Can a turbocharged Mercedes-AMG C63 S be as good as the naturally aspirated champion?
The new Mercedes-AMG C63 S has a lot to live up to. After all, its predecessor will go down in history as one of the most outstanding performance cars that didn’t sport a turbocharger. In its final 507 Edition guise, it will more than likely become a collector's item.
But times change, and government regulations require the production of more efficient cars. Enter the new and renamed Mercedes-AMG C63 S, featuring a downsized (in capacity, not power) turbocharged engine. But in its desire to be better, faster and more efficient, has it lost some of its character?
It’s not that having a turbo is a bad thing. Hell, it’s not just one, but two turbochargers strapped onto the new car’s 4.0-litre V8 to produce an incredible 375kW of power and 700Nm of torque, while pegging fuel economy to an unbelievable claim of 8.6 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.
It’s just that the old car was something of a senseless beast. It didn’t care about its rear tyres and it certainly didn’t care about global warming, but its brute nature was what won the hearts and minds of buyers over its rivals.
That’s not to say the new car isn’t a beast, it’s just a beast with brains and a (slightly) more environmentally friendly heart. Its performance figures are a hell of a lot for a rear-wheel drive C-Class, but somehow, Mercedes-Benz has not only managed to make it work, but also get its power down quick enough to go from 0-100km/h in 4.0 seconds. These are supercar numbers.
Facts and figures aside, to find out just how well it all translates to reality, we went to the recent AMG Festival in Bathurst to drive the 2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 S around the world-famous Mount Panorama circuit.
Perhaps the best way to describe our first impressions of the new C63 S is from the pilot seat of the new Mercedes-AMG GT supercar, coming hot out of turn one (Hell Corner) and up Mountain Straight.
Having just spent a few laps with Mick Doohan in the GT S and now being inspired to go that little bit faster (much to the instructor’s delight), we brake as late as possible and ease the GT S into the left-hander with a near perfect racing line and exit speed, feeding the throttle in gently to counter the minimal grip of the wet track conditions.
On the left-hand side was a C63 S coming out of the pits, also feeding the throttle on to full power, as we were starting our run up Mountain Straight. We assumed that within two to three seconds the driver would notice the mightier GT S breathing down its neck and let us pass. Sure, it has the same engine, but the GT S weighs a good 85kg less (though the GT S has 50Nm less torque).
Alas, despite maximum throttle in the GT S, the C63 S stayed ahead and even up to what felt like 200km/h (who looks down for a check?), the best we could do was maybe gain a metre by the braking point.
The bloody C63 S was all but out-dragging the GT S. Something about that felt wrong, more so if you’re a GT S owner. Within a few corners and as we climbed the mountain he eventually let us pass, as the GT S is certainly sharper in the bends, but it was a good visceral experience for just how fast the C63’s straight-line speed really is.
Jump out of the GT S and into the C63 S and, sorry to say to GT S owners, it felt immediately better. The steering is far better-weighted for spirited driving (while the GT S’s remains unfashionably light in all driving modes) and although it’s not as sharp changing directions, its extra weight seems to plant it firmly on the road. Of course, it also costs half the price at $154,900 ($2500 extra for the wagon) plus on-road costs.
Ignoring the already gorgeous interior of the regular C-Class, now further enhanced with Napa leather and performance bits such as AMG door sills, AMG instrument cluster with race timer, AMG seats, IWC clock, 13 speaker Burmester sound system (with Digital TV) and head-up display, the C63 S provides, in our opinion, the best interior of any performance car in that mid-$100k price bracket.
Not that we had time to press all the buttons and feel the surfaces (road review coming soon). Before we knew it, we were coming down Conrod Straight at 239km/h (that time we did look) in seriously wet conditions and the 'Benz felt like it was having a quick nap.
A tap on the brake to settle the front end and wash off a little bit of speed before The Chase right-hander, and away we go. Turn after turn the C63 S didn’t set a foot wrong, except perhaps the seven-speed transmission, which shifts rapidly, but is perhaps not as great as the dual-clutch system in the BMW M4.
After a dozen laps around Mount Panorama in the C63 S (and every other AMG on offer bar the S63 and SL63), it would have to be our favourite vehicle of the AMG range, including the GT S flagship.
That is a big telling point, for it seems that the crazy folks in Affalterbach have pretty much poured all their know-how into the new C63 S, yet are offering it at half the price.
Oh and before you ask, how does the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 sound? The answer is sensational. The head of AMG, Tobias Moers, delayed the launch of the new C63 S for two months as he demanded a better exhaust note – it was a big deal internally to not 'do a BMW' and lose the audible sensation (and then pump it into the cabin artificially) of what made the old car such a charm.
Still, it’s not as raw as the old naturally-aspired 6.2-litre V8. It’s not as deep, either. But it’s excellent in its own way and certainly better than the new M3/4’s metallic scream.
Sound aside, for a long while there, there was no doubt the BMW M3/4 was the better track car, while the C63 remained a giant toy for boys who’d become men unknowingly. Now though, it’s not as clear-cut.
If you’ve owned a previous-generation C63 AMG, you might find the new car a tad too BMW M-like (initially at least), in that it actually goes really fast around the twisty stuff, is well-settled and no longer feels like a hooligan’s car. It hasn’t lost all its pseudo-criminal character, but it’s certainly more grown up in every respect.
Whether or not that’s a good thing is entirely individual-dependent, but as an outright sports car, the new C63 S is astonishingly brilliant.
We will soon have a road review of the car on local roads, for now though, read our Mercedes-AMG C63 S review from the car’s international launch.