The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series Is a Gloriously Raw Tribute to Internal Combustion

The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series’ philosophy—as well as its crown jewel of an engine—are both worth a revisit.

byKristen Lee| PUBLISHED Nov 28, 2022 11:00 AM
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series Is a Gloriously Raw Tribute to Internal Combustion
Kristen Lee
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Ten years can bring a proverbial mountain of changes in the automotive space, to say nothing of 20. The monster C-Class AMG of today comes in the form of the four-cylinder hybrid ​​2024 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance, but a decade ago, something very different claimed that title. Back then, we had the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series, and it represented the peak of grisly and guttural AMG fury.

To date, there have only been six Black Series models ever brought to market. It’s a moniker that’s wholly avoided the watering down that’s afflicted lesser ones such as AMG and M. Made in extremely limited numbers and applied only to two-door models, the Black Series cars represent the best of the best of Mercedes’ street-bound hardware. Tracking their timeline, observing the changes of what was deemed excellent enough to include, is an exercise in watching what it is to make riotous power through the ages.

Kristen Lee

When it came out, the C63 Black Series was the most powerful C-Class ever made. Though that is no longer the case, you could argue it remains the most illustrious of the C-Class AMGs. It is an argument I’d gladly let you win.

2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series Review Specs

  • Price when new: $105,000
  • Powertrain: 6.2-liter V8 | 7-speed automatic | rear-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 510 @ 6,800 rpm
  • Torque: 457 @ 5,200
  • 0-60 mph: 4.2 seconds
  • Seating capacity: 2 or 4
  • Quick take: Born from the crossroads of Mercedes-Benz and AMG stuffing massive, fire-breathing engines into sharply angled cars, the C63 Black Series will go down as one of the most ferocious C-Classes ever made. 

Tracing the Line

First, a bit of history.

In 2006, Mercedes launched the very first Black Series model in the form of the Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG Black Series. Those who might’ve initially dismissed the car as a mere marketing exercise and shameless cash grab were quickly silenced; the SLK55 Black Series was as legit as they come. Though the SLK has always been a roadster, the Black Series version wore a fixed carbon fiber roof, bigger brakes, fatter fenders, a retuned suspension, and a furious 5.5-liter naturally aspirated V8 that produced a claimed 400 horsepower. Only 120 were made and the car ultimately never made it to the United States.

Shortly after, the 2007 Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series followed, featuring the terrific beast that is the M156 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8. With a claimed 500 hp on tap, the CLK63 Black Series appeared markedly more aggressive than the SLK. Sold between 2007 and 2008, the internet can’t seem to decide exactly how many Black Series CLKs were ever made, but the number hovers between 500 and 800.

Merc’s Black Series opening didn’t stay empty for long because 2008 saw the arrival of the Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series. The first Black Series model to be offered without a V8, the SL65 featured a twin-turbo, 6.0-liter V12 with enough power to pull down the moon: a claimed 661 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. The fenders were huge, as was the car’s ability to shred rubber. Only 350 were made. As a fun nugget of trivia, the SL65 Black Series did not use the seven-speed already found in so many other Mercedes products. Instead, it made do with the old-fashioned but certifiably bulletproof 5G-Tronic 722.6 five-speed transmission, which was overbuilt as all hell and therefore best-suited to handle the power. 

Three years after that came the C63 AMG Black Series you see here, which also used the M156 V8 making a claimed 510 hp. Mercedes made 800 examples.

In 2012, hardly anyone was surprised when the automaker Black Series-ified the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. With the iconic gullwing doors, the SLS was the very first car entirely built by AMG. From the 6.2-liter naturally aspirated M159 V8—different from the M156 because of its dry-sump oil system, revamped valvetrain, heightened redline, and new intake—the SLS AMG Black Series produced a claimed 622 hp and supposedly 350 were built. 

The subsequent and current Black Series—the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series—marks a couple of things. First: Through some silly and arbitrary branding, it’s now called a “Mercedes-AMG” and not a “Mercedes-Benz” AMG model. Second, and more importantly: It represents the end of the naturally aspirated V8 Black Series models. The GT Black Series uses the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter M178 V8 and produces a claimed 720 hp.

The Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series. Mercedes

The C63 AMG Black Series

The C63 AMG Black Series is built on the W204 C-Class that represented a generational departure from the rounded design that dominated Mercedes models from the early to mid-2000s. Under this design, headlights became more geometric, lines straighter. All of this suits the C63 Black Series, as it looks like it was fashioned from nothing but straight lines and rectangles. 

