Test Drive Review: 2009 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

 

Test Drive Review: 2009 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

“An axe murderer with headlights”

The headline is what Jeremy Clarkson romantically said about Mercedes-Benz’s latest take on the competitor to the M3. He’s right. I’ve just driven the car this past week. What a Car! I always did like the C63 AMG. With its 451hp and 443lb-ft of torque, you know it’s not playing around. This Mercedes means business… Racing business. In fact, I love all of the new 63 AMG Mercedes’. I love the looks of them and their latest attitudes. They look mean and seem to be better suited for competition in today’s tough market. If they only came in manuals…

The look of the C63 has so far been its most controversial theme. In my honest opinion, I fancy it quite nicely. I think it’s sexy, rough, but still very polished. I find it to be a car that looks as well as it goes.

Well, I’ll tell you the story on how I got to drive it. It’s interesting. For Christmas my parents bought me a new dSLR. A Canon Rebel XSi, to be exact. I love it. I’ve been having so much fun with it. I’m fresh off of the point and shoots, so I’m still learning all the stuff there is to learn. So, for a little while, please excuse my off-center photos, and such. I’m trying my hardest. But, this is all beside the point. My mom and dad were looking to purchase a new Mercedes SL. This would be my mom’s 7th. Her last was a 2003 SL500 Sport. Beautiful car. But it drove like crap… It wasn’t too fast. It had tons of style, but nothing else to back that up. When you turned the ESP off, you got the same non tire smoking results as when you had ESP on. Dismal, really. So, I was hoping for once that we’d get an SL that actually did something other than sit there and look pretty…

We tossed back and forth between an 07-08 SL55 AMG, or an 08 SL550. I finally talked my dad into going the full nine and get the 2009 SL550. At first he thought it was ugly, so he didn’t want it. But once he saw it in person, he had a hard time lifting his chin off the floor. It’s a gorgeous car. But, it’s still a Mercedes.

Well, we finally found the right one. It was a very new CPO 1,200 mile 09 SL550. Fully loaded, except for Panorama roof, Disctronic and parking sensors. That’s fine by me. We got, at least what I would consider to be a good deal on it. It’s black with a light tan interior. It was purchased from Tysinger Mercedes-Benz in Hampton, VA. We were trading in our 2005 Acura NSX on the SL. Don’t say a word! I know… It wasn’t a fair trade. The NSX is WAY better… I’m still sad about it. So let’s not talk about it, okay? Still, though, the SL550 drives very well. You’ll be seeing a new test drive video of that soon, too. It’s the best driving SL. It actually drives more like a BMW than it does a Mercedes. Shh.. Don’t tell MB that!

My dad and I drove the NSX up to Hampton from our house. He let me do most of the driving on the back roads heading up there. Everyone knows the NSX is my second favorite car we’ve ever owned, behind our 1967 427/400 Corvette Coupe.

While we were looking at the car, the salesman and I started talking about the AMGs out front. Dad told him what I did, I handed him my business cards, and He said that he would love to put me in a C63 to drive while dad was doing the paperwork. I told him how much I’d appreciate it. But, I wasn’t about to hold my breath for anything.

I came back into the office after taking some photos with my camera, and I was informed that my car was outside waiting for me. I laughed and asked what car? I figured they meant either the SL, or jokingly were referring to the CL63 AMG that I said I would love to have. The salesman replied, “Your C63 AMG. It’s gassed up, it’s got a plate, and the keys are in it. Have fun.” He proceeded to give me a few directions in order to get back to the dealership.

I walked outside to see the car was started and waiting on the delivery pad for me… I could get used to this, I thought. I got into the car and got myself settled. I quickly familiarized myself with all of the dials and the paddles, and such. I put the car in drive. Something I hate doing, but I had to with an MB. I slowly pulled off the paddock and turned right out of the dealership. I started fiddling with the paddles, and played with them the whole time. I took it slow the first, oh, few hundred feet, or so. And then I HIT IT!

At 30 MPH, I stomped on the gas. The amount of energy that came out of the car soon thereafter was breathtaking. I figure this is what Astronauts feel when they’re launched on their first mission to space. I couldn’t believe this car had so much thrust. I had to scream in my head just to hear myself. The exhaust wasn’t as loud as I’d hoped, but the sudden burst of life came at you like a canon being fired next to your head. You didn’t expect it. Nor did you expect the after effects.

Unlike the traumatic after effects of a canon being fired next to your head, the C63’s were spine tingling. You have to drive it to understand it. But, without a doubt, if this car had a manual, or a properly put together F1 transmission… It would be devastating. The earth may collapse on itself for as much force this car puts to the ground. No M3 would be able to match it. But, they haven’t done it, yet. So the M3 is still king.

I continued my drive. I took a right at the stop light, and slammed the throttle as I was turning. The car turned on the spot, and the rear-end danced around like J-Lo’s at a reenactment of Flashdance. The C63 AMG went so fast that my chest was trying to keep pace. I finally had to back off to avoid plowing through the traffic in front of me. I made another right at that traffic light and was able to be the first guy in line in the fast lane at the next light. I thought I spotted an unmarked cop behind me, so I don’t plant my foot into the pedal on the start, I just lightly touched it. What happened next is something that I have never felt before… The car wanted to go. It started doing an odd stop and go thing, like it was trying to tell me to MOVE. I figured, what the hell. If the police stop me, my excuse can be that it slipped? At roughly 50 mph, I slammed the gas all the way to the floor. I didn’t expect the next thing to happen, either. The rear wheels started spinning!

