The fashion for matte-finished paint has reached the point where even major manufacturers like BMW and Mercedes now offer it as an option. While you could argue that the extra skin friction robs you of that last smidgen of top speed, there is no getting away from the fact that the matte finish does make a car look more purposeful.
Of course the car itself is the starting point, and a matte-finished Toyota Prius would simply look unpainted. But the matte finish of a mean machine like the already thuggish-looking Brabus Bullit Coupe gives it even more attitude.
Today we are at Movie Park Germany, outside Bottrop-Kirchhellen, on the set of the famous vampire hunter Van Helsing. While it is commonly known that a silver bullet will kill a vampire stone dead, our matte-gray Brabus Bullit Coupe looks like it can rip the heart out of any creature of the night we might encounter here.
Underneath its war paint, the Bullit Coupe certainly has the right stuff. Unlike the Bullit saloon I drove in late 2007, which had to have its wheel arches extended to cover its bigger wheels and tires, Mercedes-AMG has thoughtfully provided extended arches as standard on the C63 AMG Coupe that Brabus use as the base car. The taller bonnet of the facelift-style AMG car helps too.
“While this sounds like an expensive way of doing things compared to starting with a smaller-engined C-Class Coupe, you would have to change and uprate so many more components, it would definitely work out more expensive and complicated,” Brabus’ Deputy Development Chief Jörn Gander explained.
Where the Bullit saloon had a pretty potent 730 hp, times have moved on and Brabus has since uprated their most powerful version of the venerable biturbo V12 motor to a rousing 800 hp (788 bhp) at 5500 rpm.
As before, the peak torque figure has been electronically limited to 811 lb-ft to prevent the gearbox and rear axle being reduced to scrap under the onslaught of the 1,047 lb-ft at 2100 rpm that this motor recorded on the dyno.
These big numbers are the culmination of years of progressive development by Uli Gauffres, Jörn Gander and their engineering team. Step-by-step, they have managed to extract more and more power from the 36-valve Mercedes M275 engine.
Where AMG take the basic Mercedes motor from 5,513 cc and 517 hp to 5,980 cc and 612 hp, Brabus have upped the ante with a further displacement bump to 6,233 cc and 800 hp for this R-spec motor with its two big, high-performance turbochargers and quad water-cooled intercooler system.
In the past, the handicap of any Brabus car with the M275 engine was the old-style five-speed automatic transmission. While even the standard cooking version of this motor in an S600 has more than ample power and torque to cover the big gaps between the five ratios, despite continuous software updates, this gearbox has relatively tardy response compared to today’s state-of-the-art seven-speed automatic. On top of that, it simply cannot provide the same level of in-gear acceleration and fuel economy with just five ratios.
Low-volume special cars are a Brabus specialty however, and selling such cars to ultra-wealthy clients is a whole different ball game. Thus, Brabus took the plunge last year, and during the development of the second-generation CLS-based Rocket 800, they uprated the torque handling ability of the wet-clutch AMG Speedshift MCT gearbox from 664 to 811 lb-ft and mated it to their 6.3-liter V12.
While the internal strengthening work was a fairly straightforward affair, matching disparate engine and gearbox components that were never meant to work together was more easily said than done.
“We had to modify the rear of the V12 block, and an all-new flywheel machined from a solid billet now mates this to the MCT gearbox’s wet-clutch system,” explained Jörn. “We then added a larger capacity cooling system for the gearbox oil.”
The bigger engine and all its ancillaries take the weight of the C-Class Coupe up to 4,012 pounds. When all is said and done, the conversion puts about 220 extra pounds in the nose, just slightly behind the front axle.
As you would expect, Brabus have also done an amazing job on the interior to make it look and feel special. The deeply contoured seats are trimmed in the highest quality soft black hide, with red stitching to accentuate the contours. Red stitching is also used to highlight the trim panels on the doors, center console, dashboard and steering wheel. The dashboard top is covered in Alcantara to minimize reflections in the windscreen.
The quilted leather pattern used on the carpet and up the sides of the transmission tunnel is a Brabus trademark, and even the leather floor mats with their red piping have this pattern. It looks great on a show car, but you would want to put down over-mats to protect the floor from scuffing in daily use.
Quilted leather covers every square inch of the trunk interior as well, so there is no sudden drop in quality no matter where you look. Ordinary is an alien concept at Brabus!
The devil is in the details, and the special lightweight aluminum paddle shifters on the steering wheel and the Brabus alloy pedal set add to the feel that this is a serious driving machine.
The “Brabus Bullit 800” script is cut out of the stainless steel sill protector plates with a high-pressure water jet, and the dual layer construction gives a three-dimensional effect. The lettering is blue illuminated at night and when the lights are on.
Finally, the speedometer has been recalibrated to read to 400 km/h, and a Bullit 800 plaque is applied to the carbon-fiber-look trim on the passenger side of the dashboard.
“We sold 25 of the original Bullit saloons, and have a client in Dubai who owns two cars. He will probably buy a Coupe as well now,” said Jörn. “The development costs of cars like these are high, hence the stratospheric price tag. But luckily there are enough wealthy car enthusiasts in the world who like the idea of a big, powerful motor in a compact car.”
