Driving your first modified car is usually an experience remembered for a long time. It doesn’t mean that the car was necessarily good, but modified cars often have – we will use the word – “character.” I have personally driven at least ten heavily modified cars. Out of those, I would say that seven of them had some sort of light on the dash. That was often a ‘check engine’ light. Out of those ten cars, maybe two of them had a ‘better-than-stock’ driving experience. The other eight were just faster in a straight line.
So the question is: “Should I modify my car?”
The short answer is: “No, you should let Steve Dinan and CarBahn Autoworks do it for you.”
CarBahn and Steve Dinan
You may have heard the name Steve Dinan before, and that’s because he has been in the car industry for decades now. From helping win races at Chip Ganassi Racing to being the CEO of the only company ever approved to sell aftermarket products out of BMW dealerships, he has experienced it all. The C63 AMG GTS by CarBahn shows what 30+ years of experience in the industry can do to improve a car that is already fun to drive.
One thing that must be noted is that the power increase isn’t the only modification that CarBahn has done with this package. They include carbon fiber aero bits, suspension work, and optional lightweight wheels with better tires in the GTS package.
Getting in the car and going straight into the canyons the first time isn’t something that I normally do, but the car was immediately confidence inspiring despite the massive power numbers quoted. The power delivery was extremely smooth considering the engine is a twin-turbo V8 with aftermarket turbos. I strongly believe that this had a lot to do with the tuning. The power curve allowed me to come out of corners on-the-throttle without feeling like the car was going to kick out the rear end if I gave it just a little too much extra input. The sport traction mode allowed me to play quite a bit with the car, but ultimately the power curve was just as good as – if not better than – stock. I never once felt a torque shove due to heavy boost lag or anything of that nature.
Most modified AMG cars that I have seen had loud exhausts and made ridiculous noises. That’s cool for about 10 minutes but after that, you will most likely be pulled over by Law Enforcement or looked at by civilians as if you were a 12-year-old making sounds with your Hot Wheels ™. I’m all for being obnoxious at times but to an extent.
On that note, I will say that I love what CarBahn has done with the car to make big power without changing the exhaust. They installed upgraded turbos, larger heat exchangers, a cold-air intake and provided a custom ECU tune for the modifications. This brings the power from 507 to 674 horsepower! All while having the angry German grunt of the good-sounding stock exhaust when valves are open, and the sound of a refined luxury car when valves are closed.
I can talk all day about the reliable tuning magic of Steve Dinan and how the CarBahn C63 GTS makes loads of power, but this wouldn’t be a proper review without mentioning the suspension. The new AMG cars all seem to have very good suspension characteristics throughout the model range. I have driven the S-class, E-class, GTS, and now the C-class; all of them have their own personality to match what each car is meant for. The S-class obviously has the softest ride while the AMG GTS in “sport plus” mode has possibly the stiffest ride of any AMG I have driven, other than maybe the 2012 C63 Black Series.
From my experience, the CarBahn C63 GTS in “individual” mode had the most balanced suspension setting of all of them. It was compliant with just about any surface, while still staying flat through corners. For a 2-ton car, it was impressive to not feel much body roll through higher speed corners. This was due to the coil over sleeves, camber adjusters, and upgraded suspension bearings.
CarBahn C63 GTS and Shelby GT350 comparison
Unplanned, I happened to bring my Shelby GT350 to the drive. I had no intention of comparing the two cars, but I ended up using my car as somewhat of a measuring stick for performance. This was strictly based on feel and sensation of speed and didn’t take into account the interior aspects. The reasoning behind this is that the C63 starts at almost $20,000 more than the Shelby before CarBahn even touches it. If you’re wondering, the interior in the AMG makes my car feel like a Fiesta; and I like the interior in my GT350.
The final verdict on the drive for me was that the C63 GTS is just more fun in tighter roads to toss around because it felt slightly smaller and more grippy at slower speeds. The GT350 is ultimately more fun in the bigger canyon roads that were something closer to a road course, although the AMG is much faster on the straights. I also felt that the GT350 also has higher limits of grip, but you wouldn’t want to approach them on a public road whereas the AMG was fun while maintaining distance from the limit.
Going into this, I was hoping for the car to maintain the AMG personality while adding some BMW-M DNA in the mix. I’m glad to say that this is mostly true, although I would like the car to be slightly rawer. Yes, I’m aware that that this isn’t meant to be a barebones race car but just an extra squirt of old school M sauce would have been nice.
