50 years of AMG – history and best cars of the Mercedes tuner and race team - Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series

We drive four of AMG’s most significant cars to chart the history of the marque

Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series

Perhaps the 3.2 AMG didn’t hit the mark, but it provided a basis for AMG to perfect for the following decade: a big engine in Merc’s smallest saloon. It improved on 190 with the C36 and C43 before the concept evolved into the CLK63. Since then, despite a shift to turbocharging, the theory for AMG’s small saloon or four-seater coupe hasn’t really changed: a V8 engine with the performance to make rear tyres quiver in fear, dropped into a compact body.

As well resolved and as fun as the CLK63 was, AMG wanted to push it further. After the success of the first Black Series car, a carbonfibre fixed roof version of the SLK55, AMG pulled the same trick and creared the pared-down, souped-up, widened CLK63 Black Series

Most of the CLK63’s interior was removed for the Black Series, where plush leather seats should sit are either carpet, at the back, or a set of fixed-back Recaro race seats in the front. If the flared arches and lower bumpers hadn’t given away the car’s intent, then the seats, and lack thereof, certainly do. The Recaros hold you tightly in position and are upright, pushing you towards the steering wheel, and it feels like a proper track car.

The extensive chassis tweaks – strut braces, strengthened body, bespoke suspension components – are matched by the changes to the engine. An extra 26bhp more than the standard CLK63’s 474bhp was achieved by a less restrictive inlet and exhaust system, a new ECU, bigger radiators and an additional oil cooler. Actually there are three extra oil coolers over the standard CLK63, that one for the engine, one for the gearbox and another for the multiplate limited-slip differential.

The engine has the gurgling rumble at low to mid RPM that’s typical of a V8, yet it revs with an urgency that’s unlike the initial sound track. Keep your foot in, just as the engine encourages you to do, and the revs rip around to the redline, the note changing to a harder, more intense timbre. The noise goes from the best V8 sounds on offer in any car, burbling muscle car and hard-edged GT3 race engine, in just one gear.

You have to change up at some point though, 7000rpm to be precise, but the idea of using the old automatic gearbox isn’t all that encouraging. A pull of the right paddle reveals the transmission to be a pleasant surprise. Okay, it isn’t the snappiest or quickest change, it isn’t in the same league as modern autos, but it's proficient enough at swapping cogs not to ruin the experience.

As impressive as the drivetrain is it’s the chassis that really sets the Black Series apart. The front axle generates so much front grip that it almost tricks the rear into oversteer as soon as you turn the wheel. There is enough grip from the rear 285/30 R19 Pirelli P Zero Corsas to keep it online, but even a slight brush of the throttle wants to add a degree of rotation.

Such instant and constantly available adjustability makes the Black Series so agile, it means the task of extracting any speed from it is difficult but yet completely captivating. With the traction aids fully on, as this event sadly dictated, keeping the ESP from nibbling away at your progress while still trying to move along at a decent pace was an enjoyable job. Although, I am absolutely convinced it would have been even more enjoyable still teasing out small slides from corner entry to apex.

Recommended

Mercedes Vision EQXX Concept previews efficient new generation of EVs
Mercedes EQXX Concept – front quarter static
Mercedes

Mercedes Vision EQXX Concept previews efficient new generation of EVs

Next generation of Mercedes-Benz’s compact electric models previewed by sleek new EQXX Concept
4 Jan 2022
Mercedes-AMG EQE53 spied – all-electric exec to pack extra punch
Mercedes-AMG EQE53 proto – front quarter
Mercedes

Mercedes-AMG EQE53 spied – all-electric exec to pack extra punch

AMG’s take on the EQE should mimic the larger EQS, but don’t expect a Taycan Turbo S-rival
22 Oct 2021
Mercedes-AMG Project One production to commence mid-2022
AMG Project 1 at Munich
Mercedes

Mercedes-AMG Project One production to commence mid-2022

AMG’s F1-derived hypercar nearly ready to battle Aston Martin Valkyrie and GMA T.50
14 Oct 2021
Mercedes-AMG GT63 S E Performance revealed – 831bhp monster finally arrives
GT63 S E Performance
Mercedes

Mercedes-AMG GT63 S E Performance revealed – 831bhp monster finally arrives

It’s taken its time, but AMG has finally delivered a groundbreaking high performance PHEV
6 Sep 2021

Most Popular

Car pictures of the week
Maserati MC20
Maserati MC20 coupe

Car pictures of the week

In this week’s car pictures from issue 294, we look at the highlights from Jethro Bovingdon’s drive in the highly anticipated Maserati MC20
21 Jan 2022
Peugeot 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar shown in new images
Peugeot 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar
Peugeot

Peugeot 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar shown in new images

Peugeot Sport’s new wingless Le Mans racer gears up for its competition debut later this year
18 Jan 2022
Porsche 911 GT3 Touring 2022 review – pairing the magnificent 992 GT3 experience to a more subtle audience
Porsche 911 GT3 Touring eCoty – front tracking
Porsche 911 GT3

Porsche 911 GT3 Touring 2022 review – pairing the magnificent 992 GT3 experience to a more subtle audience

There are few, if any, more rewarding, engaging or intense experiences for those in pursuit of the thrill of driving
7 Jan 2022