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Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG 2008 Review

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Peculiar in that it is denuded of all the cars and characters that paint Mt Panorama a kaleidscope of colour when the 1000km V8 Supercar Classic shakes the mountain each October.

This 6.213km ribbon of bitumen, shimmering on a sweaty 32C day is literally at the rooftop of Australian motor racing.

Defined by high-speed straights, blind corners, sharp descents and a narrow queue of corners across the top that literally electrifies the body, Bathurst is a ballsy place that demands ballsy cars.

While it has been in regular use for car racing for more than 40 years and was once home to the notorious Easter motorcycle races, the circuit carries regular commuter traffic for much of the year.

Outside racing, the track has only been closed once for a car company was when Volvo did a launch there in 1984 with its 760 Turbo sedan.

That was until the week before Easter when Mercedes-Benz came to Bathurst - population of 37,000 - with their range of hardcore AMG performance vehicles.

It was the perfect location to unleash the C 63 AMG for the first time on Australia soil which interrupted normal service at Mt Panorama for a week-long thrash.

The new addition to the family arrives at a massive $20,000 underneath the C 55 AMG which it outdates, coming in at $139,500.

According to Mercedes-Benz Australia managing director Horst von Sanden the value pricing has sent a jolt through its direct rivals.

The discrepency leaves BMW's M3 coupe at $157,000 and Audi's RS4 at $164,500, both heavy-hitting V8-engined rocketships, looking a little worse for wear on the price front.

The fifth offering in the line of C-Class-based AMG models runs a 6.2-litre (the modus operandi for the 63 badge designation is to upsize on the cubic capacity figure in this case 6208cc) V8 which develops 336kW of power and a decent dollop of torque at 600Nm.

On the numbers front, the C 63 hits the mark covering a standing start to 100km/h in 4.5secs, undercutting the M3 and the RS4 by .3sec.

It runs a new version of the 7G-Tronic Speedshift Plus gearbox which in the words of five-times Mercedes DTM champion Bernd Schneider eliminates any need for a manual.

Unlike the M3 where the driver can program different sensitivities for the steering and throttle, the C 63 is set although there is a newly mapped three-stage ESP arrangement and there are three driving modes.

Sport mode shifts gears 30 per cent quicker than in Comfort while Manual mode the cogs shift up to 50 per cent faster.

The auto tranny is a trick piece of work which features a blipping function where extra revs are automatically delivered on downshifts so you can sound like Schneider on a qualifier at the Nurburgring.

Optimisation of the exhaust system gives it the soundtrack not dissimilar the DTM car from which the C 63 is based and which has won an 61 races from 116 starts in the German Touring Car championship.

The C 63 is the first AMG to carry unique front suspension geometry.

The suspension is 100 per cent firmer.

Picking the C 63 from the rest of the C-Class crowd is a cinch with flared front wings unique body styling bonnet power domes, a DTM-like rear with a black diffuser with integrated chromed twin tailpipes each side.

The nose is distinctive although the grille is based on the Avant Guard while the dark tinted headlights give it a sinister look.

An order-only C 63 AMG wagon, priced at $141,300 will be available from the third quarter this year.

Australia will receive an initial batch of 350 C 63s with von Sanden convinced he could sell between 500-600 if he could leverage an extra quota from Germany.

“'It is a big conquest opportunity for us,” von Sanden said.

“I don't think we run the risk of cannibilising our products because of the price. AMG customers are less likely to be driven by price alone.”

The options list is limited to an electric roller blind for the rear glass, a keyless-go driver authorisation system and AMG carbon fibre trim.

Unlike the M3 which offers motorsport brake pads for a $2378.95 premium option, the C 63 has no such option.

It is equipped with fade-resistant AMG high performance brakes with 360mmx36mm discs at the front clamped by six-piston callipers with 330mmx26mm discs with four-piston callipers at the rear.

The C 63 will help total AMG sales to reach a predicted 1000 for 2008 with Australia in the top five countries globally for AMG sales per capita.

 

On the road

Fingers of flame reach outside the left front wheel and lick at the chrome spokes in a fiery protest at being abused for two laps.

The fire from the brakes ignited seconds after a CLK 63 AMG came to rest at the entrance to the pit lane at Bathurst.

Two laps earlier Bernd Schneider, Mercedes-Benz's long serving and highly decorated DTM and sports car racer, had taken some wisened motor scribblers for a scenic tour of Mt Panorama.

Naughty Bernd didn't cool the brakes down like everyone else was instructed.

“It's good to see you were kind on the brakes Bernd,” one quipped.

“Well, you see, I had to warm them up just a little,” Schneider replied after circulating his first ever laps of the daunting 6.213km circuit at what mere mortals would term qualifying pace.

Warm them up - man there was a veritable BBQ happening at the front of that C 63.

Nonetheless it was a cool way to end what was a cool day in blazing early autumn heat.

Earlier the family of AMG cars was available to drive with professional racing drivers offering valuable tutelage from the passenger seat on where to lift, where to brake and what lines to take, a crucial element particularly across the top.

The focus of attention was the C 63 AMG which has just arrived for consumption in Australia.

The master blaster of the C-Class range was at our disposal for a day of unpaced, unfettered laps on the most daunting piece of bitumen south of Germany's famous Nordschliefe.

Bathurst was a fabulous place to gauge what makes the C 63 AMG tick.

This big displacement V8 is quick - any car that disposes of one of the shortest and admittedly a more often than not irrelevant measurement (0-100km/h) in 4.5sec has to be rapid.

The magic in the C 63 is in the palms of your hands, the tiller telling the story of supreme accuracy.

There are simply no peers when it comes to steering feel, response and control.

This is the most together AMG there has ever been, of that there is no doubt.

What there is doubt on is whether it is better than BMW's M3 or the Audi RS4.

Sure it is probably better in some areas where you don't need to back-to-back the trio to be sure, like torque no less.

But to arrive at a final decision without such a high-powered comparo would err on the side of danger.

What we do know is the C 63 is a compact stick of dynamite which delivers sledgehammer performance with go-kart handling qualities.

The unique front suspension set-up aids the steering which has the most accurate feel of any modern-day hot rod sedan.

Particularly at the straight ahead, the surety of the precision is a confidence-inspiring feeling especially when you approach the 250km/h speed restrictor down Conrod Straight.

Around Bathurst the handling manners of the C 63 come under the microscope.

After blasting up Mountain straight, the enormous reserves of torque, 500Nm of the full 600Nm are available from 2000rpm-6250rpm, put their hand up.

Flexibility in this engine lifts it above rivals.

Braking hard for Griffins and darting across for the apex there are at first traces of understeer which transfer to slight oversteer.

But the whole process brings out a broad smile with the ESP only intervening after the rear has stepped out enough for the driver to feel a quarter of a turn of opposite lock.

The 7G-Tronic AMG Speedshift Plus automatic gearbox has formed an intimate relationship with the 6208cc V8 engine.

Shifts either via the gear lever or steering wheel mounted paddles are like lightning.

Hug the left-hand apex at The Cutting, gently squeeze the throttle and the C 63 hunkers down, may be a trace of rear-wheel slip if you are too early on the power and then settle it for the relative fast run into Reid Park.

From here the next five corners through Sulman and McPhillamy Parks and down to Skyline are the most exhilerating series of turns in Australia.

Balance and body control of the C 63 are tested through here with the balance quite neutral and the entire affair pinned down neatly and tightly.

Attacking the left-hander into Skyline, again it wants to understeer momentarily.

Hard on the brakes for the first drop in descent, the C 63 steers obediently with some trailling brake down toward The Dipper.

Squeezing the throttle for the run through some quick changes of direction and into the second-gear Forest's Elbow the C 63 remained composed.

It is nice and stable under heavy braking and the handling remained remarkably controlled.

Full throttle down Conrod, it hits the hump before entering the kink into The Chase and the ESP lit flashes up in the instrument panel.

The car's 1730kg kerb weight lightens considerably here, triggering the stability system into action.

Through the left and right of The Chase the C63 remains balanced but wants to break loose if you are too aggressive on the throttle on the exit.

Hammering the brakes into Murray's corner the rear squirms to a degree before it settles down as you hare toward the left for the apex and use the kerb on the right for a swift exit to the finish.

We did 40-odd laps over the course of the day at Mt Panorama and the underlining message from the C 63 was that it was an effortless yet razor sharp pocket rocket.

There was no road drive so we'll have to wait until the test car arrives to accurately gauge the virtues of its ride quality in the real world.

But for now the C 63 is very much a sleeping giant of the compact high performance brigade.

*FOOTNOTE: The best timed lap from one of the 35 professional drivers was 2min35sec.

 

Snapshot

Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

Engine: 6208cc V8.

Power: 336kW @ 6800rpm.

Torque: 600Nm @ 5000rpm.

Transmission: AMG Speedshift Plus 7G-Tronic 7 speed with paddle shifts.

Steering: speed sensitive rack and pinion with steering damper.

Wheels: front - 8Jx18-inch, rear - 9Jx18.

Tyres: front - 235/40ZR 18, rear - 255/35 ZR 18.

Dimensions(mm): 4726(l), 1795(width), 1439(h), 2765(wheelbase).

Kerb weight: 1730kg.

0-100km/h: 4.5sec.

Fuel capacity: 66litres.

Fuel consumption: 13.4litres/100km (claimed).

Top speed: 250km/h (electronically restricted.

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