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Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series review (2012 onwards)
What - Mercedes C63 AMG Coupé Black Series
Where - Laguna Seca, California
Date - November 2011
Price - Approx £100,000 (TBC)
Available - Late January/early February 2012
Key rivals - Porsche 911 GT3, BMW M3 GTS
Summary - We take to the Laguna Seca racetrack in the 517hp Mercedes C63 AMG Coupé Black Series, the fourth AMG model to gain a Black Series badge and the meanest, most powerful C-Class yet.
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series
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We like - Serious track car but friendly with it, awesome V8 sound track, jaw-dropping looks
We don't like - Not everyone will be dropping their jaw because they like it, having to hand back the keys and leave Laguna Seca
There's no two ways about it, the Mercedes C63 AMG Coupé Black Series most definitely looks like it's spoiling for a fight. This car is all extra bonnet vents and straining, distended bumpers, sideskirts and wheel arches - these last being no less than 42mm wider at the back. On either side.
But then, it is a Black Series. The fourth model in an exclusive line that aims to demonstrate AMG's more (!) aggressive side, the C63 Black Series steps up to become the most powerful C-Class Mercedes has ever offered.
With a freshly modified version of the not-so-ordinary standard C63's 6.2-litre V8, the Black Series delivers 517hp and 457lb ft of torque. That's enough to see 0-62mph dispatched in just 4.2 seconds, and troubled the 155mph electronic limiter so easily it's now set at 186mph instead.
But this is about more than just straight-line performance. A 78mm increase in the rear track is complemented by all-new fully adjustable AMG coilover suspension and bigger composite brakes, while the interior loses its rear seat for the sake of reducing the weight.
The result is a serious toy aimed directly at enthusiastic track drivers - and one that can be enhanced, as here, by the additional Aerodynamic Package, Track Package and a very clever piece of technology called AMG Performance Media.
So just to make sure we make the most of it, Mercedes has kindly flown us to the Laguna Seca racetrack in California to try it. Home of the notorious 'Corkscrew' turn, which drops like a roller-coaster and is approached over a blind crest, this will expose any weakness - not least in the driver.
Track prepped or not, like any AMG the C63 Black Series is, if not dominated by its engine, then certainly defined by it; as the rest of the '63' labelled Mercedes AMG range gradually switches over to the new 5.5-litre V8 BiTurbo, the C63 continues to glory in 6.2 naturally aspirated litres.
And we do mean glory - this engine makes a noise like no other, and try as it might, even AMG can't replicate this kind of thunder with the silencing effect of two turbochargers interfering with the exhaust system. It sounds like the end of the world remixed by Deep Purple.
But to make things properly special, the Black Series borrows a number of oily bits from the SLS supercar. Forged pistons, lightweight crankshaft, new connecting rods - together with a new ECU they deliver that headline 517hp, 60 ponies more than the regular 457hp C63 can muster.
It moves. In a surging wave of power rather than a sudden rush - a gallumping, muscular experience that's perfectly in keeping with the Black's external appearance. Upshifts from the seven-speed AMG Speedshift MCT auto thwock home with a determine snap, while it gurgles and pops like a monstrous but contented baby whenever you lift off.
Ride and handling
First things first - the Black Series doesn't ride like a concrete sled. Admittedly, we were limited to the relatively smooth tarmac of a racing circuit, but pattering over rumble-strips on the outside of curves and the way it eases its way into steady direction changes demonstrate an underlying suppleness that is initially unexpected.
Unexpected, but far from unwelcome. This compliance, born of a change in philosophy at AMG that began with the SLS, actually helps deliver increased traction. Greater understanding of chassis dynamics and more sophisticated modern aerodynamics mean stiff springs are no longer the only way to keep a car stable through challenging turns.
In this instance, the Aerodynamic Package - which comprises the carbonfibre splitter and those arcing 'flics' around the front, and an adjustable carbon spoiler at the rear - halves lift over the front axle and reduces it to near zero at the back, keeping the Black friendly through Laguna Seca's fastest sections.
