The Mercedes C 63 AMG coupé is turned into a Black Series. It’s good, but how good?

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Ah, the unflinching enigma that is a Black Series AMG Mercedes. Good car, duff car, outstanding car: Black Series AMGs have been them all. Which will the latest C 63 AMG be?

AMG introduced the Black Series in 2006 as a way of making its existing models one step more extreme. They’ve all been two-door models and only one has been on sale at a time.

On the track, the Black Series is a wonderful, addictive drive

The SLK 55 AMG was the first, limited to 120 units, and it was followed by the CLK 63, one of our favourite cars of 2007. Some 700 were sold. Then came the SL 65 AMG (with, like the SLK 55 Black, a fixed roof) of 2008. There was a pause during the SLS’s release, but now Black Series cars are back on the agenda.

We already know that this, the C 63 AMG Black Series, is one of the best. We’ve already driven the hardcore £100k coupé extensively on road and track, and it has entertained us greatly. We should have expected as much: lineage suggests it.

The C 63 Black’s most obvious predecessor from all Black Series models is the CLK 63 – so far, the best of the breed, and the most similar in ethos to the C 63. Both are stiff, medium-sized coupés to begin with.

But regardless of the fact that this model has already amused us, there are sound reasons for conducting a full road test on the C 63 Black Series. We wanted to know how it holds up to extended circuit use.

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We’d like to know, objectively, how well it performs in a straight line, around corners and under braking. Most of all, though, we just wanted to do it. And, in the end, we needed no more justification than that.


Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupé rear

The Mercedes C 63 coupé has a mechanical layout that makes it seem ripe for receiving the Black Series treatment: a stiff, two-door coupé shell, with a front-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive. The C 63 donor car is also one of the last in the AMG range to still use the big, naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 engine, whose revvy nature ought to suit the character of a Black Series.

Here the ‘63’ engine has been tuned (including the adoption of SLS pistons, conrods and crankshaft) to produce the most powerful C-Class in Mercedes’ history, at 510bhp and 457lb ft of torque. The change in internals has reduced the engine’s weight by 4kg, which doesn’t seem particularly significant until you remember that it’s all in rotating or reciprocating mass, and thus reduces the inertia greatly. Accordingly, the maximum engine speed is up from 6700rpm on the C 63 to 7200rpm here. The gearbox is a seven-speed auto.

A space saver spare wheel? On a car like this? It adds weight, but is very, very much appreciated

One thing that you’re unlikely to do is mistake the C 63 Black Series for a regular C 63, and almost certainly not a standard C-Class coupé. It has been given the full, angry, GT3-effect treatment on the outside, with a body flared and sculpted to allow enough air to get to radiators that are 50 percent bigger than usual, and also to cover a front track that is 40mm wider and a rear track that has been increased by 79mm.

With the track increases come revised anti-roll bars, new coil-over spring/damper units and, as standard, a limited-slip differential that locks under both deceleration and acceleration. Under braking, a limited-slip diff that’s too aggressive can limit a car’s willingness to turn in, but, as we’ll see, that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Composite brake discs are also standard. Our test car was fitted with an optional Track Package that comprises Dunlop Sport Maxx Race tyres and a rear axle radiator, located in front of the rear diffuser.


Mercedes-AMG C 63 Black Series Coupé dashboard

The major interior architecture of the Mercedes C-Class coupé’s cabin is, unsurprisingly, retained for the Black Series, with one very notable exception. If you look over your shoulder, you’ll note that there are no rear seats. They can be put back in your C 63, as an option, but we suspect that most buyers will prefer to do without them and save the weight. It’d be a bold passenger who slinks behind those very supportive front seats, anyway.

Those in the front will find that their seating is located low. The driving position feels dead straight, and although we prefer our steering wheels to be round, the Black Series’ one isn’t too stupidly cut top and bottom.

No seats in the back — but there are still air vents and AMG-branded floormats.

In short, the Black Series’ cabin feels convincingly like a place where you could conduct pretty serious business, yet it also retains enough comforts that a cross-country hack or a late-evening motorway crawl home from a track day will not become too much of a chore. Certainly, none of our testers ever found it a wearing experience.

And in the unlikely event that your journey does get too boring, the Black Series has a very neat touch: the ability to record, data log and replay your laps back to you – hours of amusement while you wait for a fresh pair of rear tyres to arrive.


Mercedes-AMG C 63 Black Series Coupé

Engaging Race Start mode on a Mercedes C 63 AMG Black Series and producing a perfect standing start isn’t like flicking a switch. For one thing, that’s because you turn a knob – clockwise, as it happens – and then you stand on the brake pedal, flick the right-hand shift paddle, flatten the accelerator and pause to ready yourself before lifting your left foot. But it’s also because it takes a few runs to get heat into the car’s Dunlop ‘Race’ tyres, and for the traction control system to adjust to the grip it encounters.

