Driving a car in its birthplace is both great and challenging. Great because you get a sense of why the car is the way it is, but challenging because the environment is unfairly stacked in favor of the car.
Early this summer, I had a chance to drive Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe on roads north of Affalterbach, the German home of AMG. With long stretches of de-restricted Autobahn to stretch this 503-hp coupe's legs, and gently twisting country backroads, you quickly understand why it was Germany where this sort of hi-po luxury car was created. I only had a few hours in the car, but it was a very good few hours.
- If you want a C63, get the Coupe. Yes, I know I told you all about the C63 S Estate's magnificence, and while I stand by that, the Coupe is really the pick of the range. You'll notice that the C63 Coupe has much wider fenders than the sedan, and while they help make the car look meaner, they also bring performance benefits. Wider arches allow for wider tracks front and rear and larger tires than the sedan and wagon. Add in a heavily revised rear suspension and the Coupe offers way more grip than the sedan.
- AMG's 4.0-liter V8 is magnificent. Like the rest of the auto industry, AMG had to do the whole "downsize and turbocharge thing," but this new V8 doesn't leave you wanting. Throttle response is pretty great for a turbo motor, torque is bountiful, and the noise is splendid. Pretty soon, we'll see this engine in every V8-powered car AMG makes, and we're not upset.
- German roads make it hard to judge ride quality. When driving, I noted how much smoother the C63 S Coupe felt than the ATS-V Coupe I'd driven a few months earlier. . . until I remembered where I was. I drove the ATS-V through terrible, potholed New York roads, whereas I enjoyed the C63 on Germany's silkiest. I'll have to judge the C63's ride on more familiar (worse) territory.
- Its high-speed composure is incredible. Mercedes set up a drive route for us that included a blast north of Stuttgart on some de-restricted Autobahn. Even though there was moderate midday traffic, I still managed to hit 160 mph without breaking a sweat. Above 100 mph, the C63 feels eerily composed, especially through long, sweeping curves. Where regular cars feel like they're about to fall apart at 90 mph, the C63 feels utterly rock solid well beyond 100.
- Handling is sharp, but there's no getting around weight. Despite weighing a little over 4000 lbs, the C63 S Coupe is surprisingly spry. Credit that to quick steering and the S model's electric rear differential. Still, there's no getting around that weight, and consequently, the somewhat lighter Cadillac ATS-V offers sharper handling.
- It splits the line between sports car and grand tourer. The C63 S is a car that eats up miles with incredible ease, but can still dance if you want it to. It's not the last word in absolute comfort or nimble cornering, but it offers an impressive balance between the two. If you could only own one car to satisfy all your needs, you could do a lot worse than a C63 S.
- Did I talk about the noise? Yes? Well, I'm going to talk about the noise again. Seriously, I don't know how AMG manages to make turbocharged engines sound so good. Yes, noise is superficial, but I defy you not to grin at this 4.0-liter's thunder. It's more guttural than U.S. V8s and it pops and crackles when you lift off the throttle. The M3/M4 and ATS-V can't hope to compete with the C63 in terms of sound.
- It has a ton of personality. Don't believe the stereotype about Germans not having a sense of humor–they do, and the C63 S Coupe is evidence. What AMG has done here is take a pleasant, if dull C-Class, and turn it into a angry, high-speed goofball. Yes, there's all sorts of German Precision or whatever you want to call it on display here, but really, this car likes to party.