The Track Package, meanwhile, adds active cooling to the rear limited slip differential to keep that performing at its optimum, and a set of exclusively developed Dunlop tyres. These are so sticky they reputedly drop the 0-62mph time to just 3.9 seconds - proper fast.
As they cling on harder, you can push the car further. But that's not to say you don't need to be careful, as the Black Series will go seriously sideways in the ESP Sport Handling mode, let alone with it switched all the way off. Enormous fun if you're expecting it, a less-than-subtle reminder that this is an extremely powerful machine if you're not.
By rights, the Black Series shouldn't handle as well as it does - even AMG seems surprised at just how fast this car will go round corners given the lack of weight over the driven rear wheels. Even more impressive is just how engaging it is given this performance; it's a car that inspires confidence more than it intimidates.
A notable area in this regard is the gearbox. On brief acquaintance it's difficult to get the manual downshift points just right - if you grab the paddle too soon it will just ignore you, leading to some slightly nervous moments on the approach to corners.
The solution is to simply engage the Sport+ automatic setting instead. Seems like sacrilege on a race track, but whoever programmed it is a genius. Since this does such a good job it leaves you to get on with enjoying that V8, complete with the occasional flourish.
The interior of the Black Series is dominated by a pair of tremendous fixed-back bucket seats, which pin you in place with the able assistance of some fetching red seatbelts. There's a flat-bottomed steering wheel, plenty of carbon trim and lashings of black Alcantara. It feels purposeful. Particular.
If you're put off by the lack of rear backside accommodation for your mates or your children, don't fret - AMG does offer a four-seater version. But obviously this ups the weight again, and means you have to make do with a more ordinary set of AMG sports seats.
A very interesting addition to the test cars, however, comes with the AMG Performance Media system. This optional extra is an amazingly detailed datalogger, completely integrated into the Mercedes Command infotainment system, and displayed on the central screen.
It allows you to upload - and even record - the layout of racing circuits, and then measure your performance around them, moment by moment and lap after lap. It has enormous potential as a driving improvement tool, as you can see exactly where you gain and lose time in each instance. Expect further developments.
Economy and safety
AMG isn't offering an official roll cage option - although we're sure if you asked nicely enough something could be arranged - so you'll just have to make do with the standard C-Class safety features. Still, these are hardly laggardly in any respect.
If you're worrying about the economy, you're probably missing the point of this car (and perhaps haven't spotted the estimated £100,000 price tag). But for what it's worth the official CO2 figure is 286g/km, while the fuel economy is a claimed 23.1mpg.
You will never, ever, see anything close to this on a race track. But since the Black Series is road legal it is impressive that according to the official figures, it's only 0.4mpg shy of the regular C63's economy - despite getting to 62mph at least 0.3 seconds faster.
The MSN Cars verdict
The Mercedes C63 Black Series may lack the outright precision of certain Stuttgart rivals we could mention. But while its limits may be more vaguely defined, it's also more playful and less fussy on approach to and in breach of them - this is a wildly entertaining car.
AMG also seems to have pulled off the remarkable trick of making a high performance track tool that is quick to establish a confidence-building rapport with its pilot, yet continues to hint there are greater heights to come, so long as you're prepared to put in the work to reach them.
It's honed, but exuberant; awesomely capable, but happy to have a laugh. And best of all we reckon it'll be comfortable enough on the road to make it an accomplished all-rounder. A very definite, very loud, five stars.
Engines petrol - 6.2 Black Series
Engines diesel - n/a
Power hp - 517
Torque lb ft - 457
0-62 mph secs - 4.2 (3.9 with Track Package)
Top speed mph - 186 (electronically limited)
Mpg combined - 23.1
CO2 g/km / Tax % - 286 / 35
Rating (specific model) - Mercedes C63 AMG Coupé Black Series
Ride and handling: *****
Fuel economy: **
MSN Cars verdict: *****
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series
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