The best iteration of the Mercedes-AMG C63 yet despite the downsized engine. It's almost faultless. Almost...
The very moment the new Mercedes-AMG C63 rumbles to life, any notion this monster has been diminished by downsizing its naturally aspirated 6.3-litre V8 to a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 is immediately quashed.
In fact, its rumble is more like the deep, ground shaking burble of a battle tank than any four-door luxury sedan. And that’s while its still sitting idle.
At full throttle, when the tacho needle is brushing 6200rpm, it’s hard to think of anything that sounds as good as this thing – only the $3 million, quad-turbo, 16-cylinder Bugatti Veyron comes to mind.
There’s nothing quite like it in the segment and the result is a testament to the abilities of those modern-day acoustic wizards at Affaltenbach, who were charged with creating such visceral sound effects for its hand-made engines.
Just like the Audi RS4 and the BMW M3 high-performance models, the C63 always aimed to deliver supercar level power within reach of the cashed-up middle class and in doing so, has proved wildly successful, particularly with the outgoing ‘204’ series.
Armed with 373kW and 610Nm of torque, the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Edition 507 Coupe (the last remaining C63 variant) is priced at $159,500 and is the most powerful iteration of the current C63 model range. Performance is of course scintillating, with a 0-100km/h-sprint time of just 4.2 seconds and a top speed electronically limited to 250km/h.
Mercedes-Benz and in-house performance tuner AMG tied the knot more than thirty years ago, but until now all AMG-tuned models bore the Mercedes-Benz name. That nomenclature changed with the arrival of two new models at last year’s Paris motor show: the all-new GT sports coupe and C63 sedan are officially known as “Mercedes-AMG”.
Those two cars also had more in common than the stage they shared in Paris, not the least of which is their engines. Each is powered by the new twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8, only the Mercedes-AMG C63 S (the only model that will be sold in Australia) gets the better of the two by packing more grunt than the lighter GT coupe.
It’s a unique powertrain that runs a “hot inside V” configuration – with exhaust and turbochargers inside the cylinder banks – but unlike the GT that uses dry-sump lubrication that allows the engine to be positioned lower in the chassis, the C63 uses a wet-sump system.
Output from the downsized 4.0-litre motor is 375kW of power and a staggering 700Nm of torque, while the GT equivalent makes do with 50Nm less torque.
That also makes the incoming $154,900 (plus on-roads) 205-series Mercedes-AMG C63 S something of a bargain compared with its outgoing C63 507 sibling, which could only muster 610Nm of torque.
Further proof of the new C63’s unequivocal value for money lies in the fact that its price matches that of the first AMG C-Class model that launched in Australia in 1995.
The Mercedes-Benz C36 AMG arrived wearing a price tag from $154,900. It was driven by a 3.6-litre straight-six that developed 206kW and 385Nm and mated to a four-speed auto driving the rear wheels. Performance was good for its day with a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.5 seconds.
Fast-forward 20 years to the international launch of the latest-generation Mercedes-AMG C63 S, capable of going from zero to 100km/k in a no-nonsense 4.0 seconds flat.
But it’s not just about the car’s outright pace; this latest iteration is also equipped with the kind of technology that was simply unheard of two decades ago.
Standard features include complex performance-enhancing systems such as AMG Ride Control sports suspension with adjustable shock absorbers, an electronic rear locking differential and the AMG Dynamic Select drive programs.
Another feature unique to this segment is the dynamic engine mounts – also borrowed from the Mercedes AMG-GT sports car – which claims to provide the optimum balance between ride and handling by adapting their stiffness to the prevailing driving conditions.
For those wondering how it all comes together on the road and on the track? One word: stupendously.
Frankly, it would be difficult for Benz not to deliver a good result with the wildest and most powerful derivative of their latest-generation C-Class, especially given that AMG versions have always delivered the goods in the past.
If you’re not immediately mesmerised by the engine note at idle, then I suggest you check your ticker, because if you’re looking for a sense of reactor-style power from your four-door family sedan, then it doesn’t get any better than this.
And while it morphs from rumble to thunder the moment you start squeezing on the throttle, it’s the refinement of this drivetrain that’s even more impressive.
It doesn’t seem to matter how hard you accelerate or which drive setting you’re in, there are no vibrations, none – zilch. Even in the ultra-aggressive Race mode with the right pedal flat to the floor is smooth sailing despite the booming soundtrack.
