The Geneva motor show has crept up on us fast, and one of its biggest stars will be BMW's M3 concept. We'll be bringing you official news and pictures of that car next week, but for now we've got the very latest spy shots of it (see gallery), and of the car that will become its fiercest rival – Mercedes' all-new, fire-breathing C63 AMG.
This new range-topping C-class saloon, caught here undergoing a final series of tests on public roads in Germany prior to a planned unveiling at the Frankfurt motor show in September, will slot into the German car-maker’s line-up as a successor to the popular C55 AMG. As its name suggests, the new four-door saloon eschews its predecessor’s long-serving three-valve-per-cylinder 5.4-litre V8 for a four-valve V8 with a capacity of 6.2-litres – not the 6.3-litres Mercedes-Benz would have you believe.The naturally aspirated engine, which goes under the internal codename M156 E63, has been specially tuned for use in the new C-class. Insiders have confirmed that its power has been wound back from the 510bhp peak it produces in AMG's E63 model to around 450bhp. Torque, meanwhile, is said to top out at a heady 443lb ft.Both of those outputs are huge increases on those of the old C55 AMG and, in combination with the German car maker’s seven-speed automatic transmission, they promise to provide the new car with a wholesale boost in straight line performance. Nothing is official just yet, but our Stuttgart sources suggest the new top-of-the-line C-class’s 0-60mph time has dropped below 5.0sec, with top speed limited to Germany's habitual 155mph.The upcoming M3’s new 4.0-litre V8, derived as it is from M-Power's 5.0-litre V10, is said to develop 420bhp and 295lb ft, and the Audi RS4’s 4.2-litre V8 puts out a similar 420bhp and 317lb ft; it doesn't take a genius to work out that, despite a likely weight penalty, the C63 should be capable of leaving both in its wake on dry, straight, unrestricted autobahn.
So what's new, you might ask? After all, Merc's C55 had a power advantage over the last M3; it didn't make it a better driver's car. Well, if the C55 always lacked the M-car's outright dynamic tautness and sharpness of response, Mercedes has set out to address some of those criticisms by making the standard C-class a much more engaging driver's car, and the C63 a night-and-day improvement.As well as its new driveline, the C63 also sits on a brand new rear-wheel drive platform. It's bigger than its predecessor, putting on an extra 55mm in length, 42mm in width and 42mm in height. A 45mm increase in the wheelbase, to 2760mm, will mean that the C63 should retain its trademark motorway unflappability, but even bigger increases in the front and rear tracks (up by 44mm and a 76mm on standard versions, and even more for the C63) should make it grippier and more agile through the corners. The suspension retains the four-link (front) and multi-link (rear) design of today’s model but gets altered pick-up points, revised geometry and increased travel. Also likely for the AMG version are the new C-class’s variable rate dampers.
Sharper to drive, sharper to look at
Visually, the C63 appears far more contemporary than the C55, flaunting a pumped-up tribute to the edgier styling and fresh detailing of Mercedes-Benz’s standard C-class. In line with Avantgarde versions of the new C-class, it gets the bolder grille boasting a large, centrally mounted three-pointed star.Like the new M3, it's got an obvious 'power bulge' in the bonnet as a nod to the 450bhp monster-motor that lies beneath, which you can see in the photos in our gallery. It will also have more markedly flared arches, as well as sill extensions and swooping front and rear valances, although those components are either disguised or omitted on the durability prototype in our shots.Alongside the saloon version captured here, an estate version of the C63 AMG will also be offered from the outset of UK sales in early 2008.