When the Mercedes-AMG C63 launches in the second quarter of 2015, there is every chance only the flagship 375kW/700Nm C63 S will be made available locally, confirmed in both sedan and Estate configuration.
Mercedes-Benz Australia believes the vast majority of local buyers will want only the more powerful version – which is up 25kW and 50Nm on the standard C63, and gets active engine mounts among other engineering upgrades (read more here) – but the other less-discussed reason is because a lower-tier performance C-Class is being readied.
The existence of a C450 Sport tuned by AMG is all but confirmed, though it is a certainty to arrive in Australia next year priced at around $120K to finally challenge the Audi S4 and BMW 335i – and that price may be too close to a standard C63.
Speaking at the Paris motor show, Mercedes-Benz Australia public relations manager David McCarthy would confirm only the C63 S version, which he said promised a fully-loaded proposition that increases value compared with the previous C63.
“S is absolutely confirmed,” McCarthy stated. “Think the $160K neighbourhood and you won’t have to move streets.
“Most people who buy the C63 are going to go for the S,” he asserted. “As we’ve seen in E63 and CLS 63 S, people want the power. Now that’s not to say that we are going to dictate what customers want. If the incremental volume for [standard] C63 is 50 units, then that’s worth it.”
According to McCarthy, model proliferation can become an issue, however, and “sometimes it creates confusion for customers”. Where most people who buy a C63 will want an S, those who can’t quite stretch to its pricetag may be better served with the C450 Sport (spied above and below). Where the C63 is rear-wheel-drive-only (at least for now), the C450, as evidenced by the spied car's 4MATIC badging, will be all-wheel drive.
“Some people who can afford $140K can probably go to $160K,” McCarthy said, referring to a possible price difference between the C63 and C63 S.
“But,” he adds, implicitly referring to the forthcoming model, “perhaps a buyer can’t go from $120K to $160K.”
Mercedes-Benz has been without a C-Class to play against the 335i and S4, with the previous 3.5-litre petrol V6 C350 hardly a performance model and having sold in tiny numbers priced below $100K. The C450 Sport is expected to use a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine, and expected locally late next year.
While the C63 S goes into right-hand drive production in late February for an expected April/May arrival on our shores, the standard C63 will be at least three months behind, leaving time for Mercedes-Benz Australia to make a decision.
“What we want to do is give some very clear choices that reflect what customers are buying,” reiterated the public relations boss. “Our success with AMG, particularly in 2013/2014, demonstrates that we have a pretty good handle on what customers want. Last year AMG did 32,000 units worldwide, Australia was 5.0 per cent of that, yet this year we will be 6.0 per cent of a larger number.”
Head of AMG Tobias Moers is on record saying that larger number is targeted to be 40,000 sales worldwide, roughly translating into annual AMG sales of 2400 this year - well up from 1600 units last year.
Yet McCarthy continues to expect the C63 will maintain around one-third of total AMG volume, meaning the new-generation sports sedan and Estate will be expected to rise by the same level as total AMG sales, even without a coupe variant.
The 10,000th Australian-delivered AMG will be made in November, but rather than choose exactly what that vehicle is, Mercedes-Benz Australia left it to whatever happened to be the 10,000th order, promising to commemorate whatever AMG it is with a special plaque and formal hand-over. That car is locked in, but we - and the owner - won’t know about it until next month.