Black over White
By Desmond Ng
Our in-house racing driver examines his new ride, the C63 AMG Black Series. What’s it like after owning a Porsche GT3?
Just imagine the myriad of superlatives that were bouncing off the boardroom walls before the executives finally decided on what to christen their new hardcore product line up with. The AMG Black Series. With that, the world had a clear picture of the kind of creations that will roll out of Affalterbach. Sinister, rude, loud, fast and downright anti-social.
So what is it? Black Series (“BS”) cars were built to be more of a track tool than its lesser siblings, featuring distinct body changes while still remaining tractable for street use. Production is also very limited to maintain exclusivity. The range started life in 2006 with the inception of the SLK55 AMG BS which set the mould for future BS models. Revised bodywork, a modified motor, retuned suspension and uprated brakes over the regular equivalent made it so appealing to the most die hard AMG enthusiasts that lusted for that something extra.
The 2012 C63 AMG BS is the fourth model following the SLK55, CLK63 and SL65 to be bestowed with the coveted Black Series moniker. Only 800 C63BS were ever produced and were only available in coupe form, a tradition for all BS cars.
The C63BS was a direct competition to the E92 M3 GTS and there is no doubt AMG invested more into development, making sure their car looked and feel significantly different than the C63. A keen eye might miss the mandarin orange paint job and rear wing as a GTS but no one this side of town will ever mistake the C63BS as a regular C63.
Looking at the C63BS head on and you think it has a murderous streak. The wheel arches are stretched outwards beautifully with the front fenders +40mm and rear +79mm. No subtlety here. The C63 coupe is arguably feminine but this is the Rock in Fast 5. This car drips presence and it commands your total attention at first sight. AMG knows that wide fenders are the pathway to a customer’s heart and we are absolutely swooned by it. A Porsche “wide body” Carrera 4S? Please.
AMG went the whole nine yards for the visual drama. Customers could, with no small deletion of their bank account balances, tick the Aerodynamic Package box which further reduces lift. With that, four carbon canards on the front bumper and an adjustable GT wing dress the C63BS to a full angry GT3 race look. Another option, the Track Package, adds active rear-axle transmission cooling and race-spec tires that were specially designed by Dunlop for this beast.
The famed M156 6.2l V8, a landmark engine that almost made BMW M burst into tears has since ceased production. As its swan song, AMG transplanted the pistons, conrods and crankshaft from the SLS’ M159 motor with a new electronic brain taking advantage of these hardware changes. This hybrid M156/159 produces 510hp at 6800rpm and 457lb/ft at 5200rpm. The 5.5l bi-turbo V8 generates far more horsepower and torque than the M156 but there’s nothing more amazing than to have control over an oversized atmospheric V8 with your right foot. The throttle response. The music.
In BMW M cars, you have settings for everything. 3 for engine mapping, 3 for steering weighting and 3 for adaptive damping. As an ex-E92 owner, it turned out that I hated choices. Is the M3, an M3, in sport or sport plus? I just wanted to drive a car that had everything sorted out at factory and to perform at its sparkling best when sold to its customers. Maybe I’m old school.
Peel open the doors and you are greeted by a bizarre landscape of old and new. For instance, the handbrake is a quaint Mercedes tradition carried over. You engage it by depressing your left leg like you are in a 1995 hollowly E-class. The gear stick is identical to a pedestrian C-class, amusing you with long throws bouncing left and right going from PRND. Retaining the shift knob from the CLK63BS would have been lovely. Small, adorable and utterly exclusive to distinguish the BS cars.
In this car there are the optional fixed bucket seats that can be a pain for ingress and egress but never is it claustrophobic once seated in it. AMG had to strike a balance between providing the driver with more lateral support on the track and comfortable enough for daily use. It works and I think they did a wonderful job hitting that medium. The steering system is still hydraulic and fixed. You steer it with considerable effort but in return it provides the driver with good feedback but more is desired. Turning radius follows Jupiter’s orbit but it pays dividends during high speed and track driving.
Firing up the 6.2l V8 on a cold start is always theatre. It shouts into life like a scalded lion and quickly settles into a jealous purr. By then a litre of gas is consumed. The car then maintains a quiet idle and only re-asserts its authority when you press the fun pedal, which is a bit of a surprise. I was hoping it would sound like a 911 GT3 with its off beat burble that excites the driver even at standstill.
In the C63BS, you can only control the gearshift programme. Everything else is fixed dead from factory. The car defaults in Comfort mode where gears are quickly changed up to maintain civility and throttle response is muted. You rapidly find yourself switching to manual mode to fully appreciate the beast within.
In full manual mode, the car becomes the C63BS. You get into the mood and flex your right foot to stretch the revs. The huge cylinders do take time to gobble down air and before you know it, the car fires down the road with unrelenting momentum. Accompanying the rush is the snarl of that amazing V8 under load. The tone exponentially becomes harder and brutal; every explosion in each of the 8 cylinders engulfing my eardrums with pure ecstasy. As the crankshaft spins even harder and roars to its final battle cry, you flick the paddle and in 100ms the next gear is in, flooding your senses with the density of the torque and crescendo only a 6.2L can. This engine is unequivocally the focal point of the C63BS.
The car is suspended on KW manually adjustable coilovers and during low speed driving around town, it crashes up and down on bad roads (yes I’m looking at you River Valley) and can get unbearable at times. It’s at speed on the motorway where the damping really shines. The ride, while still firm, quickly filters away any undulations and provides the driver only the feedback and information that he/she will thoroughly enjoy. Slotting it into comfort shift mode and this car will be a beautiful GT without question. In corners, the insane wide track of the C63BS makes itself evident. The car shows close to no sign of roll and the wider body helps to maintain stability and instill that extra bit of confidence when driving hard. A 911’s nervousness and unpredictability especially at the front end has its appeal and charm but the Mercedes with its security is a refreshing change.
The C63BS will never win a track battle against the mighty 911 GT3. The ride is harsh compared to the BMW M4 in city driving and its handling is a far cry from M’s razor sharp precision and agility . The fuel gauge drops at a frankly astonishing rate. The gearbox is antiquated and dim-witted at times. From a technology standpoint, the C63BS is truly a dinosaur in the modern car world and 2012 was just 3 years ago.
We are moving at warp pace towards a world where the driver is merely an operator of a device, isolated from experiencing being one with a machine that we think has a living soul. The C63BS is one of these last great cars then, a German sports coupe that till today still feels so surreal having a 6.2l V8 a few feet from you. Secured its in place today as a modern classic, the car industry will one day look back and question the path they headed towards. Now to go fill up…