UNITED STATES—“AMGeez that’s a lot of torque” was the first thought that wailed through my mind like an air raid siren as I fishtailed out of the paddock and into pit lane. “I’m going to have to show this thing a lot of respect.” This thing was the C63 S AMG, the latest monster created by the mad scientists over at the performance wing of Mercedes-Benz. You know the place. That spooky castle ensconced in thunder and lightning up on the hillside overlooking the village…Nope. Not that one.
That’s Dr. Frankenstein’s. It’s the one above that one. The really scary looking one. That’s right, the ordinary (as if that was an appropriate adjective), C63 AMG just wasn’t thrilling enough for die-hard AMG fans. At least that’s what Mercedes execs must have been thinking when they green-lit this beast.
As I hesitantly drive towards the entrance to the main track of Mazda Raceway at Laguna Secca, the pit boss gives me an obligatory finger point as a warning to go easy in this car “That’s weird. He didn’t give me this warning in any of the other cars I’ve taken out today.” And, I had track tested quite a few serious machines, including a couple of Lexus F sedans, an R-Sport Jag, and a Camaro SS. This might have been the only car on the track that he felt warranted extra caution. At this point, I began to wonder just what I had gotten myself into. My first impression of the latest mid-sized executive sedan from Mercedes certainly didn’t reveal any hints of the beast that lied within. In fact, it was quite the contrary.
Inside, it’s all first class. Every switch, every stitch is of the highest quality craftsmanship. It is all very elegant and understated. Unlike Cadillac’s ATS-V, there isn’t anything in the cockpit, like an Alcantara steering wheel and shift knob or Recaro-style seats, to give the impression this sedan is more at home on a racetrack than anywhere else.* Truth be told, I thought I was behind the wheel of a standard C63 AMG up until the point where I gave the “go pedal” a nudge.
Lap 1: As I enter the track, I heed the numerous warnings I’ve received, including one from another journalist who mentioned the tires are getting a little greasy. The front end seems to be unaffected as turn-in is as crisp and direct as anything else I’ve driven today. Exiting the corner is a different story. Despite the lack of body roll, the rear end is not locking up on full throttle, at least not until I adjust my driving. I just accept that without a brand new set of tires, this thing just has too much torque to exit in the optimal gear. Not to worry. I switch to manual mode. Out of turn three, I hold third gear and discover something amazing. This thing has as much power in the middle of the power band as most competitors have near redline. I continue the lap in short-shifting fashion and am rewarded with not only a quick lap, but one that is drama free.
Lap 2: Coming out of the world famous corkscrew, I notice the Jag hanging out in my rear-view. “Time to get on it” I say to myself. “Whoa! But not all the way on it” I decide as the tail becomes twitchy again. Were this my own C63 S, I would surely throw caution to the wind just to see the Jag shrink to the size of a gnat in the rear view mirror. But, the last thing I want to be is the guy who ruined track day for the other journalists by liquefying the rear tires of the monstrous Mercedes sedan.
Verdict: This is going to sound a bit ungrateful, but I think the “S” badge and everything else that comes along with it might just be too much. Granted, by the time I got my hands on it, the little Mercedes had probably done close to 100 hard laps. Most of its rubber had been used to paint the asphalt at this point. But chances are, you’re going to need a brand new set of rubbers for each lap to get the most out of this monster, a pricey proposition even for AMG purists.
Of course, there is a way to see this in a “glass half full” way. It is possible that weighing the rear end down a bit with a couple rear passengers might have boosted the grip just enough to harness all 503 horses and their 516 lb-ft of torque. Is it possible that the C63 S is the only car in its class that becomes more fun with more friends along for the ride? If that is the case, then it is truly the only car in its class that sees its rear seats and doors as complements to its intentions rather than compromises. Well done, Mercedes-Benz. You’ve created a monster. Even Dr. Frankenstein is looking over at Dr. Benz’s laboratory, thinking, “Is he MAD?!?”
*Microfiber suede seating inserts are standard on the ATS-V while microfiber suede steering wheel and shifter are optional. DINAMICA® (suede) steering wheel inserts are optional on the Mercedes C63 S. Recaro® seats are optional on ATS-V. Recaro-style seats are optional on C63 S.