9 / 10
If Mercedes-AMG wants to be considered the world premier high-performance road car brand, the 2016 C63 S Coupe goes a long – and fast – way to help the brand cement such a status. It’s a juggernaut range, from A45 small hatch to GLE 63 S behemoth by way of the GT S super sportscar, each aiming to top its respective segment in power, pace or both. And, for the most part, succeeding.
Today, Mercedes-AMG’s patch of the go-faster landscape is very purple indeed.
But if there’s an epicentre to today’s AMG ethos, it’s the C-Class, and Mercedes-Benz’s Affalterbach skunkworks wasn’t about to drop the ball with the mid-size portfolio’s leading two-door coupe-shaped light.
That no other series production range offers twin-turbocharged V8 power in a mid-sized works in C63’s favour beyond sales: in spec alone, it breeds cult status. But for Mercedes-AMG – crucially, with die-hard petrolhead chairman of the board Tobias Moers at the helm – it’s no mere numbers game. The C-Class sedans and wagons brim with driver-challenging friskiness, fiery character and soul, yet become tempered and docile enough for leisurely daily use.
And while Moers and company could’ve simply just shoehorned the four- and five-doors’ mechanical package into a two-door bodyshell – and doubtlessly met broader expectations – they aimed a little higher with the new-generation mid-sized monster Coupe. Even by current C63 standards it’s quite special and tree-topping desirable.
Firstly, there’s bodywork: only the roof panel, the door skins and bootlid are common with the regular, just launched C-Class Coupe range. AMG widened the front guards some 64mm, the rear-end hips across the axle line by 66mm. There’s a obligatory front fascia treatment – ‘twin-blade grille,’ enlarged air intakes, front lower-edge splitter element – but the side sill panels are more prominent and rear end, with its aggressive ‘diffuser’ and AMG signature quad exhaust outlets, gets a neat looking low-profile boot spoiler.
But the unique way in which the C63 S Coupe hunkers over the hotmix is down to other significant key changes. Its tyres, at 255mm front and 285mm rear, give it a fatter footprint than the sedan or wagon versions. The aggressive forward taper of the Coupe’s appearance, though, is exacerbated by adopting larger 20-inch rear wheels in rear while using 19s up front.
To suit, AMG extended the track width of C-Class’s newly adopted four-link suspension design, and the body structure has been reinforced. Further, the rear “12-link” suspension assembly – 25mm wider than C63 sedan – together with the axle carrier were developed “from the ground up,” says AMG, and is bespoke for C63 Coupe. Suspension highlights include standard-fitment three-mode adaptive dampers, unique front steering knuckles, specific front brake connectors, and new wheel carriers and uni-ball links in place of rubber joints in the rear, and increased negative camber all round.
Australia will only get the C63 S versions, in both regular and Edition One flavours. So the 4.0-litre biturbo V8 is a high-level 375kW and 700Nm tune compared with the ‘base’ C63’s 350Kw and 650Nm. Transmission of choice is AMG’s ‘MCT’ (or multi-plate clutch) seven-speed automatic of conventional (not dual-clutch) design.
The ‘S’ benefits from a faster-acting electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip differential, whereas the base C63 is purely mechanical. The top dog also gets vibration reducing dynamic engine mounts, and a Race mode to supplement the Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and driver assignable Individual drive mode settings. Standard is a two-mode exhaust system with an exhaust flap mechanism to quieten sonic while cruising, though it’s unclear if a three-mode Performance Exhaust will come standard or optional in Australia.
Despite a slightly heftier (by 15kg) 1725kg weighbridge ticket, the S version is claimed to hit 100km/h from a standstill in 3.9 seconds, 0.1sec quicker the regular C63 Coupe. In Europe, either version’s 250km/h limited top speed can be optionally raised to 290km/h, though only the ‘S’ offers the cost option to upgrade its 390mm front steel brakes to warp-drive friendly 402mm ceramic discs as fitted to our test car at the recent international launch in Spain – brakes that would cop thorough punishment around the challenging Circuito Ascari.
It turns out that the C63 S Coupe is perfect antidote for jetlag if tasked with chasing down German racing ace Bernd Schneider – the world’s foremost Mercedes-AMG GT pilot – while he’s hightailing it around Spain’s longest and perhaps most challenging racetrack in, well, a GT S course car. Especially whilst dodging other jetlagged and wayward Aussie journos.
On one hand, the Coupe retains a similar tail-happy character of the AMG flagship sportscar, one that unhinges even hugely grippy 285mm rear tyres should the right pedal be disrespected, regardless of speed, gear or type of corner you’re passing through. The ease with which the C63 S can ink Ascari’s abrasive surface in Michelin rubber is, I suspect, Moers’ mandate. This car commands your focus and demands measured inputs – at least if you want to make proper haste.
