The Mercedes-AMG C63 S Cabriolet is a throwback to another era, with twin-turbo V8 power underpinning the muscle car-like drop-top. But has the loss of a roof compromised the convertible boulevard cruiser?
The 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Cabriolet doesn’t make a lot of sense, not in this day and age. When car makers are striving ever harder to build powertrains with smaller engines, dropping cylinders, adding turbos and slimming down, the idea of a V8-engined muscle car seems like a throwback to another era when the art of cramming as much engine as possible under the bonnet was just what you did.
And for that, we thank the good burghers of Affalterbach who, despite the focus on downsizing – heck, even Mercedes-AMG itself is fettling ever-smaller power units into an increasing array of cars, including the sister to the C63 S, the C43 – have stuck with the V8 concept. And then refined it.
And refined it is, despite being a twin-turbo V8-powered, convertible, luxury, muscle car. Usually, combining those elements comes with some compromise. And that’s true with the C63 S Cabrio too. Losing the roof from its sibling coupe has come with a weight penalty, the soft top 190kg heavier than its roofed stablemate. That translates to a claimed 0-100km/h time of 4.1 seconds, just 0.2sec slower than the Coupe’s claimed sprint time of 3.9 seconds. That’s less than a blink of an eye, literally, which according to science, takes around 0.33sec. It’d take a finely-honed human brain to register the difference.
More noticeable is the price tag. Where the Coupe starts at $162,115 (plus on-roads), the Cabrio will set you back $179,000 (plus on-roads). Our test car came with precisely zero options which is not to say, it was under-equipped.
The list of standard features is long, too long to list in its entirety, but key equipment includes nine airbags, 360-degree camera, blind-spot assist, hill-start assist, brake assist, collision prevention assist, lane keeping assist, Mercedes' COMAND infotainment system with 21.3cm colour touchscreen including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Burmester 13-speaker speaker premium sound system, head-up display, IWC analogue clock, digital TV tuner and AMG performance exhaust system.
Trent Nikolic previously described the C63 S coupe as being all about theatre. And he’s not wrong. That glorious engine note is as theatrical as any symphony delivered by a chorus of angels, a choir of snarling, rumbling, barking, growling and roaring angels. And that note is only amplified when the roof is missing from above your head. The snarl doesn’t so much enter the cabin, as barge its way in, filling every bit of available space with its raucous rumble. It is, truly, an aural delight, worth the price of admission alone. And that’s at idle.
Start driving, and the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 sings to you, coaxing you to push ever harder to extract ever more from its 375kW and 700Nm. Peak power comes on at licence-burning 5500rpm but torque delivery is at a much, much more user friendly 1750-4500rpm. That allows you to plant your right foot and enjoy those glorious eight cylinders without breaking your demerit points bank.
The C63 S’s V8 heart mated to a conventional seven-speed transmission makes for an engaging drive. Left in auto mode, gear changes are imperceptible, allowing for a smooth as silk cruising experience. The car is almost docile around town, an effortless cruiser that will turn heads, if only because of its throbbing rumble that hints at near unspeakable power on tap.
Open that tap, and the C63 S’s character changes. Acceleration is phenomenal, belying its near two-tonne heft (it weighs in at 1925kgs). It’s a lot of car but once out on the open road, it behaves like a much lighter sports car, and not the muscle car it essentially is, changing direction and transferring its weight beautifully. The C63 S simply maintains its poise, with its precise steering inspiring ever more confidence. No doubt, the Cabrio has its limits, but they are, I’d venture to guess, beyond most of us mere mortals.
Driving dynamics can be altered easily depending on your mood. Comfort is perfectly suitable for most conditions, offering a surprisingly supple ride that, while erring on the side of firmness, nevertheless soaks up bumps and road imperfections with ease. But dial up the setting to Sport or Sport+ and the nature of the beast changes.
CarAdvice comparisons editor Curt Dupriez termed Sport+ mode ‘antisocial’ and he is spot on. The C63 S is louder, more aggressive and altogether more muscular, like it’s been pumped full of steroids. Sure, the ride is firmer, uncomfortably so at times, but that matters little when that engine note suddenly screams of unthinkable performance. Sport+ turns this docile boulevard cruiser, albeit one with a menacing snarl, into a fully-fledged muscle car.
All that snarl and bite should come at an expensive impost at the bowser, but, we were pleasantly surprised. Having covered 220km of a combined country, urban and freeway loop, we were, in fact astonished at how miserly the C63 S sipped 98 octane. Mercedes-AMG claims an ADR fuel figure of 9.4L/100km on the combined cycle. And in a rarity for a CarAdvice tester, we returned a figure of lower than the ADR claim, at 9.2L/100km!
And lest anyone question how spirited our driving was, be assured when circumstances allowed, we unleashed the full extent of the AMG Cabrio. What our low fuel figure really highlights, is the duality that lives under that big, bulging bonnet. At city speeds, the C63 S is an accomplished, polished even, cruiser, happily snarling along at 60km/h. On the freeway, the AMG is hardly pushed at it sits comfortably at 1700rpm at 110km/h without breaking a sweat.
It's only once the true nature of the beast is unleashed that the fuel consumption figure rises to a level that would bankrupt some small countries. But when tempered with its spendthrift, every day driving nature, it's a manageable amount that won't see you rushing to your bank looking for an overdraft.
I would like to say such is the dynamic and engaging nature of this beast, that it’s easy to forget you’re driving a convertible. But that’s simply not the case. While noise and wind roar into the cabin is mitigated by the clever AIRCAP wind deflectors located along the top of the windscreen and behind the rear passenger seats, it is still louder and more invasive than other convertibles I have driven. It’s by no means a deal-breaker, but the noise does hamper conversation with your passenger. You do find yourself talking louder than you usually would. And as for making a hands-free phone call? Forget it.
What the drop-top does do well is cocoon you from the elements. Its AIRSCARF neck-level heating, along with heated seats for front seat occupants doing their best to keep the cold at bay, leave you to enjoy the open-top experience even on blustery winter days. That said, with the mercury nudging 40 degrees during our time with the car, I wasn’t about to try either feature. Still, it’s nice to know they’re there.
The roof itself opens and shuts automatically while on the move and up to a very user friendly 50km/h. And Mercedes claims it is made of sound-absorbing materials that offer acoustic insulation from the outside world. To that end, with the soft top firmly in place, road and wind noise are evident, but at a tolerable level. Same too for the 19-inch (at front) and 20-inch (at rear) bespoke AMG wheels shod with low-profile rubber. There is road noise, especially over coarser surfaces, but again, it’s at an acceptable level for this type of car. But these are minor quibbles.
Not so minor, unfortunately, is the notable presence of scuttle shake. This occurs when the lower chassis rigidity is compromised by the lack of a roof, manifesting itself with noticeable, in this instance, vibrations of the windscreen. It's not a huge amount, but it is there and when forking out around $180,000-plus for a performance convertible, a bit of a let down.
It's a shame because in every other respect, this is a well-engineered car with performance and prestige oozing from its very core. No doubt, this won't be enough to deter buyers from their unshakeable desire to own a performance cabrio. After all, most buyers of convertibles expect some compromise for having the wind rushing through their hair as they enjoy the visceral pleasures of a drop-top.
We've previously suggested the C300 Cabrio is the pick of the C-Class convertible range and having now spent some time behind the wheel of the its meaner, bolder, louder brother, we reckon that's on the money. That said, if you want muscle car-like performance from a luxurious boulevard cruiser and the wind in your hair, then this could be the car for you.