Do people go for drives anymore just for pleasure? You wouldn’t think so judging by a recent excursion I had on the Niagara Parkway.
On a lovely summer evening at about 7 pm, I drove the parkway from Fort Erie to Niagara Falls. The Niagara River was blue jean blue, the sun eased through the fruit trees and across perfect lawns, and I had the road nearly to myself. I was test driving a gorgeous Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 S convertible. My infrequent companions on the road were mostly Mustang convertibles and motorcycles.
The Parkway is not a place to speed, it is a place to mosey. Mosey and look at boats splashing on the river, water’s edge picnickers and the grand homes with priceless views.
It was my favourite drive during the week I tested the $96,000 C63. Curious isn’t it? This car is built for brute force motoring, with its roaring V8 twin-turbo engine and 503 horsepower. But the with the top down, the perfect weather and the smooth surface of the parkway it just couldn’t have been more delicious. Right down to the moment I turned around in a driveway on the parkway and a cyclist with the rugged good looks of the late Sam Shepard looked at the car and said, “Now that’s a sweet ride.”
It is a sweet ride on a smooth road, on most Hamilton roads, not so much. The C63 AMG ride is stiff as perma frost and bang it does over our cratered streets. So the driver searches for moments of heaven-the newly paved road, or the long sweeping on-ramp to a highway. For a few seconds there is a chance to unleash the power and enjoy the rocket fast shifts of the 7-speed sports transmission. Let’s face it, driving the AMG C63 S on public roads is like showing up to race at the Caledonia Fair on Secretariat. It does 0-100 km/h in 3.9 seconds. It’s ridiculously fast. It’s puzzling then that at times this monster machine with its hand-built engine is reluctant to get going from a stop. It’s a known quirk of the AMG’s 7-speed transmission, and its multi-clutch technology. A similar pause can happen when shifting from reverse to drive.
That oddball trait and the stiff ride make it a bit of a grunt for your trips to Giant Tiger and Sparkies Tires. That’s why the open road is a better match, where Sport + driving mode can be locked in, and the Sport Exhaust button deployed and you can forget your woes in a cloud of power.
The interior is put together with the finest tailoring, even the speakers are covered with a metal filigree as intricate as a tapestry. The chunky, flat bottomed steering wheel is great to caress when knifing through turns.
But my, the C63 S is a big car, and when the top is up it has some ungainly angles. With the roof down the shrugging profile disappears and it’s beautiful. The body shape is as powerful as a Henry Moore sculpture with mounds and bulges and folds that reveal themselves best when you wash the car by hand and feel each curve. No wonder the thing costs so much, by comparison it makes most other cars look as sophisticated as farm machinery.
If you can make peace with the price, the AMG C63 S is a marvel. It trembles with power, and roars like few others, wrapped up as beautifully as a runway model.