The Mercedes C63 AMG Black Series is the successor to a car that a certain German car maker should feel very proud of indeed. Mercedes' performance division AMG achieved something very special, four years ago, with the launch of the Mercedes CLK63 AMG Black Series. With one incredible hardcore coupe, it demonstrated that it could successfully cater for the same demanding clientele whose tastes might otherwise be satisfied by machinery as rarefied as a Ferrari 430 Scuderia. AMG's first Black Series was the risible SLK55 coupe, don't forget. So the second Black Series special was something of a quantum leap.
Thereafter, the perception of AMG changed. As a brand it demanded to be taken seriously by anyone with a liking for razor-sharp, high-speed thrills and the means to indulge it; had the equity, suddenly, to launch a car as ambitious as the SLS. The CLK63 Black Series became nothing short of a critical smash hit: a car that is still very highly rated and seriously sought-after to this day.
How do you follow that? With the new Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe Black Series, as it happens – a car that occupies the same position in AMG's product range as the CLK did in 2007, but has – according to its maker – an even sharper dynamic demeanor.
Although it's built on the same production line as the regular C-class Coupe, this AMG's specification brims with purpose. Those massively blistered wheel arches hide motorsport-style coil-over suspension with adjustable dampers. The car's track is 40mm wider at the front than a regular C63's, and 79mm wider at the rear. You get 390mm carbon-ceramic front brake discs as standard, an AMG limited slip differential, and a radiator with 50 percent more surface area, to meet the demands of punishing track use. Like the CLK, the C63 Black Series has no rear seats.
After all that, the V8 under the hood seems a little ordinary – on paper. It's the same 6.2-liter atmospheric V8 found in the lesser C63, updated with a new ECU and the lightweight pistons, conrods and crankshaft of the SLS supercar. Those internals are all available on an "AMG Performance Pack" version of the standard C63 AMG Coupe, mind you. But with the new ECU, power rises from 480hp to 510hp at 6800rpm – torque by a relatively modest 14lb-ft, to 457lb-ft.
That's actually less tractive mid-range urge than the CLK Black made, but not the kind of deficit to worry Mercedes. Because with the sticky Dunlop tires available as part of AMG's Track Pack, this car will crack 62mph in less than four seconds.
Mercedes secured access to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for this first test. Appraisal of the Black Series' on-road ride and general livability will therefore have to wait. Although with those dampers, adjustable as they are through six different settings for compression and rebound, it may well be that this car could be made even more comfy than a non-Black Series C63...
Stick with the factory settings, though, and you'll find this a car of genuinely rare focus – one with the sheer performance to keep up with plenty of exotics we could mention, but even deeper reserves of grip, stability and braking power, and wonderful entertainment value.
AMG's suspension updates have given the C63 Black Series staggering body control, incisive steering, excellent directional stability and huge lateral grip. Despite weighing 2,770lbs, it shrugs off speed with effortless ease under hard braking, and flows from turn-in, through corner apex, to exit with the kind of precision and poise that's almost unheard of from a relatively portly front-engined V8. A very cleverly tuned ESP "handling mode" helps, allowing a few degrees of balancing rear axle slip, but preventing that wicked V8 from kicking the car into a spin.
In a straight line, this C63 lacks the sheer torque to snap your head back like a Porsche 911 Turbo S or a Nissan GTR – but, on a racetrack, more than makes up for that with its racecar-like stopping power, and with the speed it can carry through a turn. With its apparently over-specified chassis and brakes, in fact, this Mercedes feels more like a Porsche 911 GT3 RS than almost any other road-legal performance car this tester can think of.
The C63 Black Series doesn't have the communicative delicacy of some lighter track-intended machines, and its responses aren't so benign as some once you turn the electronics off. But otherwise, it's another spellbinding achievement from AMG. A 911 GT3 RS 4.0 would probably still shade it in terms of overall involvement and drive-it-home-afterward robustness, but this is nonetheless a very worthy replacement for the CLK.
And if you're contemplating buying a Jaguar XKRS or an Aston Vantage S, just know this: after a handful of corners of any circuit you care to mention in either of those cars, you simply wouldn't see which way this awesome German went.