I believe that CarBahn has made this car about as good as it can be, though. Admittedly $30k seems like way too much money for a “tuner package,” but when you really think about what you’re getting then you realize it is worth it for the right customer. You gain over 150 horsepower from stock all while maintaining a warranty through CarBahn as well as a cop-friendly exhaust and you get a better handling car with great looking carbon aero bits.
This isn’t just a “modded” or “transformed” C63, this is an improved C63.
VIDEO: AlphaLuxe Drives CarBahn Autoworks Mercedes Benz AMG C63 GTS (8m 53s)
Counterpoint by Slavik Koch
What do you get when you a pair an AMG built twin turbocharged 4.0 liter V8 modified to churn out 674 horsepower and 666 lb ft of torque by CarBahn Autoworks? One would think this would be the ultimate package for a modern sports car.
While the power delivery is smooth and immense, the fuss and fun that one has become accustomed to with a rear wheel drive AMG has disappeared. The raw and tire shredding power has been replaced with an underwhelming while satisfying melody that seems lackluster. This may be slightly attributed to the fact that the car came with sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires with 285/30R20 out front and 305/30R20 rear. While this has improved grip immensely it has taken away from the tail happy smoke-show that has become associated with AMG. The suspension has truly become compliant and supple with the addition of the KW sleeve coil-over kit that CarBahn has added. While the factory damper settings are retained, even in the most extreme suspension sport setting the ride felt too soft and compliant especially when paired with the electric steering provides for very little feedback. This would make for a very comfortable and compliant daily driver however, for the Malibu canyons it provided an underwhelming experience. This becomes even more apparent when looking over the price list, $21,890 plus installation and that does not include the 20” Forgeline wheels and tires.
Give me a unmodified C63 S and I will take that to the canyons any day of the week, while I may be slower it will put a smile on my face that will be undeniable.
Counterpoint by ThomasM
I have spoken long and loud about balance – horsepower alone, quantitative specs alone mean very little to me beyond cars and coffee idle chit chat. It’s the overall BALANCE of the car – the ride, the handling, the looks, the ergos, the build quality, and of course the powertrain; that separates the great from the good.
At the same time, I have a known weakness for cars that want to kill me – they reward good driving, but are unforgiving and even downright punishing if your mind wanders or worse, your muscles have a brain fart.
There is also feedback and “feel” – a communicative chassis; a front end that hints when it is approaching its limit; steering that tells you in an analogue way what the car is doing, not only the direction the front tires are pointing, but also how they are doing it, and translates your intentions to the chassis in a way both predictable and precise.
So how does the CarBahn C63 GTS deliver in these driver’s car criteria?
The engine is a beast and like all well tuned AMG monster motors, will bring a smile to any power addicts face, both aurally and through that all important ass-o-meter. The CarBahn C63 GTS dials it up a few notches, resulting in a bigger smile, plastered longer…[Check]
Fit and finish, ergo, UI and UX are Mercedes-Benz AMG standard, which means among best in class…[Check]
So far so good. How does it ride, and more importantly to this driver, how does it handle? This is where the controversy begins…
I’m not a fan of electric power steering. Dead feeling. Period. Having written that, some are more tolerable than others. The CarBahn C63 GTS falls in this category – heavy enough so you aren’t tempted to drive with one finger and aren’t worried a sneeze will send you into a death spiral, yet still precise enough to point and shoot. Dead feeling, but tolerable.
The ride is driver selectable, and can be set from high speed autobahn fighter to stop-and-go commuter comfort and be perfectly suited for it.
Handing? Well, the most prevalent thought in my mind while driving it, and the most common response others sharing that seat time had, was, “Wow, a C63 that can finally lay down the power!” Now, whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is up to the individual. For me, it was a good thing. Strangely, I was able to break the tail loose slightly in a totally catchable way, but others on our drive team couldn’t get it to break loose at all, and believe me, they tried…strange.
If I could only have one or two cars, this would definitely be high on my priority list.
If I could have a specialized vehicle for each special occasion, it would drop down a bit but still be a serious contender for my car mad money.
If I already have a C63, sending it to Steve Dinan to work his CarBahn magic on it would be pretty hard to resist. (I’m a big Dinan fan, with 108,000+ miles on my BMW E39 Stage 2 Dinan 5) .
Primary Author’s Biography
Michael Gallardo found interest in cars at around 6 years old. Going to the drag strip to watch NHRA races and riding in his Dad’s VW Beetle were the earliest memories that he can credit his passion to. A year after high school, Michael bought his first car, a 1986 Porsche 944. Ever since then, he has been switching it up and trying to experience all of the cars that he possibly can. Interests include watching Formula 1, going to the shooting range, collecting watches, trying new places to eat, and an occasional round of golf.