Part of that is down the active engine mounts mentioned earlier. Apart from massively enhancing the car’s prodigious handling capability by instantly reacting to cornering via levels of stiffness – soft for comfort and stiffer for high g-forces, they also work magic by eliminating engine vibration.
The other half of the NVH (Noise Vibration Harshness) - equation can be attributed to the enormous amount of work AMG engineers put into properly calibrating the in-house seven-speed MCT for a tailor-made fit with the new V8 engine.
It’s not a dual-clutch unit like most of its competitors, but let me assure you – shift response time seems just as quick, and there’s no contest when it comes to out-and-out finesse. It’s a huge improvement of the previous iteration of this transmission, we found to be a tad slow in various situations.
The double-clutching function during downshifts rewards with a blip or whiplash-style crack, depending on which mode you select, and there’s a manual switch for exclusive use with the solid aluminium crafted paddleshifters. It’s an intelligent system that even allows auto-shifting in the Race setting, complete with automatic upshifts and downshifts at the rpm limits.
Outright acceleration under full throttle is simply astonishing – and you’ll run out of road before it stops pulling. At least that was our experience on the test route in Portugal. It doesn’t matter wether you’re in first or seventh – put the boot in, even at 120km/h – and the Mercedes-AMG C63 S starts hauling with similar intensity as in the lower gears.
Best of all, this is an engine that never appears to be working all that hard.
And there’s absolutely no lag, at least once the engine hits 1750rpm, when peak torque comes on-song. However, in the Comfort transmission mode, we experienced some ultra-low-speed lag when moving off from a virtual standstill at roundabouts.
The roadholding is nothing short of brilliant. The not-overly-wide Michelin Pilot Sport tyres (245/35s up front and 265/35s down back) along with the adaptive suspension and active engine mounts, combine to provide vast amounts of lateral grip, no matter how hard you care to push in the twisty sections. And there were plenty of those.
It’s also a beautifully balanced chassis, inspiring tonnes of confidence under extreme loads despite its still hefty 1730- kilogram weight. But if you want a nice wide slip angle, that’s fine too, just switch the transmission into Race mode and you’ll be drifting out of corners like Ken Block. Even on the track with the rear end kicking hanging out, the car is dead easy to bring back into line.
Understeer is also very well contained with the new Mercedes-AMG C63 S, courtesy of the quick-acting rear axle locking differential, allowing drivers to get on the power throttle early out of bends. Point to point; from corner to corner, this is an astonishingly quick car. In fact, it’s hard not to think of it as a fully-fledged supercar when you’re able to properly unleash it.
The steering is an electromechanical system with a direct ratio and variable power assistance, dependent on speed. It’s an improvement over the outgoing C63, which was already a quick and accurate steer.
High praise also goes to the regular braking system. The front discs are 390mm composites that offer huge stopping power on the road (the track cars were equipped with the optional carbon ceramic brakes), but with the added reward of the same wonderfully progressive pedal feel as the throttle.
When it comes to the exterior styling of the latest Mercedes-AMG C63, I’d like to think the jury is still out on whether it’s a hit or miss given its positioning as a genuine halo car.
Despite the two prominent powerdomes, large front air intakes, distinct grille, side skirts and a different rear fascia with four exhaust pipes, some might argue that its all too tame and doesn’t match its herculean on-road performance and aural antics quite so well as previous iterations of the C63 super sedan.
Others may agree that the slightly less overt treatment offers the perfect blend of Mercedes-Benz luxury and visual prominence in line with the latest C-Class evolution. Either way it’s an undeniably svelte design that’s bound to attract an even larger audience than the outgoing model.
Inside, there’s more flair on display to distinguish the C63 from its lesser siblings. The sports bucket seats with aluminium accents and deep bolsters are superb, as is the wonderfully tactile, flat-bottom steering wheel. And just like the regular C-Class, this is beautifully designed cabin that is head and shoulders above the competition.
The difficulty in reviewing a car that is so comprehensively good as is the latest C63 is that there isn’t enough superlatives to throw around without sounding repetitive. But I can assure you it is that good.
This is the Holy Grail of combinations: massively powerful engine with a truckload of grunt in a small luxury body - a private jet for the road, if you will.
More than any other German luxury carmaker, Mercedes-Benz has mastered the art of transforming their regular models into highly desirable, on-road missiles that also double as entirely practical four-door family limos.