Gone is the hood ornament, replaced instead by the three-pointed star that’s as big as your hand. The square-jawed lower bumper juts forward almost like a bulldog’s underbite, and the fender flares are wide enough not only to serve as a park bench, but also as a great place to land an amber reflector. There’s a black rear diffuser, a carbon lip spoiler, and forged 19-inch alloy wheels. Curiously, though, certain vents such as the ones behind the fenders, don’t appear to lead anywhere.

Inside, red seat belts and red stitching decorate a relatively low-key cabin. After 10 years of ownership, this particular example shows its age a bit in how the Alcantara on the steering wheel and gear selector lever has worn down. (I am single-handedly winning the Alcantara wars.) All of the gauges are analog, with the exception of the digital speedometer. The front bucket seats, though bolstered, still manage to be comfortable and supportive, and though most C63 Black Series cars came as two-seaters, you could option them with four seats. Overall, though, the interior eschews the blinginess that coats Mercedes-AMG innards of today. There’s form, yes, but it’s more about function.

Black Series-specific hardware includes tracks that were widened by 1.57 inches up front and 3.11 inches in the back. The widened stance looks cool but in reality, translates to a turning radius that’d give a cargo ship a run for its money. Six-piston red-painted calipers clamp down on two-piece 15.4-inch front brake rotors, while the rears include four-piston fixed calipers and 14-inch rotors, both sets ventilated. Further options included either the AMG Track package (stickier tires) or the AMG Aerodynamics package (carbon fiber front canards and an extremely boy-racer carbon fiber fixed rear wing).

But the car’s pièce de résistance lurks beneath the sculpted hood: that naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 that puts out a claimed 510 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. Here, the SLS loaned its connecting rods, lightweight crankshaft, forged pistons, and overall vibe. The noise it makes is a hellish one, starting with a loud, shuddering bark on startup that settles into a low, burbly idle and crescendos to an outright, blistering scream in the high revs. This is an engine that’s here to fuck around and find out.

Lion Tamer

There is no lag in power. Like, none. From idle to redline, the engine pulls like it wants to drag you off the face of the planet. Today’s AMG performance figures land breezily in the 600-hp range, but this car—down 100 hp and rear-driven—delivers an altogether different experience. Owing to the fact that the front axle isn’t there to lend a hand, acceleration in the C63 Black Series is more of a brutal kick rather than a smooth, all-wheel-drive pull.

The result is the most American-muscle German sports car I’ve ever driven. What do they say about German performance cars? That they’re powerful, but refined? Yeah, the C63 Black Series ain’t about that discerning life. It rides hard and tackles the road in a brawny, linebacker kind of way. Putting it in comfort mode means the engine is reined in just a tad, the suspension is slightly more livable, and the transmission not quite as quick. But that makes the car feel like it’s in time out. Like it’s holding back. It’s not sulky or anything while in this mode—and in fact, it’s livable in the same way you can get used to a sleeping dragon in your back yard—but you’re also made to understand that it doesn’t love being there, either.

Sport Plus mode doesn’t make the car behave any better, by the way. It just removes the filter from what the C63 Black Series yearns to be the entire time: a brash, uncouth ruffian. The transmission doesn’t have the slickness of a ZF unit, so there’s a breath of hesitation in the automatic downshifts and the brakes are extremely touchy when you’re still getting used to them (all the better to stop you with, my dear). Sitting low behind the gigantically puffed-up hood, the car feels like you are chauffeuring its engine around. 

That sensation is only exacerbated by the aforementioned abysmal turning radius. But you get used to that, too, because the tradeoff is a shockingly acute steering unit for something with this much weight sitting in the nose. In no world does the C63 Black Series do that thing where it feels like it shrinks around you, but it does give you a good sense of command over the big car that you’re aiming through town. Just be mindful of that front carbon splitter, though. Your powers of depth perception will be put to the test trying not to scrape it against anything.

But the car’s presence on the road is undeniable. Especially when it’s painted red like this. It demands attention, and even if you don’t know exactly what it is you’re looking at, it’ll grab your eyes anyway. Perhaps painted another color it would become more invisible, but I don’t think flying under the radar was ever the point here.

Looking back, it’s clear this car occupies that unique point in Mercedes history when it had just evolved past making sleepers and instead pivoted to stuffing giant-displacement, fire- and free-breathing engines into aggressively angled packages. That was how you harnessed fast in those days, and the Black Series cars reflect that. The C63 Black Series is unapologetic in its boorishness and that’s what makes it great. It’s certainly far rawer than a large chunk of what Mercedes-AMG is building today.

And while it’ll be technically outclassed by the upcoming Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance in every way, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series will be remembered as a middle finger to downsizing and turbochargers. “Hybrid power” might as well be a slur. It may no longer be the most powerful C-Class ever made, but it is the most powerful naturally aspirated production C-Class ever to exist, and that’s a title you can hang onto, king.

Got a tip? Holla at me: kristen@thedrive.com