Flying halfway across the world, the thing I expected least was to meet my fiancée's uncle, who happened to share the same passion as mine: fast cars. And as though fate had wrought its magic, he worked at a Mercedes-Benz dealership south of Boston, Massachusetts. Stepping into tito JC Cabanos' corner office was like stepping into the McLaren-Mercedes trophy room: On display were shimmering awards and trophies. Yet, his passion for the three-pointed star didn't end with his sales accolades; on the wall was a painting of Stirling Moss's 300 SLR, and on his desk was a photo of him sitting in a late-model SL, with--oddly enough--a large lobster draped on the hood. After dispensing with the greetings, JC decided that there was no better way to heighten my Mercedes experience than to have me drive one of the most formidable Mercedes cars on the road today: the C 63 AMG.
Since JC worked for Herb Chambers, a large multi-brand dealership network (one of the largest in the state, in fact), it wasn't extraordinary to see Mercedes-Benz and BMW cars parked side by side on the dealership lot. I saw pristine C 63 AMG units parked just a glance away from their direct rival, the BMW M3.
As I visually inspected the AMG's deep front apron, massive perforated disc brakes, aggressive 18-inch alloys, and quad-tip exhaust pipes, a customer who was then receiving his M3 delivery gave me an inquisitive stare.
When I turned the ignition and breathed life into the monstrous 6.3-liter V8, the air was filled with a cacophony that could best be described as James Earl Jones doing his Darth Vader thing. It was the best damn exhaust note I'd ever heard--enough to make me teary-eyed as well as make the M3 guy realize he'd gotten the shorter end of the stick. Such is the appeal of the C 63 AMG, and it's easy to see why it's the best-selling AMG model in the United States.
Despite the AMG's supercar-level performance (457hp, to be exact), anyone familiar with a run-of-the-mill C-Class cabin will feel right at home inside the C 63 AMG. At a glance, the blocky motif (echoing the angular exterior) might seem uninviting, but the cabin is very comfortable, with controls that are extremely intuitive and easy to use. The materials and the craftsmanship are first-rate, as can be expected of a P6.98-million car. And the C 63 AMG can be ordered with an optional wood-trimmed interior--good news for those who can't live without it.
That said, minor but highly-noticeable features set the C 63 AMG apart. First, there is the revised instrument panel with a sportier font type (very similar to the one used by the Formula 1 team). Just below the 7,100rpm redline, the words '63.-liter V8' are emblazoned--a constant reminder of the C 63 AMG's potency. Next is the three-spoke steering wheel, which has shrunk in diameter but has grown in thickness. Its bottom has been squared off--which doesn't make any sense, but looks extremely nice. Lastly, there are the body-hugging sport seats with active bolstering. At first, the leather-trimmed seats look extremely comfy for my 32-inch waist, 65-kilogram frame. To my surprise, even at the loosest setting, the seats were rubbing against my rib cage. This caused me to wonder how Americans could fit into them.
With M3 guy still craning his neck, I drove out and made my way to the open road. Since it had rained the night before, I feathered the throttle and took things easy, bringing the C 63 AMG to a modest 60kph. With a raised eyebrow, JC suggested that both the car and I could do better. He added that an AMG wasn't an AMG if the accelerator wasn't planted to the floor.
I obliged and switched off my sissy mode. When I buried the aluminum-finished throttle pedal to the ground, the car promptly downshifted, and its rear end swayed to the tune of 600 Newton-meters of torque coursing through the wheels. With the electronic stability program having been retuned by AMG engineers, it didn't intervene as the Pirellis squabbled for grip on the wet pavement. The speedometer rose as quickly as the tachometer--80, 100, 120. In no time, I was breaking the speed limit, traveling at over 190kph in about a quarter-mile of road.
However, the C 63 wasn't made to rocket forward in just a straight line. Grafted to this car is the front end of the Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG Black Series, the road-going German Touring Car racer with which it shares quick and responsive manners that are quite addicting, to say the least. It's surprising how easy and confident the car is in taking just about any corner. Plus, the roofline doesn't hamper visibility, making the C 63 AMG even easier to maneuver. Of course, the use of a racing car's front end does have some downside: This car rides stiffly, amplifying just about every road imperfection it passes over.
As daylight faded, it was time for me to reluctantly hand the keys of the C 63 AMG back to JC. Though the experience barely lasted four hours, I felt an instant connection with this car that I couldn't quite describe. Not many will be able to drive a Mercedes AMG in their lifetime, but those who do will feel an extremely calming experience. A car-induced nirvana, so to speak. This is one afternoon I'll surely be talking about for years to come, and one that will be instantly understood by people with a passion for speed.
Source: Top Gear Philippines, March 2009
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