The 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe Smacks Down BMW M4, Cadillac ATS-V

A tautly drawn fist to the face of sport-luxury’s incumbent kings.

The castle rose out of the rock-strewn hills like a mailed fist aimed at God, a sinner's defiant strike at an absentee Father. I knew instantly I'd have to investigate.

It turned out it wasn't a castle at all but a folly, a simulacrum of ancient greatness. From a hundred yards out, it evoked all of the inspired madness of the item proper; then again, my blood was up from shaking 503 horses by the neck and surviving. I was drunk on the raw beauty of Andalucia, punchy from the last 40 miles of arterial pavement flung across the rills and reaches of southern Spain.

My enabler in this surreal binge was the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe, the wide-hipped sister to the C63 S Sedan. Twin-turbo V-8, torque for days, rear-wheel drive and a stability control system that's picked up and gone on Rumspringa. To the right set of eyes, damned near perfect.

Nelson Ireson

I'd spent the previous day driving the C63's tamer two-door counterpart, the C300 Coupe, to the private Ascari race circuit. Also rear-drive (but available in all-wheel guise), the entry-level C Coupe gets an automatic transmission and a 2-liter turbo four good for 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Quick, agile, comfortable and engaging without being manic, the C300 made it clear it has bones worthy of a sporting giant.

Those bones deserved a closer look. The body in white is the same as the C63’s, with the badder variant pulled from the production line for AMG-specific subframe and bodywork. (The C63 shares only the doors, center roof panel and trunk lid with the regular C Class). The C63 S Coupe’s engine is the same as that in the four-door C63 S, ditto the transmission, electronically controlled limited-slip differential and front suspension setup. The rear axle, however, is unique to the C63 Coupe.

Wider than the C63 sedan by nearly three inches, with a track width increased roughly two inches, plus new rear suspension geometry and components, the C63 Coupe has a basic tendency of neutrality. Few rear-drive cars can hook up and use 503 horsepower as well as this one; not even the sedan does it as smoothly. It uses that balance so well that it meets AMG chief Tobias Moers' goal for the car: to outpace the last Black Series C63 in standard S form. (Moers also told me it'll run a "seven forty-something" lap time on the Nürburgring Nordschleife.)

Big talk, but the real test came at Ascari Race Resort: 3.4 miles of tarmac built to mimic famous turns from around the world, with little in the way of runoff. A series of rainstorms the week prior had left the circuit damp, water seeping up from beneath in some places, turning technicality into treachery. I got just two passes, eight laps total, led by DTM racing champ Bernd Schneider and AMG Driving Academy instructor Jan Seyffarth. Let loose on Ascari, the C63 S proved it has the brains, brawn and balance to claw its way to the top of the luxury sport-coupe pile, even against brilliant competition like the BMW M4 and Cadillac ATS-V, despite the AMG’s lack of a manual gearbox option. The Cadillac gets the edge for steering feel, and BMW's dual-clutch gearbox is a bit slicker than the wet-clutch automatic of the C63. But for the whole package, the harmony of driver and machine, the sheer fun of doing the thing, it's Mercedes-AMG all day. Drop it in Race mode, let the rear end move just so, don’t overdrive the nose and enjoy every last moment.

The next morning, back in the C63 S, halfway through a brilliant string of back roads, we came upon that castle. Some mild off-roading was required to reach its hilltop perch above an alabaster Spanish village; the only access was a road rutted by seasons of neglect. Obsession being the mother of improvisation, I built a small rock ramp, directed my co-driver over the worst of it and, a few unlikely but successful wheel-articulation tests later, parked in front of the castle, feeling rather intrepid.

Then reality set in. We graced the landing of no Moorish treasure, no medieval artifact. We had found the most extreme Spanish interpretation of a McMansion never finished. Its gorgeous exterior patina gave way to a rotten core of human and animal effluvia: shattered tile, graffiti, bird shit.

Standing in the ruins of this Great Recession-era conceit, looking over the natural splendor of Andalucia and the monument to human skill and artistry parked below, I was struck by this counterfeit Tower of Babel, its decomposing falsity belied by the truth all around it and parked below. We occasionally strive and fail, we may even fake it altogether. But we strive, we struggle, we conceive, we create. Even our failures memorialize our successes, our victories shining all the brighter for the price paid in earning them, the fights fought against our own ignorance.

The Mercedes-AMG C63 S shines very brightly, indeed—and throws a mean punch.

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2017 MERCEDES-AMG C63 S COUPE
PRICE (est.): $83,000
POWERTRAIN: 4-liter twin-turbo V-8, 503 hp, 516 lb-ft torque; rear-wheel drive; seven-speed automatic
WEIGHT: TBA
0-60 MPH: 3.8 sec
TOP SPEED (limited): 155 mph
MPG: TBA
ON SALE: Summer 2016