Fighting for a top spot in the affordable sports coupe market means one thing: measuring up the BMW M3. That's been the game for decades now, and it hasn't changed with the latest iteration, despite the newest model's departure from much of the past M3's formula.
In fact, the departure has been so great, BMW itself now acknowledges that the 1-Series M Coupe is more of a spiritual successor the M3 mantle the the current M3, which has grown larger, more luxurious, more high tech, and more powerful. The raised bar might seem high indeed, but Mercedes-Benz's AMG division feels up to the challenge with its latest coupe, the 2012 C63 AMG.
This two-door breaks with much of the refreshed or new AMG lineup by skipping the new 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 and going with the tried and true 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V-8. The choice has as much to do with price as it does with performance, but it turns out to be a very compatible pairing for the new Coupe's chassis.
Using every available millimeter of space in the engine bay--actually, more than there is in the standard coupe, as the bay is lengthened and slightly widened to accomodate the big V-8--the 6.2-liter V-8 provides exactly what you'd expect: gobs of low-end torque, easy tractability around town, and passable fuel economy on the highway.
Playing a role in this combination of raw power and docility is the wet-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission. Clicking of shifts with the steering wheel-mounted paddles, it feels nearly as quick, if not as precise and connected, as a true dual-clutch unit. There's no option for a manual in this car, and while purists or those that find the joy in rowing the gears themselves will miss it, it doesn't really detract from the car's capability, either on the road or the track.
Speaking of which, our test grounds for the new C63 AMG Coupe were the highways of Spain, with a brief lapping session at the Circuito Monteblanco, near Seville. Mercedes-Benz flew us over there, via Munich, for a whirlwind look at the C63 AMG Coupe and its tamer sibling, the C-Class Coupe. The hotels were, predictably, first-class, as was the food, and driving through the Spanish countryside in Spring is an experience to remember.
All of that aside, however, the C63 AMG Coupe holds its own on the hard stats as well as the lifestyle experience. Want to rocket to 62 mph? That'll take 4.4 seconds with the 457-horsepower, 442-pound-feet standard C63 AMG, or 4.3 seconds with the 487-horsepower Performance Package-equipped version. If you're contemplating one of these cars, we say go for the gusto, as it livens up an already lively car without compromising its civility in any meaningful way.
Tipping the scales at a listed 3,814 pounds, the C63 AMG is right in the ballpark with the BMW M3, which weighs in at a claimed 3,704 pounds. Both offer about the same fuel efficiency as well, with the M3 rating 14/20 in EPA estimates, and the C63 AMG Coupe securing a 12.0-liter/100 km (19.6 mpg) combined rating in European testing. Official EPA stats for the Benz aren't out yet.