The midcycle facelift on the 2019 Mercedes-AMG C63 is more than just a new front and rear fascia -– it gets a complex nine-speed Speedshift MCT transmission, an electronically controlled rear differential and nine-stage traction control, among other improvements. And I got to drive it at a German racetrack called Bilster Berg that is more twisted and convoluted than the mind of your favorite supervillain. But before we get to that, let’s look back at the car that started it all, the original 1995 C36, the hereditary tree root of AMG.
Anyone here remember when the C36 came out 23 years ago? I do, and I can tell you it was a dream to drive — so well-connected to the road, such precise steering, the perfect level of feedback. It was made to counter the BMW M3 of the time, another car I, and presumably you, loved. That BMW-AMG competition wasn’t so much a horsepower war as a precision handling and steering war, and you and I, the lucky schmoes who got to drive them both, were the winners.
The ’95 C36 had -– this was an era when the numbers on cars meant something -– a 3.6-liter straight-six making 270 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque. Not mind-blowing output, especially compared to today’s crazy spec sheets, but good enough for a 0-60 time of a little over six seconds (this was 23 years ago, remember). Acceleration wasn’t the thing with that car; perfect, single-handed balance was the thing, and the C36 delivered it in deutsche marks.
So imagine how surprised and delighted I was to find, at the launch of the new C63 (C63 is C36 spelled inside out), that the AMG people had brought with them an original C36. It was parked right there with all the other AMGs. It probably had the keys inside. I began that strange dance of insinuation that sometimes ends in me getting to drive a really cool car. I told AMG program manager Jens Hueser how much I liked the original, how it was just perfect in its balance and control, yadda yadda yadda, as they say in German. He saw through me immediately.
“I am sorry, but you can’t drive it.”
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