On the other mitt, it’s an inherently friendly and cooperative beast. In Sport+ drive mode, it’s wickedly quick, the chassis brimming with predictable feedback channelled to the driver via hands and hips. The Coupe loves to tailslide – activate the loose Sport Handling ESP mode and it takes an armful of opposite steering lock to wake the fun police from its slumber. The car’s reflexes sharpen noticeably in Race mode, the throttle take-up more urgent, the transmission upshifts more brutal, the powerslides become even more lurid if brave pills permit and you turn the stability control completely off.
The difference between the C63 S and its sedan brethren is most noticeable in the degree of precision the former adds. Moers explains, between his own tyre-shredding drift demonstrations of the high-speed circuit, that the Coupe is meant to characteristically more the sports car than the four-door. Be it the impressive accuracy of the speed-sensitive electromechanical steering, the purchase of the front end, the deft tuning of electronically governed rear differential or the immensely confident braking power – or sheer combination of all – the S Coupe has got more GT S soul than other C63s. It certainly doesn’t lack thrill factor.
If there’s a cross to bear, it’s that aforementioned kerb weight, which is roughly 180kg more than arch rival BMW M4 DCT (which has a lighter six-cylinder twin turbo engine).
Lean into the corner really hard and inertia inevitably overcomes road-holding grip. At least there’s ample poise and adjustability as you run the outside tyres off the hard stuff and onto grass, forces at play that might otherwise be tamed with a set of more track-focused R-spec tyres than the all-rounder Super Sports fitted.
The weight does dull the straight-line acceleration a touch, but only on track when carrying speed on straights. Out on the twisty Andalucian mountain passes near Spain’s southern coastline, however, the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 feels utterly explosive, the tail end shimmying around, ESP light flickering, as the Coupe lunges off the mark or out of corners. Again it’s that hallmark of the modern Mercedes-AMG rear-driver, output on the brink of overcoming available traction, if merely to buzz to the driving experience.
It’s here, when you’re not attempting to tear tread from tyre canvas, that the Coupe sits flat, tracks assertively and responds to the relentless changes of direction with keen obedience, despite the notoriously slippery Spanish road surfaces. It’s here Sport mode’s recalibration of engine, transmission, suspension and steering presents a purposeful yet polished, urgent yet compliant state ideal for super grand touring. And where you really notice the call-to-arms jump to Sport+, which suddenly seems antisocial in these open road conditions.
Highly impressive is not just a patent change in character each drive mode presents, but how well suited and sorted these available presets are for any occasion, even before you customise the Individual mode to taste. For example, in Sport the seven-speed auto is nearly unflappable: silken changes, always reaching for the right amount of V8 torque sans histrionics. In Sport+, the engine remains primed for attack, upchanges are assertive without jolting, the Coupe instantly responsive with a heightened sense of urgency, complete with that wonderful signature roar under throttle and hearty pops and crackles once you lift off.
Then you activate Comfort and the C63 S Coupe again transforms: it’s properly polite, quiet and downright docile. The softest damper settings provide excellent ride comfort across the occasional patched road hole or separation joint though, across the smooth Spanish roads, how the suspension will fare in Oz presents a big question mark.
That said, if you had to bomb across Europe in the C63 S Coupe, or negotiate Malaga or Madrid day in day out, this two-door is perfectly pleasant for extended seat time. That is, if you can handle the fuel bill. Mercedes-AMG quotes a combined fuel consumption best of 8.6 litres per 100 kilometres, though after a spirited if restrained lash across the hillside the trip computer displayed a similar figure…with a one in front of it.
Our test car gets the (optional in Europe) Performance seats, race buckets thinly disguised in Artico manmade leather and Dinamica suede-like microfibre they can be dropped lower than the regular issue sports seats. They’re absolutely circuit friendly, if perhaps a touch too hard-core for some daily driven tastes.
From the carbon-look centre stack to the expanses of brushed alloy, and the specific sports instrumentation and bespoke-for-model heads-up display to the old faithful AMG analogue clock, it’s suitable blend of restraint and excess that feels noticeable more specialised, and racier, than the regular C-Class Coupe cabin treatment. It’s no roomier than the two-door on which its based – which isn’t noticeably more commodious than the last-gen C63 Coupe – but the second-row is serviceable for average-sized adults for average-length trips.
Specifics aside, there’s a certain mojo that underpins the entire C63 S Coupe package that can’t be specifically be pinpointed in Crystal Grey dash stitching, gargling exhaust notes, G forces or stopwatches. But you do notice it at fifty paces on the road or track. Be it via fairy dust or hardened engineering, or other elements entirely, the Coupe casts little doubt that it’s current king of the C63 breed, whether or not you tick the box for the limited Edition 1 version.
Both will land in March 2016 at the same time as the regular new-generation C-Class Coupe range. And given that Mercedes-Benz Australia has suggested a pricepoint “similar to (the) current” and outgoing AMG two-door offerings, expect to fork out around the $160K mark plus on-roads for the S, with a further eight- to ten-grand premium for the Edition 1, of which Oz hope to secure “a few hundred”.