Every self-respecting, car-mad kid has a fantasy garage, and I’m not talking about an imaginary outbuilding filled with cars, a ramshackle collection of tools and old bits of wood. No, I mean the collection of cars that would, if all went to plan, be yours as soon as you had crossed the effortless pubescent divide between adolescence and adulthood.
Composing my fantasy garage was a highly structured process. I was allowed four cars: something fast and luxurious but suitable for transporting the imaginary future family; a completely impractical sportscar with no roof; a small car for trips to the shops (these were dark, barren days before we were blessed with the coming of Ocado); and a shamelessly pointless supercar which, at the time, would mostly have seen action circuiting Bournemouth’s main strip of bars. I even had a price ceiling (of several hundred thousand pounds, if memory serves) so things kept some basis in, ahem, reality.
I don’t have a fantasy garage anymore. I have a real, one-car garage that really should be taken to an actual garage to have those rattles sorted out and, funnily enough, doesn’t get used very much for cruising around Bournemouth. But if I were to sit down and re-do the exercise now it’s quite possible that I wouldn’t want four cars at all; it turns out just one Mercedes-Benz would do the job.
The C63 AMG is – along with the BMW M3, Jaguar XFR and Audi RS5 – one of the current breed of compact mutant exec-mobiles: part luxury pocket-cruiser, part supercar-baiting road weapon. While the genre’s hardly new, these cars have never offered more ferocious performance or, for that matter, more luxury and practicality – the Mercedes, for example, has one of the most sensibly arranged, usable and comfortable cockpits available in any car, while a few inches in front of it there’s a 6.2-litre, 487hp V8 capable of slinging the C63 from 0-60mph in under 4.4 seconds.
To look at, the C63 doesn’t scream raw aggression or leak testosterone from its grille, and, in coupé form, it has the lean muscularity of a 400m runner instead of a pure sprinter’s bulging, fast-twitch shape. Which isn’t to say it goes unnoticed on the road – the AMG certainly wrenched enough heads as we crawled north out of London that it could have earned a place in my fantasy garage on sheer magnetism alone.
Threading our way through traffic, the C63 is as pleasant a place to be as you could hope for thanks to brilliantly comfortable sports seats clearly designed by someone who recognises that you won’t be oversteering your way around the Nürburgring everyday. The infotainment system is intuitive and works well, too, though it takes a lot to prise my hands off the brilliant, nappa-trimmed AMG steering wheel for even a moment. Which is probably sensible given that my right foot’s a twitch away from calling on the services of one of the great modern engines. Each 6208cc V8 is built by hand according to a ‘one man, one engine’ philosophy in AMG’s specialist engine workshops, and you’ll find the signature of the engineer who built the powerplant in your C63 on a plate on the engine. In normal tune, AMG coaxes 457hp from the engine, but our car is fitted with the Performance Package Plus, which means an extra 30hp, the same forged pistons used in the SLS AMG and a series of cosmetic tweaks, for a £5,200 premium.
Unsurprisingly, the results are gob-smacking when that engine is dropped under the bonnet of the diminutive C-Class coupé. Acceleration is brutal – from a standstill it’s like the car’s just been slapped from behind by Thor – seductive and unrelenting, as you bang through AMG’s seven-speed automatic Speedshift ‘box, using either the tactile, brushed-metal shifters or letting the C63 do the work for you. Four different drive modes enable you to choose your favoured degree of lairiness, or to be cosseted with a ride that – if not exactly magic carpet – will at least leave your behind in a workable condition.
On the motorway it’s the consummate cruiser; quiet and stealthy until you prod the throttle and rouse the engine. Our car came with its top speed limit raised to 175mph,
a speed you’ll get to pretty quickly if so inclined; the C63 is the enemy of the straight line, and even the most Roman of Roman roads is made to feel like a brief squirt between corners. And while it’s perfectly capable if you want to drive around like a pensioner en route to Sunday service, there’s the undeniable sense that the C63 would rather you didn’t, like a puppy straining on its leash, desperate for that 487hp to be exercised. This is no bad thing apart from the petrol consumption, which is, er, equally enthusiastic.
A bit of a thirst is a small price to pay for a car with the C63 AMG coupé’s range of abilities, though what’s even more remarkable than how much it can do is how well it does it. From rabid muscle car to luxury tourer via city runabout, the C63 is staggeringly good, but does it spell the end of the fantasy garage? Only a trip to Bournemouth will tell – if you buy one head down there and let me know.