I never cease to be amazed and inspired by the sharp bark of the tuned V12 bursting into life after just a second of encouragement from its pre-engaged starter. The deep burble of the big engine is totally at odds with a car the size of the C-Class Coupe, even one that looks as menacing as this. But the rabid exhaust note echoing around the buildings puts the denizens, winged, clawed or otherwise, on notice that a serious new player is in town.
As we prowl the streets, the Bullit 800 feels good to be in. Its cabin fittings look and feel exclusive enough to justify the $500,000 asking price. At prowling speeds, the king-size motor is barely ticking over and is just begging to be let loose. With no trade in town and since vampires are terminally allergic to sunlight, we head off to the nearby autobahn to stretch the Bullit’s legs.
Brabus say that fired off the line perfectly, the Bullit 800 will take just 3.7 seconds to pass 62 mph, 23.8 seconds to reach 186 mph, and carry on to 230 mph on its 3.42:1 final drive ratio.
A small handful of supercars can pip it to the 62-mph benchmark, but they do so helped by all-wheel drive for optimum traction off the line. What happens after that is more significant, and in the real world, the biturbo V12’s relentless mother lode of torque will have the Bullit 800 Coupe catch, pass and then leave its challengers in the dust.
We cannot do any serious performance testing as this precious prototype has a date with the Geneva Motor Show in a matter of days, but we can get a good snapshot of its potential.
With this kind of torque on tap, the basic 40 percent locking action of the torque sensing limited-slip differential is vital to the car’s ability to put its power down. And stay pointed in the intended direction of travel!
The uprated Brabus suspension is a race-style, height-adjustable coilover system using Bilstein gas dampers with 10-way adjustable bounce and rebound control and larger antiroll bars.
As the car is lower than the base AMG, Brabus had to get the geometry back on course, so they modified the lower suspension arms with offset joints, and also use solid bushes in salient places for better feel and response.
The ability to tweak bounce and rebound settings independently has allowed the engineers to achieve a surprisingly comfortable ride. However, if you think about it, a good secondary ride and adequate wheel travel is a great advantage when you have to deploy a lot of power over bumps.
The wheels are the latest Brabus Monoblock R design in 8.5x20 and 9.5x20 sizes with 235/30 and 275/25 Dunlop SportMaxx rubber, front and rear respectively. These are the largest wheels and tires that will fit the C-Class Coupe’s wheelwells, resulting in a smaller footprint and less mechanical grip at the driven wheels than any other Brabus car powered by this awesome motor.
The big brakes behind these 10-spoke alloy wheels use 380mm vented discs in front clamped by 12-pot calipers and 360mm vented discs at the rear with six-pot calipers. They provide enormous braking force to counter the sub-orbital capability of the engine.
Unfortunately, the packaging of the C-Class does not allow for a fuel tank any larger than the standard 17.4-gallon one, so the major real-world weakness of the Bullit 800 Coupe is its range. Use the performance in anger frequently, and you will be the gas station owner’s new best friend.
The difference the seven-speed gearbox makes is amazing. I have always thought of the big V12 as a slightly lazy engine because of the way it revs out, but when paired with seven more closely spaced ratios, it comes alive and feels so much more responsive.
The shorter gear ratios keep the engine in its optimum working range more of the time, not that this was ever really a problem even with five ratios. But the newfound snappy character is in tune with what you would expect from a compact two-door Coupe.
If I had to sum up the performance of this car in one word, it would be bombastic. Drop the hammer and all hell breaks loose. Wheelspin, ESP light flashing, long black lines on the tarmac. But once it hooks up, you are slammed back in your seat and the car begins its serious mission of reeling in the horizon.
“Geneva Show car! Don’t break it!” Jörn Gander’s words are echoing in my head over the V12’s sonorous engine note. It is time to return to base, so I disengage the warp drive and cruise back to Brabus HQ in Bottrop.
One obvious standout from my short test is the smoother and more progressive drive than the original Bullit. “The software is the key,” Jörn explained. “Back in 2007, the systems were more digital, and you felt it. The faster, new ECUs provide a much more seamless integration between the engine, transmission, ESP and other systems, giving the car a more analog feel.”
That evening, the Internet came alive with news of the Brabus Bullit 800 Coupe. Sightings, speculation and quite obvious excitement. Maybe someone saw us on the autobahn, or perhaps it was a creature peering out of a window on the Van Helsing set. Do vampires use camera phones?
As we prowl the streets, the Bullit 800 feels good to be in. Its cabin fittings look and feel exclusive enough to justify the $500,000 asking price.
Brabus Bullit 800
Longitudinal front engine, rear wheel drive
6.3-liter, V12, 36-valve. Twin turbochargers, quad air-to-water intercoolers
Seven-speed AMG Speedshift MCT, uprated to handle 811 lb-ft of torque
Peak Power: 800 hp
Peak Torque: 811 lb-ft*
0-62 mph: 3.7 sec.
Top Speed: 230 mph
*electronically limited from 1,047 lb-ft
Brabus race-style, height-adjustable coilovers w/ Bilstein 10-way adjustable dampers; larger antiroll bars
380mm vented discs w/ 12-pot calipers (f), 360mm vented discs w/ 6-pot calipers (r)
Wheels and Tires
Brabus Monoblock R 8.5x20 (f), 9.5x20 (r)
Dunlop SportMaxx 235/30 (f), 275/25 (r)
MSRP: $500,000 (est.)