test car also had leather seats, metallic paint and bi-xenon headlights that turn with the front wheels. The sticker price was $66,880.
The warranty is for four years or 50,000 miles.
2009 Mercedes-Benz C63
Engine: 6.3-liter, 451-hp V-8
Wheelbase: 108.7 inches
Curb weight: 3,649 lbs.
Base price: $55,100
As driven: $66,880.
MPG rating: 12 city, 19 hwy.
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