‘DEVIL CAR, DEVIL CAR!’ That’s what my two- and three-year-old kids started chanting when the Mercedes-Benz C63 Black Series rolled onto the driveway, gargling 95 octane and coughing hellfire through its incongruous AMG exhaust tips. You can see why, with its blood red paintwork and those gratuitously flared wheelarches – the fronts so massive they meld into the clamshell bonnet. Inflated air dams and indented nostrils on the over-muscled bonnet are further clues to the violence that lurks beneath its skin. And one other important dimension: the ground-shaking sound effects. Even at walking pace, the fettled AMG 6.2- litre V8 sounds feral, like a wound up tiger cruising for a fight. But more on that later… The zeitgeist calls for smaller engines, turbochargers and other efficiencies – policies the AMG skunkworks simply does not entertain. As a result, the C63 Black Series is inappropriate and makes absolutely no sense. Predictably, I like it very much.
I can’t recall driving another street car that has oozed this much DTM Touring Car presence and I imagine it would have been even closer on target had our Black been equipped with the aerodynamics package, an R80000 extra. The kit includes a fixed wing and several carbon fibre canards … you know, in case it looks too plain. It really doesn’t need them, certainly not the splitters at the front because as it is now, it’s nigh-on perfect. Tough and lean – indeed, trimming the fat is what sets it apart from the regular C63, as well as the obligatory output hike – now 380kW and 620Nm of torque. Performance cues abound, such as the meshed vents and gills recessed into the fenders and panels and the titanium grey alloy rims – measuring 19 inches across – hide in each massive ’arch. Sheesh, that’s some aggressive stuff! If anything, the C63 Black reminds me of the very special 2004 Mercedes CLK DTM – I’m almost brave enough to call this its successor, except that car is still superior with its 428kW and 800Nm, although both manage to cover the quarter-mile in 12 seconds. Arguably, the Black looks better.
Some more fat has been trimmed in the dark Mercedes cabin – not much mind you, but I do find myself adjusting the driver’s cosseting bucket seat via manual rails as opposed to a heavier motorised system. There are no knobs for the suspension settings either as the Black Series is set permanently to ‘bad ass’ hard. Every other luxury item lives here, so it’s not exactly stripped out – but do you really want an unforgiving Mercedes with a R1.5 million sticker price? Ergonomics are familiar – this is still a C-Class after all – but it’s well finished and racy enough with Alcantara detailing to keep you focused on the task at hand – butt-clenching speed.
The glorious sound, those menacing looks, the impressive performance data – nothing ever really prepares you for the gut-wrenching chaos a modern day AMG product unleashes when you drop the proverbial clutch. There’s no dual-clutch automated manual trickery here, just a clever seven-speed auto AMG’s nerds call the Speedshift MCT. It’s loaded with four modes and a double-declutching functionality for rapid downshifts. The transmission’s crown jewel is something called Race Start – you’ll know it better as launch control – that symbiotic relationship between the Continental tyres and the AMG’s computer brain where they mutually agree on how quickly they’ll let you penetrate the horizon against a total loss of traction. Because that’s what you do when you’re sitting in a throbbing red rocket, you launch the damned thing! Nervously, I thumb the dial into Sport+, select Drive, flatten the brake and throttle, then wait until the revs climb in pitch from malicious to something around murderous, which is found a ball-hair below 4000rpm. Mercedes claims a 4.2-second 0-100km/h sprint but we pip that with 4.15 seconds amid a flurry of V8 noise, deep and offbeat like a thunderstorm rendered in staccato. It will eventually max out at an electronically limited 300kph, or so I’m told.
Those bulging ’arches are not just for scaring rivals from Ingolstadt and Munich – oh no. They are, in fact, a necessary body enhancement required to accommodate a much widened track – 40mm in front, 79mm at the rear – giving the Black Series a much squarer stance than a bog-standard C63. You think that would quell a loose back-end and instead supply life-preserving grip – you’d expect the same from the ContiSportContact 5P rubber and the three-stage ESP systems, but 620Nm has a way of overriding them all.
No, the Black is not a rental, then – this is the devil’s drift car. Its firm, coil-over suspension brings the body closer to terra firma, and the steering feels fantastic – direct, brimming with feedback, allowing me to exploit the twisted tarmac of the Franschhoek Pass. I miss the granular feel of the BMW M3s helm, especially the one on the Frozen Edition – which is the closest thing the Black Series has to a rival – also the steering feels a touch too light during these mountain pass wrestling manoeuvres, but that is just my personal preference. Most impressive is how it hides its 1710kg kerb weight when changing direction with minimal transition to rock your cabin and upset your bowels. With Sport+ engaged, the cogs are swopped intuitively – I seldom feel the need to intervene.
On the track, our test driver did prefer the manual paddles as the auto’s shift points were at odds with Killarney’s corners. Overall, the big shouty Black Series intimidates more than it connects with you, so I struggle to get entirely comfortable at pace.
At R1425000 (sans options – and there are many) the C63 Black Series is a very expensive C-Class. It shrugs off its humble D-segment origins convincingly, instead taking on the identity of something much more bespoke – a properly special performance car and premium noise maker. It’s not perfect though. That firm suspension will break your back on a long journey and don’t you dare drink anything larger than a thimble of fluids before commencing one – trust me, I speak from experience. The turning circle can be summed up in one word, useless, requiring a melee of fore-and-aft corrections in confined spaces, a real mission considering the aggressive (and expensive-looking) front bumper is bereft of any park distance control assistance. Still, I love that noise and those intoxicating looks, and if the devil is truly in the details then the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series is as wickedly good as it gets. Just don’t try to tame it