AMG’s Performance Media system, with its live 0-60mph data mode, made it possible to watch as, run after run, the C 63 got quicker. On run one – according to the onboard data system – the car launched to 60mph in 4.3sec; on run four it did 3.9sec. Our data logger recorded a 4.0sec two-way average for the car – exceptional speed for something weighing almost 1.8 tonnes. By 100mph, the Merc had dropped off 911 GT3 RS pace – if only slightly – but had also proved itself a true performance heavyweight.

Gearchanges are not as immediate as with a dual-clutch 'box, but can still happen as quickly as 0.1 seconds

AMG’s latest 5.5-litre biturbo V8 would probably close the accelerative gap to the Porsche thanks to its enormous torque, but it isn’t the equal of the C 63’s atmospheric V8 in any other meaningful way. Not on aural character, throttle response or even flexibility, really. On track, the freedom to rev beyond 7000rpm can be every bit as advantageous as 550lb ft of unexpurgated wallop, and unerring precision in the relationship between the accelerator’s position and power at the rear wheels is not to be sniffed at, either. The Black Series provides both.

Even more amazing is how well mannered and easy-going the car can be on the road. Here, the wet clutch in the transmission does an uncanny impression of a torque converter, and that otherwise bellowing V8 quietens its performance considerably. There’s still a bit of tyre roar to contend with, but not enough to put much of a dent in what are incredible touring manners, which make most cars at this performance level seem like stripped-out ‘tin-top’ racers.


Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupé rear cornering

The Black Series’ adjustable coil-over suspension and optional Dunlop circuit-ready rubber make its dynamic capacities something of a blank canvas. Our test car, riding on the track-minded tyres and AMG’s standard chassis settings, was a compelling advert for leaving well enough alone, though. The Mercedes was superb on the track, and full of welcome reminders of its purposefulness on the road. But reminders only; very few impositions at all.

We’re used to complaining about steering racks as direct as the one on this car, but when you’re given so much feedback, and when there’s plenty of steering weight and generous lateral grip, too, all you can do is sit back and marvel. This C-Class steers with the heft and incisiveness of a 1990s supercar, but none of the buttock-clenching scariness.

The most remarkable thing about the Black Series' limits is the commitment it takes to exceed them

At low speeds, over the worst surfaces, there’s a muscular aggression about its damping that doesn’t always make for the most comfortable town ride. But at higher speeds, across country and on the motorway, there’s enough unchecked initial wheel travel to provide a fairly gentle, supple sense of control and a surprisingly quiet secondary ride. Push beyond that and – even in what is a middle-of-the-road setting for those twin-tube dampers – you’ll find negligible body roll, supremely clear and crisp responses to even small steering inputs, and more adhesion and composure than almost any performance special.

Is it as absorbing as any of the ultimate handling benchmarks of the past decade: 997 GT3 RS, Lotus Evora, Cayman R, even Toyota GT86?

Not quite – but it falls short by a margin so small that it’s hard to express. Ultimately, the Black Series’ weight and slightly brutish character preclude the dynamic delicacy of the very best. It is playful and adjustable in equal measure, and a tyre-smoking handful if you get brutish with the throttle. It’s fun to the extent that it’s of very little concern that it goes without the delicacy that marks out true chassis greatness. Given the big-engined, big-hearted nature of these cars, it’s hard to imagine an AMG Mercedes being better. And it’s also easier to live with than most cars of its talent, which is a very convincing deal clincher indeed.


Mercedes-AMG C 63 Black Series Coupé

Despite being track-focused, the Mercedes C 63 AMG Black Series is still a very heavy car. Therefore, if you plan to use this car as its maker intended, you’d better be prepared for some lumpy running costs.

We wore through a set of Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres during our testing, and although that included indulging in some silliness for the cameras, it also included no more than three hours of track testing.

The Black Series has near supercar levels of running costs

During that time, by the way, we also returned less than 7mpg. All of which suggests that a track day in a Black Series is not likely to be an inexpensive one.

Still, its brakes held out remarkably well.

Depreciation is as heavy as its rivals’. But if you can’t quite stomach the thought of the losses, take solace in the thought that, because of its brilliance, we wouldn’t be surprised to see this Black Series appreciating again after a few years.


4.5 star Mercedes-AMG C 63 Black Series Coupé

Racing has generally proved that the fastest way around a race track is no longer in a vehicle whose engine is in its front. But you get the feeling that, with the C 63 AMG Black, that was not Mercedes' intention.

Fingertips and backsides are do not always agree with stopwatches, however, and there’s still something remarkably compelling about a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive car that exudes real balance.

It's quite special in the way it allows you to control and develop your cornering attitudes, and the speeds you can carry while doing so

Few new sports cars – regardless of where their engines are – have the same intimacy and adjustability as the C 63 AMG Black Series.

Some driving experiences live with you forever; lapping the Black Series around our dry handling circuit is one of those. No, it’s not as delicate as some cars, because of its weight.

But exploiting its exceptional balance and repeatedly, trustworthily pushing it into line-straightening angles is something that none of our testers will forget in a hurry.

The C 63 AMG Black Series is a technical and tactile triumph.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe Black Series 2012-2013 First drives