Review: 2010 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG w/P31 Development Package
Roger Daltrey has gone on record as saying that in the Who's early days, they were paid ₤75 to ₤150 a show, yet they would bust-up around ₤250-300 worth of gear every time they took to the stage. That's bad math. Similarly, Mercedes-Benz asks those willing to pay $57,350 for its least expensive AMG model – the C63 AMG – to pony up a further $5,950 for the new-for-2010 P31 AMG Development Package that adds 30 horsepower, uprated brakes and a passel of miscellaneous hi-po gear.
From the perspective of a rational consumer, this too, fails to add up, as the standard-issue C63 is already a hooligan's hooligan, a car from which no sane individual would walk away wishing for bigger stones. But as with Daltrey's Who, the C63 is a fantastically overachieving beast of rather pedestrian roots, and when it comes down to it, adding the Dev Pack promises to be like dropping off Pete Townshend in the brand-new lobby of a mid-'60s Holiday Inn. With a set of Marshall stacks. Drunk and fresh off a painful breakup. In other words, it might not make a whole lot of sense or be a particularly wise financial decision, but it's also a brave call with the glorious potential for unbridled mayhem.
Photos copyright ©2010 Chris Paukert / AOL
So what all goes into the Dev Pack? Well, in order to bring the C63's 6.2-liter corral up to a stable-busting 481 horsepower at 6,800 rpm, AMG has fitted lightweight engine internals including new pistons, con-rods and a different crankshaft. When lorded over by an updated ECU, the combination liberates an extra 30 ponies from the V8, though 443 pound-feet of torque resolutely sits at 5,000 rpm. What's more, Benz's boffins have let out the car's top speed to 174 mph, just 'cause they're swell guys. Thoughtfully, AMG has also fitted special two-piece rotors fitted with red calipers and firmer pads to bring the C63's even speedier party to a halt. Oddly, the spidery-spoked alloys from the UK's very similar Performance Package Plus model haven't made it across The Pond, but the fluted 18-inch anthracite five-stars of the standard C63 have always been favorites, so we're not bothered.
Further details that differentiate Development Package cars from lesser C63s include a carbon fiber lip spoiler, titanium-colored intake runners and a suitably bitchin' leather and Alcantara flat-bottomed steering wheel. A limited-slip differential lock is also available for a steep $2,000, but you might as well go whole-hog, right?
Let's cut to the chase. We've heard many a reader comment how they never use paddle-shifters in an automatic transmission car so equipped. If you count yourself in that number, you might as well stop reading right here and move on, because you're simply going to miss the point of the C63. The two cold metal flaps on either side of the steering wheel are the quickest way to the Merc's soul. Oh, the seven-cog Speedshift gearbox sluices between gears imperceptibly and efficiently (if a bit slowly) when left to its own devices, but if you're interested in baring the C63's considerable jagged teeth, you're going to want to toggle the small Comfort/Sport/Manual button by the gearlever over to 'M.' While you're at it, you might as well give yourself a longer leash with the three-stage stability control system by thumbing another button between the vents. This is a routine owners will undoubtedly become intimately familiar, as it turns the C63 from a very quick sport sedan into a full-on 7,200-rpm Townshend/Keith Moon face-melter.
It's really hard to overstate this next point: the cooking C63 already sounds brutally sensational, but if anything, the Dev Pack's lighter internals allow the 6.2-liter V8 to jump and bark with even greater finesse. Between the automatic throttle blips on downshifts and the multitude of fierce pops and burbles on overrun, the C63 sounds like Orville Redenbacher is being processed through The Devil's Own popcorn machine.
Don't just take our word for it: A disheveled looking thirty-something holding the door open for patrons at a local coffee shop nodded his head as we pulled up, only to offer this chestnut:
In Detroit, even the homeless are car buffs."Man, I heard you comin' from around the corner! I thought you was driving a Corvette – you know, with the trick pipes turned on. I was hoping you'd come this way. That's got to be an aftermarket exhaust."
Our panhandler friend may have wrongly assumed our C63 possessed a modified exhaust, but his appreciation was spot-on. In this car, you will find yourself in third gear on the freeway – already breaking the posted limit – just to hear the engine in its upper reaches. You will drive with the windows open when it's 95 degrees in the city just to hear the spent gasses caroming off of nearby buildings. You will risk confettiing your license on a daily basis, or at the very least, your gas card (EPA estimates: 12 miles per gallon city, 19 highway).
Of course, a big motor is all well and good, but without the suspension, steering and brakes to match, the C63 would be a one-trick pony. But thanks to the firm yet reasonable front strut/rear five-link suspension and Continental ContiSportContact tires that stick like toffee to new bridgework, getting the power down isn't a problem – it's the softheaded lug behind the wheel that's bound to be the weak link in this system.
Thankfully, the C63 is remarkably forgiving (particularly with the ESP set to its mid-level intervention threshold) and there's genuine feel from the speed-sensitive rack to keep even the most ham-fisted of drivers informed. It's not as telepathic as a Lotus, but the steering is highly accurate and incredibly communicative. We had a non-Dev Pack C63 out at Lime Rock last year as part of AMG's Driving Academy, and it was hands-down the most entertaining on-track car we drove that day (and that included more powerful models like the E63, SL63 and SLK55). Some may argue that a BMW M3 is a more exacting tool – especially for trackday work – and they're probably right. But the two Teutons are closer than you might think, and we reckon the C63's vastly superior 443 pound-feet of torque and its accompanying hellfire soundtrack will provide more entertainment for most drivers on a daily basis – even with the automatic. In reality, the closer foil for the C63 in character is the admittedly wonderful Cadillac CTS-V.
Negatives? Hmmm... if pressed we'd say the firm ride can get a bit busy on pockmarked streets, but that's to be expected in a sports sedan of this caliber. More troubling is that its standard C-Class dashboard is drab and rather downmarket in appearance, and – as with seemingly every other German automaker – very few creature comforts are standard equipment. (Our tester's MSRP ballooned all the way to $77,105 thanks to leather, premium and multimedia packages, along with $875 for delivery and $2,100 in gas-guzzler charges). Anything else? Not everyone will find the vice-grip chairs to their liking, but even with our added paunch, we adored their copious support. That said, a universal source of frustration was provided by the seat bolster air bladder controls. They aren't on the door by the rest of the articulation switchgear and the awkward reacharound means they're only found by those familiar with receiving the cold embrace of a policeman's handcuffs. Then again, in light of the C63's propensity to foment illegal speeds, the controls' placement must surely be a cleverly calculated move by Benz engineers to familiarize drivers with 'assuming the position.' These guys think of everything.
Adding the AMG Development Package to the already stupendous C63 is certainly gluttonous, but in our estimation, it's the best sort of vulgarity. Did Townshend really need to crack up all those guitars and hotel rooms to make such an amazing racket? Did Moon really have to rely so heavily on cymbal crashes for drama or paint his Rolls-Royce lilac with a brush? Did Daltrey really have to swing his microphones on stage or punch up his mates in the dressing room after the show? Of course not. But the rock world remains a richer, more vibrant and memorable place because they did exactly that. So it is with ordering the AMG Dev Pack. Ticking the P31 box on your C63's order sheet might make for some lousy arithmetic, but it also promises to add a welcome bit of danger and bombast to an already legendary performer.
Photos copyright ©2010 Chris Paukert / AOL
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