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First Oz drive: C63 AMG is wildest C-class ever

Ballistic: 6.2-litre V8 blasts the W204 C-class to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds.

Ferocious new C63 AMG sedan launches with a bang at four-day Bathurst torque-fest

20 Mar 2008

MERCEDES-BENZ says it cannot justify the expense of attending two major motor shows a year, but the hallowed German luxury car-maker spared no expense when it came to the Australian launch of its wicked new C63 AMG sedan this week.

The brand’s newest AMG model is already a sell-out success, but that didn’t stop Mercedes holding a four-day promotional extravaganza at Mount Panorama that not only comprised the Australian media launch of the most powerful C-class ever, but saw about 300 owners and prospective owners and 400 dealer representatives drive the whole gamut of AMG models.

Mercedes is not the first brand to hold a car launch at the spiritual home of Australian touring car racing (that honour goes to Volvo, which presented its 760 Turbo there in 1984), but the Benz event nonetheless represented a significant coup as the company succeeded in closing the iconic public road circuit for the best part of a week.

4 center imageThe links between Bathurst, which has held touring car races for more than 40 years, AMG, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, and the hottest iteration of the all-new W204 C-class sedan, which forms the basis of Mercedes’ German touring car championship contender, are obvious. Benz says the C-class is the most successful DTM racer ever, with 61 wins from 116 starts.

To reinforce the parallels, Benz shipped out a number of touring car VIPs, led by its own five-times DTM champion, Bernd Schneider, as well as Ford V8 Supercar drivers Jamie Whincup and Will Davison, plus no fewer than 35 professional drivers with 35 Australian titles between them to act as driving instructors on the day.

Total value of the track-going and support vehicles used over the four days was $8.9 million and each of the AMG cars employed for circuit use was fitted each night with four new tyres, new brake pads, new brake discs and new brake fluid by a dedicated team of 12 engineers.

In all, more than 800 people were shipped in and out on more than 30 chartered and commercial flights to the event, with more than 160 staff employed over the four-day event. Benz says pre-event work began in July 2007, with planning starting even earlier.

“To pre-empt any speculation… it’s a triple (customer, media and dealer) act for us, which justifies the investment,” said Mercedes-Benz Car Group managing director Horst von Sanden, adding that demand for the new C63 AMG will far outstrip supply, despite the confirmation yesterday of an increased production allocation for Australia.

M-B Australia currently holds more than 150 orders for the most formidable C-class ever and predicts it could easily sell more than 600 examples. But, despite the initial allocation of 350 cars expanding to 500 for 2008 (ten times the number of W203-based C55 AMGs sold here), the nine-month waiting list remains unchanged.

The C63 is the first of a flurry of new Mercedes-Benzes to arrive this year, including the C200 Estate (late April), facelifted SL convertible (July), SL63 AMG (August), C220 and C63 Estate (August, with a price of $141,300 announced for the latter this week), facelifted SLK (August), facelifted B-class (September) and facelifted M-class (September).

The popularity of the C63 is not surprising given it comes with the same better-value price position its donor model was released here with in July. While the W204 C-class sedan carries a $1500-lower starting price than its forebear, a price of $139,500 was announced for the C63 AMG sedan in January.

That makes the new C-class AMG sedan $21,000 cheaper than the 270kW supercharged 5.4-litre C55 it replaces, as well as $17,500 less than its most direct rival in the BMW M3 coupe ($157,000) and a whole $25,000 less than Audi’s RS4 super-sedan ($164,500).

Pricing for the V8-powered Lexus IS-F, which arrives in late 2008 as Japan’s first serious compact sports sedan offering, is expected to be about $150,000.

“I think it has ruffled a few feathers in our competitors’ camps,” said Mr von Sanden.

Furthermore, the C63 comes standard with an automatic transmission (Benz says the seven-speed 7GTronic-based AMG Speedshift Plus auto is 20 per cent quicker-shifting and “completely eliminates” the need for a manual transmission, yet admits it would be nice to have one), offers class-leading 336kW/600Nm outputs from its 6.2-litre V8 and sprints to 100km/h in a claimed 4.5 seconds – one-tenth faster than even the M3 with its recently announced M-DCT twin-clutch automated manual transmission.

As we previously reported after our first drive in Europe, the C63 features specific front quarter guards, a unique bonnet with power dome, more aggressive front and rear bumpers, side skirts, a bootlid spoiler, dual twin exhausts and LED tail-lights.

C63-specific technology includes three-stage ESP traction/stability control, speed-sensitive AMG sports steering, reinforced driveshafts and joints, a 35mm-wider front wheel track, 18-inch AMG alloys (8.5-inch wide up front, 9.0-inch at rear), beefier brakes and a new three-link front suspension with firmer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, plus increased negative wheel camber.

Interior upgrades include multi-adjustable AMG sports seats with integrated head restraints for the first time, AMG instruments and an AMG multi-function flat-bottomed sports steering wheel with paddle shifters.

Standard fare in Australia includes an electric tilt/slide sunroof, bi-Xenon headlights, full Nappa leather trim available in three colours (beige, black and grey), an alarm with interior motion sensor and a Harman Kardon sound system.

Only three factory options will be available: a carbon-fibre trim package (to replace the standard ‘black ash’ highlights), Keyless Go auto un/locking and starting, and an electric rear window blind. Radar-operated Distronic cruise control will not be available.

The C63 is the fifth generation of a long line of AMG-tweaked C-class models, not including the 190E 3.2 in 1987 – the first AMG-tuned compact Benz.

The 1993 C36 was the first fully fledged AMG model, followed by the 1997 4.3-litre V8-powered C43, the supercharged V6 C32 Kompressor of 2001 and the previous-generation C55 Kompressor (2004). But this is the first time the AMG version of any model has been available from launch.

More than 22,000 C-class AMGs have been sold globally. Australia continues to be one of the top five AMG-buying nations and one of the highest per capita, with 1000 AMG vehicle sales expected this year.

Read more:

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