Torque. It’s the second twin of the power equation, one often overlooked in favour of the first-born, horsepower. So why do I like torque so much?
Ask any top rally driver what he or she wants more of and the answer will usually be “torque”. If a driver gets this wish, then they will ask for more grip, and then more torque and the cycle continues. Torque is where it’s at!
So you might be wondering, why?
Torque fires you from corner to corner like a slingshot, it saves you when you’re heading towards a tree with a rear wheel in a ditch in sixth gear and it means you can be in the wrong gear and it doesn't matter. This is why we love torque so much.
But as I drive down the mind-numbingly boring motorway from Brisbane to the Gold Coast in the latest Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 S, playing with the Distronic Plus advanced cruise control system and trying to decide which lane will actually be the fastest today, I’m wondering why you need a car like this in such a nanny state.
And then, I suddenly find myself wanting to take an early exit and go the long way home. But why do I want to leave the relative comfort of the motorway? I can’t go fast anywhere but a race track or a closed road these days, so... why?
Because, torque! I want to feel that surge, that push in your back, that fearsome fight for traction with the Michelin Sport tyres… even if it is only to 60km/h.
But what about horsepower, you say? Well, in 99 per cent of daily driving, you simply can’t use all the horsepower on tap. But you can use torque. And you can have fun with torque without breaking the law. And when there’s as much torque on tap as that possessed by the C63 S (700Nm between 1750-4500rpm), there’s a lot of legal fun to be had.
Many of today’s supercars can’t match the torque of the C63 S, and, as an added bonus, you can comfortably fit four adults and their luggage in the German tourer. Supercar performance with the added luxury of space.
But it’s when you examine the car’s handling that we start to see some compromise from AMG’s engineering department. And it's the type of compromise most race and rally teams face every weekend - stability versus traction!
These factors can change due to a number of variables: weather, track layout, grip, et cetera. Changing the settings in the C63 S actually does work, and the more I drove the car the more I understood what worked in different conditions. Sports Plus wasn't always the best for me and I actually found I could gain more rear grip in Comfort mode. But it came at a compromise, the extra grip in turn giving away some precision.
Overall, I think Mercedes-AMG has found a good balance and compromise with the suspension in the C63 S. It’s never going to be a go-kart in terms of handling, but nor does it need to be. Simply, it’s a suspension set-up you can live with every day.
On the subject of grip, or rather, lack of – tyres! Inevitably these and especially the rears on the AMG will have a short life span.
I’m sure wider rear rubber has been discussed many times, both inside AMG and externally. For sure, the extra rear grip would help in a drag race, but it likely will take away from the oversteering balance the C63 has and make it more difficult to get the car turning early in a corner.
Personally, I don’t mind. This is what makes driving the Merc fun and a challenge, that feeling that you're on the limit of traction all the time.
If you want to make your tyres last, use your brain! If you don't want to fight oversteer, use your brain! But if you want to have some fun, even if you are just popping down the road to grab a litre of milk, then forget about the tyres and have fun with the abundant torque available underneath your right foot.
Some might say the steering is a bit slow, a little unresponsive, but personally I think it’s well-matched with the dynamics of the car. If you have over-reactive steering in a car that already wants to oversteer, then you are going to induce oversteer early and then not have the confidence to get on the throttle. But even though the C63 wants to oversteer, you never feel uneasy about it. In fact, it makes you feel like you are in complete control. It’s a confidence that inspires fun. Yep, there’s that word again.
Overall, the AMG C63 S ticks many boxes. It’s a car you can enjoy every time you get behind the wheel. It's a raw driving experience, for sure, helped in large part by that engine noise. But the subtle traction and stability control help to keep your enthusiasm in check.
The Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 S is a fun car to drive. And for me, that's number one on my list!
Chris Atkinson is a former Subaru World Rally Championship driver currently racing for Subaru in Global RallyCross.