Meet the new C63 AMG Black Series from Mercedes-Benz. Unveiled in France not too long ago, the new Black is reported to have a V8 producing 510 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of toque. Although it weighs in 44 pounds lighter than the CLK63 Black that it is replacing, the C63 is meant to be a less hardcore Black than its predecessor. It even includes seating for four, a first for AMGs Black division. If MB’s Black model is supposed to be the best of the best, then their current configuration brings up a question that has been on my mind for some time: What happened to sports cars?
In the not-so-distant past, every automotive manufacturer had a formula for their biggest, baddest, fastest cars. They were mostly rear-wheel-drive machines with loads of power, tons of torque, manual gearboxes, aggressive styling, low stance and two seats. Traction control was for the faint-of-heart and there was no need for navigation or even a stereo in some cases because the cars were meant to be driven on a track.
Nowadays that mentality has changed, and AMG isn’t the only culprit. Porsche’s 911 Turbo S is all-wheel-drive, available only in automatic (paddle shifters) and with rear seats. Ferrari is never going to produce a car with a manual transmission again. The 599, 612, and upcoming FF all seat four. Aston Martin’s DBS offers four seats as well.
The problem, as I see it, is that true sports cars are becoming a dying breed. There is no arguing that the vehicles mentioned above are impressively fast and extremely capable machines on a racetrack. However, to me there is a certain pleasure that is derived from driving something like a Viper as opposed to the ferociously more expensive F430. The Viper is real; it’s raw. It has the bare necessities – two seats, a drivetrain, and a gearbox. The 430 is faster on paper, but I’d rather have the Dodge.
Every automobile configuration has its place. By no means is this a suggestion to rid the world of four-seater paddle-shifted sports cars. But the more and more Mercedes Black Series, Ferrari Challenge series, Porsche S series, and other top-of-the-line sports cars that I see that seem to have forgotten about the basics of what makes a sports car a sports car, the more I fear that the machines I loved so much growing up will be a vehicle available only through Gooding & Co. or Barrett Jackson.
I leave you with one of the last of a dying breed, but one of my favorite cars available at the moment. The stick shift available, rear-wheel-drive, Lamborghini Balboni.