For 2012, Mercedes-Benz rolls out a coupe version of its C63 AMG. Of course, AMG is the German automaker's performance division. So think of this coupe as a Teutonic counterpart to an American muscle car — only with Mercedes luxury.
Appearance: From its gently sloping roof down to its subtle rear-deck spoiler, this low-slung coupe is a study in athleticism and style. The light-alloy wheels seemed to shine against the dark Lunar Blue paint of our tester, and both the LED running lights in the front and rear sparkle. The bold chrome-slatted Mercedes grille is framed by curvy, swept-back headlights.
Performance: The 451-horsepower hand-built, 6.3-liter V-8 rumbles to life when you push the large aluminum ignition button. It's a rush, and even more so when the chrome-finished quad exhaust barks on downshifts. Still, in normal driving, it makes for a rich cabin soundtrack. The C63 has AMG's adaptive sports suspension, which helps you to carve up the curves. The Speedshift 7-speed sport transmission offers Comfort, Sports, Sports Plus and Manual (Peter's favorite) modes. In all but the Comfort mode, the shifts are quicker. The downshifts are smooth, thanks to the transmission's rev-matching feature. Of course, all this performance (0-to-60 in 4.3 seconds, top speed is a limited 155 mph) comes at a cost: The MPG is an anemic 13 city and 19 highway. Also, be prepared to pay a $1,700 gas guzzler tax.
Interior: As we expect in Mercedes, the fit and finish are excellent. The cabin has carbon-fiber dash and door inserts. A panoramic sunroof covers most of the roof, which gives the interior an expansive feel. (The glass has heat-rejecting tinting, which is welcome in our sweltering summers.) Our tester's two-tone sand and black Nappa leather seats (part of an optional, $2,590 leather package) are firm, yet comfortable and well-bolstered. The F1-inspired steering wheel has a flat bottom and gives the driver good grip and feel, all the better to click off shifts in manual mode with the aluminum paddles. Because the C63 coupe is roughly the same size as an American pony car, the rear seat is cramped. Up front, there is plenty of headroom; we differed on the amount of rear headroom because of our varied heights. The trunk is large, however, and has a pass-through for longer objects.
Our 3 favorites
Safety: Plenty of electronic goodies, including a drowsiness monitor.
Access: The front seats automatically slide forward to allow for rear-seat entry.
Downshifts: The exhaust bark is one of the great automotive sounds.
Price: A lot of performance car for the money.
Seats: They hug you tight, yet are surprisingly comfortable.
Simple shifter: An automatic that looks more like a manual.
The bottom line: The C63 AMG Coupe has many personalities. In the city under normal driving, it's civil. Yet, when pushed, it has a definite wild side. If your wallet allows for both luxury and visceral thrills, then this car fits the bill.