Shrinking into the shadows is simply not an option with the latest C-Class from AMG - despite the darkly mysterious name, the C63 AMG Black Series is by far the most vibrant Mercedes-Benz yet. The fourth model to join this über exclusive range, the C63 AMG Black follows in the talented footsteps of the SL65 AMG Black and CLK63 AMG Black. It's a tough act to follow, but it's soon clear that, if ever there was a car to do it, then this is the one.
At the heart of the package is the venerable 6.2L V8 engine, which is almost good enough to justify the list price in itself. We've seen the basic unit before - the E63 AMG and regular C63 AMG models use it to great effect. But this one's got a few tricks up its sleeve, borrowing some of the trickery from the firm's SLS- AMG supercar. The gull-wing model donates its forged pistons, lightweight crankshaft and connecting rods, while the oil cooling system has been optimised for extended track use.
On paper it may not seem like much but, in reality, these subtle differences make an already great engine simply outstanding. Along with the revised ECU, the hand-built unit produces 517hp and 620Nm, and the lightweight components give the rev counter's needle an added affinity for the redline. Oh, and it doesn't sound half bad either.
We could use all sorts of clichés to describe the aural delights on offer, but instead we'll just use one word - gratifying. Keep your foot in, pressing hard against the right-hand pedal and the noise accelerates in volume as quickly as the scenery flashes past the side windows. The snarl is intoxicating and, despite the offer of plenty of pace lower down the rev range, the noise goads you into pushing closer and closer to the limiter.
Which is where the automatic gearbox takes over. There's no manual available, but the seven-speed automatic is no civilised slush box. Sure, if you leave it in Controlled Efficiency mode each ratio swap is beautifully blended into the next, but Sport and Sport + improve the reactions. Even round the punishing Laguna Seca circuit, it is simply superb. There's a crisp authority to every gear change, and a blip of the throttle on downshifts smooths things out as you wipe off speed into the bends.
But to use this car on track without sampling the manual mode would be a real crime. Metal paddles nestling behind the wheel snick into place with tactility, and timing each shift to coincide with the top of the engine's rev range brings real satisfaction.
Those interested in its straight-line speed will be happy to know that the C63 AMG Black can complete the 0 to 100kph sprint in only 4.2 seconds. Opt for the sticky Dunlop rubber from the Track Package and you can shave three tenths of a second from this, though the top speed remains the same at 300kph. But what separate the men from the boys are the corners, which is where this car excels. Its talents are demonstrated by the leap of faith that is Laguna Seca's infamous Corkscrew turn, where the car comes alive as you dial the lock through the suede-wrapped wheel. The nose immediately changes direction, and only the most ham-fisted inputs result in understeer as the Black remains flat and balanced as you brush the apex.
It's an exhilarating feeling, amplified by the grip from the chassis and enhanced by the adjustable coilover suspension. Bury the throttle and the rear end squats, pushing you through the exit of the corner, and in a flash you're at the end of the next straight, pushing hard on the AMG brakes and grasping for the downshift paddle. Then, suddenly, it's all over. Another lap is completed and your body is buzzing - until you return to the pits and analyse where you went wrong.
Tick the box for the AMG Performance Media System (first seen in the SLS AMG) and you can do this in fine detail. The central display screen from the "Comand" system links with a real-time performance monitor, allowing you to upload (or even record your own) track layouts and analyse a variety of inputs - including speed, braking pressure, steering effort and sector times. It's compelling stuff, and for those who intend to use the car on track, a worthwhile option.
But the real circuit gains are to be made from the optional Aerodynamics Package, which adds the adjustable carbon fibre rear spoiler and small "flics" fitted to the front bumper, as well as a more aggressive splitter. But this hard-core specification doesn't compromise comfort and the Black's cabin features fixed-back bucket seats, plenty of carbon fibre, climate control, decent audio, Bluetooth and cruise control.
However, such practicalities don't really matter, as the C63 AMG Black Series is one of the most talented and engaging road-legal racers available. If you have the chance to own, or even just drive, one then I'd suggest you jump at it.
Base price Dh433,656
Engine 6.2L V8
Gearbox Seven-speed automatic
Power 517hp @ 6,800rpm
Torque 620Nm @ 5,200rpm
Fuel economy, combined 12.2L/100km