The C63 is the first AMG model to feature three-stage ESP: On, Sport, and Off. Sport allows more leeway for ham-fisted maneuvers, intervening with individual wheel braking and accompanying reduction in engine torque at higher dynamic thresholds. For the truly brave, ESP Off offers no intervention in the car's handling dynamics and no reduction in engine torque. In each mode, ESP's normal functions can be restored by pressing the brake pedal. Predictably, the big-bore V8's huge potential can easily unsettle the rear end, though with ESP engaged, the drama is generally not threatening.

Build quality seems typically solid. The cabin is well appointed and smartly laid out. The front seats are particularly nice, with adjustable lateral bolsters and two types of lumbar adjustment. Ergonomics are really good and the interior is sporty, engaging and much more intimate in a way the larger Mercedes platforms are not.

On top of the standard car, which is spectacular, the AMG performance package option adds a locking rear differential, stiffer spring rates, composite brake rotors and an Alcantara-appointed sport steering wheel.

M3 killer? We'll see. One thing's for sure: though an official MSRP hasn't been announced, I can't imagine this car will be anywhere close to cheap. At any rate, Mercedes claims it will be positioned well against its competition-and that includes pricing. We'll find out for sure early next spring.

2008 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
6.2-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve
Seven-speed automatic
Three-link with anti-dive and stabilizer (f)/multi-link with anti-squat, anti-lift and stabilizer (r)
Four-wheel perforated discs, ABS, Brake Assist, three-stage ESP
L/H/W (in.): 186.1/70.7/56.7
Wheelbase: 108.9 in.
Curb Weight: 3814 lb
Peak Power: 451 hp @ 6100 rpm
Peak Torque: 443 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
0-60 mph: 4.4 sec. (est.)
Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)
What we like:
Unrivaled power in its class, superb automatic gearbox
What we don't:
Seems unlikely its base price will undercut the new M3
The Price Tag:

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