Driving the CarBahn-tuned Mercedes-AMG C63 GTS, the first thing that pops into my head is "Man, Gorilla Glue should sue CarBahn for patent infringement." It's that good, stuck to the damn Earth through corners feeling—initially. The grip doesn't fade, but after an hour and a half of whipping the car through a mountainous gauntlet without a hint of drama, the excitement does. CarBahn Autoworks has delivered a close-to-perfect Mercedes-AMG C63 S, and that’s exactly why it doesn’t work.
Mercedes-AMG has long built deranged machines that evoke a more American persona. “German muscle car” is an oft-used phrase to describe Affalterbach's brashest tools that drink fuel like a säufer at Oktoberfest and light up their rear tires like some good ol' boys with a trunk full of illegal fireworks. The stereotypically anal-retentive German character is thrown away for a healthy dose of “Germany, f-yeah!,” and in slapping a safety guard of an advanced suspension over the knife-edged lunancy of the stock car, CarBahn's lost the plot a bit.
The 2019 CarBahn Mercedes-AMG C63 GTS, By the Numbers
- Base Price (as Tested): $76,450 ($106,540)
- Powertrain: twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 | 674 horsepower, 666 pound-feet of torque | 9-speed automatic | rear-wheel drive
- 0-60 MPH: Unrated, but damn quick
- Top Speed: 190+ mph
Though CarBahn Autoworks isn’t an enthusiast household name, its owner Steve Dinan is. Dinan attained fame through his near-unparalleled success tuning BMWs over the last 30-plus years, one of the few factory-endorsed tuners to ever work with the Bavarians. Dinan Engineering cars are always razor-sharp machines that offer comfort and the kind of speed that’s only useful on Germany’s Autobahn. But the man himself actually left the company back in 2015; now the aptly-named CarBahn Autoworks is his next step, and its tuned Mercedes-AMG C63 GTS his new ware.
To make a GTS, the standard Mercedes-AMG C63 S welcomes a host of CarBahn-specific handling upgrades including a new set of coilover front and rear springs that “maintain the stock electronic dampers,” high-performance suspension bearings, camber adjusters, lightweight forged Forgeline wheels, and the best non-race-spec extreme performance tires made for everyday use, a set of Michelin Pilot Cup 2s.
The company also gave it a modest power bump. At the flywheel, the CarBan-revised twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 churns out a healthy 674 horsepower and 666 pound-feet of torque. Praise Satan. You can feel the extra propulsion when you get on a straight and bury the throttle into the AMG’s floorboards. But you're not Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in a Bell X-1, pinned to your seat by explosive force—CarBahn’s machine is far more manageable.
That’s not to say the C63 GTS’ 674 horsepower is the average Toyota Camry. Nor can you just brush off that it has more power than a Ferrari F40. Even in today’s horsepower-crazed enthusiast wars, 674 horsepower is still quite a sum. Yet considering how the CarBahn suspension and new tires adhered the car so phenomenally to Angeles Crest Highway’s pavement, 674 might as well be the 503 hp AMG delivers from the factory. By grafting on those immensely capable chassis upgrades, even with the car’s weapon-grade horsepower rating, the C63 GTS loses what made it special: Those homicidal tendencies.
Across the tight turns, long sweepers, narrow tunnels, and runway-like straights that make up the bulk of Angeles Crest Highway, the ability of the C63 GTS to carry speed through all of it thoroughly distorted my neural network. It salts the earth for all that come after it like some conquesting Roman general. Every time my clenched hands swing the wheel, the car turned with such brutal directness that my neck started to hurt after a while. Most sports cars can carry big speed through Angeles Crest Highway. Few, however—and we’re talking McLaren-level cars—can carry the sort of speed CarBahn’s tuned C63 S can. It’s unnerving. But it's only possible because the company's upgrades have re-inserted some of that Teutonic curtness than and AMG is supposed to be shaking off.
We live in an era where companies are overly concerned with lap times, ‘Ring records, aerodynamic downforce, and saving their less-than-skilled clientele from wrapping themselves around the nearest tree with all manner of electronic nannies and safety systems. Mercedes-AMG is one of the only companies that will still sell you something hell bent on inducing riotous, nervous laughter. I mean, its cars have a Drift Mode. In the standard Mercedes-AMG C63 S, these same roads would see the car come alive in a different, more emotional way, shouting and wiggling and presenting the driver with unequivocal evidence to let you know the car is absolutely in charge. You bought the ticket. You’ll absolutely be taking the silly ride.
Dipping down into the mountain range’s inner valleys, the true nature of CarBahn's C63 GTS became readily apparent as indifference seeped into the Alcantara-lined cabin. Speed is a wonderful thing and this car delivers world-bending doses at an addict's clip. But the sensation of speed is far more important. It’s why the experience of a slow car being pushed to the limits is so sweet.
Settled into the sport seats, as the miles wore on, my steering inputs became less aggressive, throttle applications tapered off, and the aptly-timed nü school punk of The Interrupters’ “She’s Kerosene” began to stream through the Burmester audio system. Whereas the factory fresh Mercedes-AMG C63 S sought to embody the punk band’s lyrics of an arsonist with a history of making a scene, CarBahn’s C63 GTS reduces the song to pop-punk tune by the reunited Blink-182—catchy, sure, but nowhere near its former glory.
It doesn't help that the price of admission is as steep as a VIP package at a faded punk god's arena show either. The car itself costs $76,000, and the standard GTS Package, which doesn’t include the lightweight Forgeline wheels and tires that really help it drive so supernaturally, costs $21,890, not including installation. Blink-182 has its fans, though, and so will the CarBahn C63 GTS. But I want my AMGs angrier and more punk rock.