2016 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Review

Rating: 9.0
$87,230 $103,730 Dealer
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The finest AMG C63 generation has landed in Oz in both Sedan and Estate forms. We let them rip along Victoria's Great Ocean Road...
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Mercedes-Benz Australia is bullish about the capabilities of the just-released, Aussie-spec Mercedes-AMG C63 S. At CarAdvice’s first local experience of the sedan version, around the hallowed hot-mix that is Mount Panorama, the only point of performance reference provided by Mercedes-Benz Oz was a lofty measure of greatness, the mighty GT S super sportscar, arguably the most potent mainline production AMG yet devised. And yet Alborz scored the four-door – common only in hand-built 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 power – an impressive nine out of ten.

Prior to that, Our Tony had sampled the Euro-spec C63 sedan range in Euro form at its international launch, bestowing it an unprecedented nine point eight score.

The official Australian launch, though, is our first local, on-road test of the new C63 S sedan, and our maiden outing with the concurrently released Estate version anywhere. And so I find myself on behind the wheel of the family-friendly five-door on a chilly afternoon in Victoria, a flat turquoise sea through the passenger-side window, the Welcome To The Great Ocean Road sign looming ahead, staring at the impossibly squat, rounded derriere of a GT S - and there’s another one filling my wing mirrors.

Despite the hype, the importer’s confidence, my colleagues’ gushing praise and academia stating that I have equal 375kW power and an extra 50Nm - 700Nm total - underfoot, I predict it’ll take three corners for the two-door thoroughbreds to dispatch the steed they’ve sandwiched with haste and disappear into the distance, leaving me to flounder until we all reach our Apollo Bay destination, 80 kilometres further down the coast.

But that’s not how events would pan out - not at all.

Until this point, I began to wonder who would possibly need 375kW and 700Nm in a mid-sized wagon. Well, okay, the Formula One fraternity perhaps: the C63 S Estate is its rapid-response Medic Car of choice to compliment the GT S it uses as a Pace Car. For the rest of us, an AMG-hardened five-door that, at $157,010, wants for a $93,610 premium over an equally practical base C 200 Estate, is pure indulgence. That said, as a high-performance wagon sympathiser – and I know a few – the lure of a proper family car with near-supercar abilities is a mighty enticing one.

It’s a minor tweak to the lease payment to stretch the extra $2500 over the C63 S sedan. There’s a marginal penalty in the semantics: at 4.1 seconds 0-100km/h, its 0.1sec slower than the four-door. The wagon is also down 10km/h in top speed as it can only achieve, ahem, 280km/h. It’s 8.7L/100km versus 8.6L for the sedan for claimed average consumption.

At 1800kg, the five-door trades an added 70kg of kerb weight for the convenience of a full 490 litres of luggage space with the rear seats up, but it otherwise offers the lengthy 'full monty' C63 S specification list, including the lavish $7900 Edition 1 accoutrements (see full specs here). But such is the lag-free effortlessness of the biturbo V8 – a full 700Nm from just 1750rpm – and its perfect marriage to the wonderful ‘MCT’ seven-speed conventional automatic that, tested back to back and by the seat of the pants, sedan and wagon feel ostensibly identical to drive.

In Comfort drive mode, it’s comfortable, benign and, bar some roar from its 245mm front and 265mm rear Michelin Pilot Super Sports on coarse chip surfaces, very quiet. No, that signature AMG bent-eight ‘gargling’ exhaust note isn’t as prominent at a cruise as the old six-point-three. Nor does it have that straining-against-the-leash feel during around town driving. The new car is a more tempered and, perhaps, well-rounded urban driving character. For negotiating the Woolie’s carpark, or drawing undue attention to itself, it’s an improvement.

It has a pleasant everyday soft edge and sheen of liveability its only other series production twin-turbo-V8 wagon rival, Audi’s larger RS6 Avant, could only hope for. For its sporting aspirations and considerable weight in the face of harnessing around 500 old-school horsepower through the rear wheels, the suspension’s Comfort damping is superb: slightly firm and nicely compliant while maintaining crisp body control and excellent isolation over the worst sealed-road surfaces.

The cabin, too, is a class act: sumptuous Nappa leather on the seats and touch points, double-stitch Artico (faux leather) on the dash and door trim tops, slick frosted silver detailing and, in our example, nice satin finish wood trim inlays on the doors, dash and console. The heated 'Performance' seats, which allow pneumatic adjustment of base and back bolsters for oh-so-tailored torso hugging, blend comfort and focus nicely. If there’s a markdown it’s that, once again, Merc’s Comand infotainment system doesn't quite match the usability of iDrive used by rival BMW.

Nice touches include a full-length glass roof, a head-up system that toggles between standard and AMG displays, and there's a dispenser, called Air Balance, in the glovebox that dispenses 'mood' scents (a choice of five available). The quality and opulence throughout suitably matches the pricetag.

