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2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe: First Drive

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author photo by Colin Ryan September 2011

What's the name of that other German compact sports coupe? Begins with a B? Heck, it's easy to forget after a stint behind the wheel of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe.

Not only has Mercedes-Benz revamped its whole C-Class compact premium sedan range for the 2012 model year, it has also brought out a brand-new two-door variant as well. This model comes with a panoramic sunroof as standard and is powered by either a turbocharged 1.8-liter four in the C250 or a 3.5-liter V6 in the C350. Or, in this case, a hand-assembled 6.3-liter V8.

This gives the driver 451 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque to play with. By opting for the $6,050 Development Package, the pony count rises to 481, the time taken to sprint from standstill to 60 mph is shortened by a tenth of a second - to 4.3 seconds - and the electronic limiter that pegged top speed at 155 mph will allow 174 mph to be seen on the speedometer. It isn't just a software tweak - the DP also entails a new crankshaft.

Those red-painted brake calipers that denote a DP-equipped car come in useful because this rear-drive car is capable of catapulting down the road with what seems like the speed of imagination. It's mighty fast. Pressing on the brakes may seem like a disappointment after such kinetic tomfoolery, but their reassuring strength and feel make them another source of joy, only at the other end of the performance spectrum.

What makes the C63 a feasible alternative to the BMW M3 - a car that has become a benchmark in this rarefied world - is that where the Munich machine has the majority of its power at the higher end of the engine's rev range (414 hp at a screaming 8,300 rpm and 295 lb-ft at 3,900 rpm), this Stuttgart projectile provides even greater muscle with less ankle-flexing (peak power at 6,500 rpm). It all seems more civilized, although the engine still has an eagerness to be revved.

The seven-speed transmission has two clutches, but doesn't need a clutch pedal. It's one of those semi-automatic setups much like the DSG unit in VW cars or PDK in Porsches. It can select ratios all by its smooth, fast-acting self, but invites the driver to get more involved with paddle shifters mounted beneath the steering wheel. It's fun, but it also means that a driver's hands never have to leave the wheel. Which brings us neatly to power assistance.

Anyone who has piloted a car with the increasingly popular electric steering can be forgiven for thinking that voltage is to driving what novocaine is to dental procedures. You might as well be manipulating a PlayStation controller for all the feel and information such a system imparts. The C63 keeps it old-school with hydraulic power assistance and it's an ingredient whose contribution cannot be overstated. There's a meatiness to it, combined with precision.

Because the C63 is a Mercedes-Benz, there are many safety features, standard or optional, plus plenty of technology that includes a launch control (for perfect drag-race starts) and hands-free phone calls, taking in such highlights as a three-stage stability control that allows some driver input before firing up its silicon helpers. Like other AMG cars, though, the front seats are supposed to be sporty but can't seem to attain much in the way of comfort.

In common with the rest of the C-Class coupe range, the aforementioned sunroof does not reduce headroom when opened, and there are only two seats in the back. Adults may even sit in them for a while, providing they are not appreciably above average height.

To open a garage door to one's very own 2012 C63 AMG Coupe (there's also a sedan version) means parting with $61,430 (including $875 destination charges). Once a few options are added, it's not hard to reach the high 60s. For interest's sake, a 2011 BMW M3 two-door starts at $59,275. If even a C63 with the Development Package doesn't seem powerful or expensive enough, wait until early 2012, because Mercedes-Benz is promising a limited-edition, 510-hp C63 AMG Black Series. It should be awesome.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe: First Drive - Autotrader