Here I am traveling at 50 mph and the tires are spinning like I just took off from the traffic light. It was unreal. How such a car moves so well with 3,814lbs is somewhat beyond me.

I got back to the dealership, parked it, got out and took some pictures. I still couldn’t believe how nutty this damn car was. It is, however, what I would expect from a car that has no manners. But, this one does. That’s what is still so shocking to me. My only complaint, and my biggest, as well, is the gearbox. It’s slow, it’s crappy, it’s an automatic. Please, if you’re going to compete against the BMW M3 and the Audi RS4, come at them with something that actually works. The changes of the gearbox are so slow going up and down that a Hyundai’s feels faster and more sporty. At least Mercedes got one thing right. The paddles should always be left for downshifting and right for upshifting.

To talk a little bit about the rest of the car. A lot of people also criticize the interior style and quality. I actually found the C63 to be a better interior experience than almost any other Mercedes-Benz I’ve driven. The steering is perfectly weighted and balanced, and it feels incredibly good in your hands. For the first time in a Mercedes, you feel like you are controlling more of what the car does. It’s not just a sit in and put it in drive experience anymore. The seats hold you very well. They are Benzo soft and comfortable with no ounce missing on luxury. But when the car starts moving from side to side, you can’t help but feel extra secure in the seats. You don’t move an inch.

Once I got back to the dealership I started playing with the buttons. All of the knobs and such feel at home between your fingers. There isn’t any weird, almost out of touch feeling about them, at all. The navigation screen hides in and out of the center dash very quietly and rather stylishly.

Still, though. Even though it’s a Mercedes-Benz with a terrible automatic, it’s a thrill to drive! Life on Mars would be less exciting. I swear, this thing is Darth Vader’s personal transportation.

One thing this car didn’t have on it that I wish it would have is the $3,990 AMG Performance Package. This upgrades the already stellar performer with an AMG limited-slip differential, AMG compound brakes, AMG track suspension, AMG leather or alcantara steering wheel and a new top speed of 174 mph. I think this would have helped the tires to not light up like a Christmas tree every time I stomped on the gas at speed.

I would just like to say thank you to Keith Hassan and the other guys and gals at Tysinger Motor Co., Inc. What a great group of people. These guys are eager to earn your business and have no shame in making you a great deal. You can tell that in their drive to work with you on everything. My father sent them an email on a Saturday around noon with his info and the information of the NSX, a few minutes later he got an email back saying that he would be contacted as soon as they had the time. About 6pm, the deal was done. They had called and asked my father what he would like to get for a trade-in on his car, he told them his price, they accepted immediately, and proceeded to knock some extra money off the SL and add a new CPO warranty for less than half the cost.

If you have any questions about this C63 AMG, or any other car they have on the lot, contact Keith Hassan, or any of the other great salesman at, (757) 865-8000. Or you can email Keith directly at, khassan@tysinger.com.

-Josh

“Happy Motoring!”

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I'm a car, music, and Howard Stern aficionado. I also love planes, trains, anything to do with science and engineering, as well as politics. I'm working on my screenplays, TV shows, and a book or two. Stay tuned to when I'm really famous and even more awesome.

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  • jane lewis

    Josh
    What a great article on the SL550. I can tell you are very much a BMW Man but many thanks for the great review. I can tell you without a doubt I am a true SL fan and will always be. Let’s say we get together one day & put out cars out there and watch me beat the pants off of you. I wish you the very best and can see where one day you will have the offers come at you begging you to write for C&D, MT, and especially BMW. You may even be very surprised when Mercedes calls you to be their spokesperson. Hang in there, you got what it takes.

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  • http://www.floridagerman.com Fox

    Merc really needs to get their head back in the game and make another manual enthusiast car.

    Every time they build a really nice “BMW eater” with a slushbox God buys a Kia…

  • http://www.rawautos.com Josh Lewis

    Hahaha, I agree 100%, Fox.

  • John Alvarez

    I own a C63 and I’m pretty sure you didn’t put the tranny into Manual. This makes it so only you can shift, using the paddles or the knob, and it makes the shifts much faster. It’s a little button behind the shifting knob that is easy to miss. Complain all you want about not having a Manual transmission but the auto in manual mode is GREAT, almost on par with BMWs dual clutch M3.

  • http://www.rawautos.com Josh Lewis

    @John Alvarez: John, I may very well have missed that button. However, I do remember taking a moment to switch everything on and off accordingly. But this test drive was so long ago, I can’t be 100% positive.

    With that said, I hate to break it to you, but that’s just not true. The automatic gearbox in the C63 is no up to par with any dual-clutch gearbox. BMW tried for many years to argue that their Sequential Manual Gearbox, or SMG, was just as good as any dual-clutch gearbox… It wasn’t true, and even they were forced to develop a true double clutch transmission. The C63 AMG is one hell of a car, and something I’d love to own. But it sadly isn’t an M3 fighter…

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