The C63 S Estate is polite enough to prompt mild despair as I hear a sudden roar from the GT S ahead as it makes a hasty march towards Lorne, so I flick the console switch to Sport, sink the right Blundstone and – wham – the wagon taps a sense of urgency big enough to pop eyeballs. You barely have to scratch this car’s surface to find its inner animal, complete with a sudden and intoxicating roar from its engine.

This ocean road is properly great for sheer scenery and the radii of its curves, often terrible for surface changes, hidden wet patches in the shadows of the steep coastline, random roadworks and its famous glut of lollygagging tourists. In most areas, it’s more a treacherous path with little room for error than a proper driving nirvana. Even at a decent – rather than antisocial – clip, it puts high demands on a car’s grip, dynamic poise and accuracy to maintain swift and stress-free passage between Armco and rock face.

The C63 S Estate not only has it all in droves, it seems a surprising match for its current GT S company.

It’s not just the palpable shove that grabs your attention, but that it shoves so fiercely from 2000rpm right through to nudging the rev-limiter near 7000rpm. It’s real sweet spot, though, is between 4000-5000rpm, where the engine’s responses to throttle input are razor sharp.

The MCT seven speed, too, is a precision unit in its sharp Sport and sharper Sport+ settings, with a rather handy “double-declutch” function on downshifts to prevent the tail from dancing about during corner entry. If there’s a finer and more sport-attuned conventional automatic – albeit one using a wet clutch pack instead of a torque convertor – out there I haven’t used it.

Turns out, though, that you can just leave it in third, such is the immense flexibility of the V8 and it’s ability to punch like a prize fighter anywhere from exiting 35km/h signposted hairpins to, well, far enough beyond any public speed limit – almost 150km/h, in theory, of course – that fourth becomes redundant. And it can pick off slow moving traffic even along this route's perilously short overtaking opportunities with the deft precision of a sniper.

Not only does the C63 S sit incredibly flat, the inherent compliance in the suspension helps it track straight and true across the Great Ocean Road’s alarmingly severe bumps and lumps, imperfections that have the tauter-suspended GT S sportscar – the example still large through the windshield ahead – bucking and weaving to stay on course.

What AMG has managed to improve upon markedly in the new C63 S is that, during a swift open road punt, it strikes a more confident balance between surefooted and unflustered transit and having sensory-tingling engagement with the driver. Many high-performance cars out there are fairly numb experiences until you’re beyond the speed limit, and the headlining C-Class isn’t one of them.

So it gushes with feedback in the curves: in its steering, through its chassis, via its wondrous soundtrack. It deserves the long list of superlatives that have described the nuance of dynamic talents in past CarAdvice reviews. And the standard cast-iron/alloy 'composite' brakes are so powerful and tireless you'd wonder why anyone other F1's medical response team would fork out the extra $9900 for the front (six-piston, 402mm) carbon-ceramic brake update.

But what’s perhaps more crucial – and impressive – about the new C63 breed is that it’s more Jekyll and more Hyde than ever before.

In the early part of the last generation of C63 – before the coupes arrived – they were taily beasts, all fire and brimstone and not a lot of poise. AMG eventually honed a fitter, faster and more precise device as the lifecycle went on, but this new generation moves the game along further in every department. It’s at once easier to use and a more satisfying driver’s car, while being quicker than you’d rightly expect from a luxurious premium sedan…let alone a wagon.

And it's family hauler that, I’ll point out, never let the GT S up ahead out of its sight through 80 kilometres of twists, right through to the convoy rolling into its Apollo Bay pitstop.

Despite a thorough workout en route, the C63 S Estate returned around 13L/100. It’s not a figure you’d go boasting to Friends Of The Earth, but the figure is markedly more frugal – call it around five litres per hundred – than giving the old 6.2-litre (it was never a full 6.3) a decent kick in the slats. With the adaptive cruise pinned to 103km/h indicated on the World’s Most Sleep-Inducing Road - aka the Geelong Freeway - prior to our Great Ocean Punt, it returned an impressive mid-eight figure, close to its maker’s combined consumption claim.

When a car is so impressive, and improved, in every department, the logical choice is to start looking for areas where you want to improve it. And the C63 S is as close to being fault free as any car I’ve driven this year. That’s as much justification as any to score it a nine from ten.

A return tour between Torquay and Apollo Bay in the heroic GT S confirmed the predictable. The more-lightweight and more sports-focused headlining act is simply bigger dynamite. It’s also more punishing in ride compliance, less forgiving along the Great Ocean Road’s hairier sections and harder to live with. As a pure super sportscar should be.

But hand on heart, if I could afford to buy a GT S over a C63 S Estate, I’d still take the latter (with the $990 optional 'cross-spoke' black rims, please). It really is the inspired ‘alternative’ model variant of the AMG fleet – the wagon version is projected to represent just 10 per cent of Mercedes-Benz Australia’s 400-unit allocation of C63 Ss over the first 12 months of sale. That said, it’s the five-door that’s arguably the finest do-it-all performance luxury car that any money can buy on the market right now.

At its pricepoint, you could have both wagon and sedan version of the C63 S for the price of one GT S. But given that one ‘normal’ AMG delivers so much so comprehensively, you really needn’t bother.