AMG’s most popular model has been updated with new tech, a nine-speed auto and improved suspension tuning.
Mercedes' most popular AMG model has had a midlife makeover and a modest price rise of $1000 to $160,900 plus on-road costs.
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG C63S gets no extra power from its twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 but a new nine-speed auto (replacing the previous seven-speed) improves its response – although overall 0-100km/h performance is rated the same at 4.1 seconds.
For the record, the best we could get on our VBox timing equipment was 4.4 seconds in comfort mode and 4.5 seconds in sports plus mode with “race start”. Getting all that power to the ground via the rear wheels is approaching the limits of physics, which is no doubt why the bigger and more expensive E63S AMG is all-wheel-drive.
The new C63 is still quick in anyone’s language, except perhaps among Audi RS3 owners whose cars can hit the speed limit in 4.0-seconds neat all day long thanks to all-wheel-drive.
But the C63 is about more than straight-line speed. It’s an old-school V8 rear-drive sedan that’s gone to finishing school. The pre-facelifted model was a weapon but had back-breaking suspension, even in so-called comfort mode.
For the facelift, Mercedes engineers have put a spanner on the suspension and it has paid dividends. I was driving a car on the standard 19-inch rims wrapped in performance Michelin rubber. Even in the most brutal mode it’s surprisingly comfortable on bumpy back roads. In comfort mode it’s even more serene, if that’s the word for such a beast.
The nine-speed auto is not a torque converter auto and not a twin-clutch auto, it’s a multi-clutch design as per the previous seven-speed. This layout gives sharper, faster shifts, in case you want to exploit the car’s potential on a race track.
In Mercedes language the gearbox “combines the comfort of shifting automatically with the fast shifting times of a manual transmission”. I would argue it shifts between gears faster than a manual.
Around town, driven normally, the transmission is a smooth operator. And yet it responds instantly when you floor the throttle to overtake or, ahem, get to the speed limit ahead of the traffic.
The sound is intoxicating. Even though it’s an aluminium block, the white coats at AMG have done an awesome job of making this sound like a muscle car. The exhaust is a combination of crisp crackling sounds and a deep rumble. And if you open the taps it’s a screamer.
The C63 is worth the price of entry for the sound alone. God help us if and when V8s are legislated out of existence. It’s also presumably why Mercedes sells more C63s than Audi sells RS3s even though the Audi is half the price. Performance cars are as much about aural delight as they are about the numbers on the spec sheet. (Although to be fair we should acknowledge the RS3 five-cylinder is epic on full noise, so please don’t write to complain.)
The C63 also has a button to keep things quiet and incognito. The same button pressed a number of times will also enable you to annoy the neighbours.
Either way, people will hear you coming or going which, if we’re honest with ourselves, is part of the reason some people buy these cars. They’re fond of grand entrances and grand departures. They’re as brash as the car they’re driving.
And it’ll be easy to pick the new model, as it now comes with the vertical bar grille inspired by the GT AMG range.
Look closely and you may notice the headlights are now a multi-beam LED design (84 LEDs per headlight, in case you need this for a trivia night) and the tail-lights have the new design that came with the rest of the C Class range.
There’s a new digital widescreen dash display and a wider central infotainment screen, although that’s not a touchscreen.
The steering wheel is completely new, also inspired by the GT AMG siblings, and uses ‘tile’ type buttons for some of the controls. I prefer the old school dials and tabs but I’m sure buyers will eventually perfect their technique.
The traction control previously had three settings (on, sport or off) but now has nine settings in case you ever want to test your skills rather than rely on electronic intervention to make you look good.
Extra detail that genuine potential buyers will care about: the updated C63 gets speed sign recognition, lane-change assistance, radar cruise control with traffic jam assistance, and rear cross-traffic alert.
If you’re indecisive you could be trapped inside for hours: there are 64 “mood lighting” colours from which to choose. There’s also wireless phone charging and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The updated Mercedes C63S AMG has finally brought some velvet touches to its hammerhead performance.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling