The new DS3, customise every feature to suit your style
Without intending to sound racist or sexist, or start a Goodman Gallery moment, you’ve heard the saying: “Once you go black you never go back”?
Well, say hello to something from Mercedes-Benz’ dark side, the C63 AMG Coupé Black Series - which is clearly engineered to prove not only that Merc are serious about an ultra-hardcore model for the road and track-loving customer, but they’re also keen to prove that they can produce something more hardcore than German rivals with M and RS badges.
This is the most powerful C-Class to ever leave the hallowed halls of Affalterbach’s AMG factory and trust me, I’m not using the term hardcore loosely here.
From a design point of view it’s as if there’s an aeronautical arm of Merc we don’t know about.
This Merc looks like a jet fighter on wheels.
It has more sharp edges than a plastic surgeon’s toolbox; we’re talking about an arrow-shaped front end, huge air intakes in the front apron above a thriller of a black splitter, and two ports in the muscular aluminium bonnet for cooling.
The front wings have been widened on each side to make room for a modified front axle and wheel offset, there are more air outlets behind the front wheelarches, and a black strip on the skirts that picks up from the front splitter. The rear wings have also been widened to accommodate the wider AMG rear axle and its 19” rims, and the special rear apron sports a huge black diffuser and four large, squarish tailpipes. An optional AMG Aerodynamic Package offers a large adjustable rear wing as well.
So, in other words, think Mercedes’ DTM (German Touring Car) racer for the road.
Sit in the Black and you’ll know it’s different. Our test unit had four sports seats, sports steering wheel, red seatbelts and alcantara finishes throughout, aluminium shift paddles and subtle Black Series badging. To be honest it was more larney than I expected, compared to the CLK Black we tested a while ago which had interior bracing where back seats should be.
Mechanically the 6208cc, naturally-aspirated V8 engine shares its forged pistons, connecting rods, crankshaft and oil cooler with the SLS AMG, which in Blackspeak means power is hiked from the standard C63’s 336kW and 600Nm to an impressive 380kW and 620Nm - making it the king-dingaling in raw V8 naturally-aspirated power terms against rivals such as the BMW M3, the upcoming Audi RS4, and the Lexus IS-F.
Like other C63’s, power shreds rear rubber through a seven-speed MCT ‘box offering four modes, with Merc claiming just 100 milliseconds to swop between cogs in the angrier settings. And yes, as you sit there wondering, this thing is a monster to drive.
It sounds thunderous, as you’d expect, but with a very endearing crackle at high-rev gear changes. The blip on downshifts will raise the hair on your arms.
There’s a bit of a rough idle too, which is cool.
Driving in manual mode is also cool, and will not do anything unless you ask it to, but the Black runs out of revs quickly and you tend to run into the limiter unless you pre-empt a change. And the turning circle, with the wider front setup, is not great. Get used to lots of three-point turns.
The 13.6 litres per 100km average consumption was respectable though.
The Race Start function, as in other 63’s, is a cinch to use. But ours seemed to be set up on the conservative side, revving up enough but not really chirping the tyres - let alone modulating wheelspin - on launch. We managed 4.5 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint (Mercedes claim 4.2) and a quarter mile of 12.7, which is not too shabby (the normal C63 Coupé we tested a few months back did a five-second 0-100). But there’s more to be had from that launch control. And it must be said that the Black stops very well, thanks to big vented discs all round and a tweaked ABS system.
The wider track, serious 19” rubber (285/30 at the back), a race-bred AMG coil-over suspension set-up, stiffer anti-roll bars, and a limited-slip differential boost the handling, making the car chew up apexes for lunch and spit out the gristly bits.
It does handle.
The steering feedback is crisp and it’s generally happy to follow a line with no cause for concern, but the Black takes no prisoners and demands quick reflexes. That rear end can be as slippery as a ballerina on ice, you need to be wide awake and on top of your game or things get hairy quickly.
The big problem is the ride quality – or the complete lack thereof – and it’s like somebody at the factory simply forgot to bolt the shock absorbers in. Seriously, I’ve driven hard cars. Nissan’s GT-R, for example, is teeth-filler-loosening hard. With the C63 Black you not only feel every rut in the road, but can tell from the spine-jarring sensation how deep and wide that rut is. Call me spoilt and non purist, but as much as I like the rest of the package that ride was enough for me to breathe a sigh of relief when handing the keys back.
This is a dark-hearted psycho 63 with hardcore performance, perhaps a bit too hardcore in terms of its harsh ride quality. At R1 425 000 it’s also almost half a bar more than a C63 Coupé, which may be a bit of stretch.
Follow Minesh Bhagaloo on Twitter: @mineshbhagaloo