This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
*To read one of our road tests, just select from the menu on the left.
*Please remember too, that prices quoted were those ruling on the days I wrote the reports.
Published in The Witness Motoring on Wednesday June 13, 2012
Your scribe truly believed he had left unnoticed for the airport at 03:30 that morning but was corrected on his return: “The neighbours knew,” she said. The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG coupé is simply that kind of car – when it’s in motion, leaves drift, houses tremble and dogs fall respectfully silent. It isn’t necessarily loud; it simply emits the kind of authoritative rumble one hears when Thor enters the building or the Dark Lord returns to give young Harry yet more grief.
The C63 AMG is more than simply an engine, no matter how special it is. One might even say that it’s part of an individual brand in its own right and that the Mercedes-Benz body is almost coincidental. To begin with, unlike previous Mercedes-AMGs in which the specialist tuning division’s content was basically bolted on, these C-class wearers of the badge were designed from the ground up as performance cars.
The revised front suspension was taken from the CLK 63 AMG Black Series and the ESP can be completely turned off, intervening only under heavy braking. According to its Wikipedia entry it also has the quickest, most responsive steering of any Mercedes-Benz to date and it has been described as the best driver's car in the company’s lineup. Specifically, suspension changes include a three-link design in front, a reinforced multilink system at the back and wider tracks front and rear. Autonomous axle kinematics with more negative camber all around and stabilisers with a larger cross-section increase responsiveness and support greater lateral acceleration. Selective damping with specially modified spring and damper rates optimises response characteristics of springs and ride comfort.
This version of the AMG 6.2-litre V8 engine, despite being ‘detuned’ by comparison with other AMG offerings using the same power plant, still provides the car with gut-flattening horsepower and torque. Since 2011 that power has been harnessed using AMG’s Speedshift MCT (twin-clutch) ‘box from the SL63 version. “S”, “S+” or “M” transmission modes are selected with the new rotary switch borrowed from the SLS AMG. Shorter shift intervals and higher engine revs make life more interesting while automated double-declutching is activated as well. Shifts in “S+” and “M” transmission modes take just 100 milliseconds. The Race Start (RS) function, selectable only when ESP Sport is activated, allows the driver to explore the vehicle's full acceleration capability without getting bogged down by the regular safety kit.
Other features include new 5 twin-spoke AMG light-alloy wheels painted in titanium grey, 235/40 R 18 front and 255/35 R 18 rear tyres, a colour TFT display in the middle of the redesigned speedometer and the CSL 63 AMG’s three-spoke steering wheel with aluminium shift paddles providing manual gear selection. Special seats form part of the package. Those lusting after yet more AMG-ness can order a sports package that increases power to 358 kW while retaining the same torque reading of 600 Nm, high performance brakes, a carbon fibre spoiler on the boot lid and a special steering wheel covered in nappa leather.
Now that we have dealt with the technical stuff, how usable is it? If you have urgent need to do 0 – 100 km/h in less than four-and-a-half seconds, the answer would be “very.” Seriously, though, this car fulfils needs to cover ground rapidly and safely, to brake quickly and securely and to steer with immaculate precision. Practical? From the viewpoint of a family user needing an economical car with space for loads of luggage, a spouse and three big children, forget this one and buy a sedan.
For a couple with young children, seeking a performance car with sufficient luggage capacity, this could work because baby seat anchors were carried over from the shopping version. Specifically, the boot measures 450 litres, is rectangular without serious intrusions and is only about 10 cm deep. It loads at mid-thigh level to this tester and opens at a touch of a button on the key fob. The spare is a spacesaver. Access to the sculpted-for-two back seat is made easier by front chairs that slide forward obligingly when the backs are tipped and return when they are put up again.
The usual creature comforts, such as heated and powered seats with three memories, dual channel automatic air conditioning, parking assistance, an excellent sound and navigation system, intelligent lights, a panoramic sun roof and attention assist are all present. Our test car was fitted with a reversing camera at R4700 and the optional lane-keeping package that will set you back a further R9200.
Driving the C63, one is conscious of huge power waiting to be unleashed, steering feel that is responsive and rock solid yet less intense than some of its awd competitors and the ever-present feeling that you are lap dancing with a dark being that could swat you aside if you displeased it. It’s almost scary.
Basic price: R923 680
Engine: 6208 cc 32-valve, naturally aspirated V8
Power: 336 kW at 6800 rpm
Torque: 600 Nm at 5000 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 4,4 seconds
Maximum speed: Governed to 250 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: about 13,5 l/100 km
Tank: 66 litres
Warranty: 2 years/unlimited km
Maintenance plan: 6 years/120 000 km MobiloDrive 120
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
My articles appear every Wednesday in the motoring pages of The Witness, South Africa's oldest continuously running newspaper, and occasionally on Saturdays in Weekend Witness as well. I drive eight to ten vehicles most months of the year (press cars are withdrawn over the festive season - wonder why?) so not everything gets published in the paper. Those that are, get a tagline but the rest is virgin, unpublished and unedited by the political-correctness police. Hope you like what you see, because there are no commercial interests at work here. As quite a few readers have found, I answer every serious enquiry from my home email address, with my phone numbers attached, so I do actually exist.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
Want to ask a question, comment or just tell me you thoroughly disagree with what I say? That's your privilege, because if everybody agreed on everything, the world would be a boring place. All I ask is that you remain calm, so please blow off a little steam before venting too vigorously.