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The advent of advanced driver-assist technologies and ever-smarter traction and stability systems, networked with suspension, steering, differentials and more, means that ballistically high-powered sedans all share a perhaps surprising degree of capability.
As a result, it’s harder to define the difference between elite sport sedans, though the Mercedes-AMG C63 S gives itself its own comfortable niche thanks to power and performance from a twin-turbo V8, whereas competitors ‘get by’ with six-cylinder power.
As part of a 2019 model-year update, the C63 range adopts a new nine-speed ‘multi-clutch’ automatic in place of the previous seven-speed unit. Outside, there’s revised styling including a version of AMG’s Panamericana grille corporate face, while inside a new digital driver display steps in for a set of traditional instruments.
Otherwise, the formula is fairly familiar. Muscled-up though it may be, the C63’s prodigious mechanicals still reside within a midsize four-door sedan body.
Under the bonnet resides AMG’s familiar twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8, which has now powered everything from the giant S63 limo to the bonkers G63 SUV and the dedicated GT models, plus plenty of other go-fast Benzes in between.
In this instance outputs haven’t changed, the updated C63 S churns out the same thunderous 375kW at 6000rpm and 700Nm between 2000 and 4500rpm as it did before, though against the six-cylinder 338kW/600Nm BMW M3 CS or 331kW/600Nm Audi RS4 Avant the C63 still reigns supreme.
It does share the power podium with the 375kW Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, however, but again the V6 Alfa concedes 100Nm of grunt. All hail the AMG, it seems.
A V8 isn’t just good for impressive dyno figures, though, and it’s hard to disregard the appeal of the C63’s soundtrack.
Of course, the tonal signature is different now to the previous generation naturally aspirated C63, but the turbo eight still stamps its authority. That’s a subtle stamp with the bi-modal exhaust set to its well-behaved mode, or a much more assertive burble with the pipes opened up.
There are a few other new touches, too, like the configurable instrument cluster that can display vital info in a variety of formats, from traditional Benz two-dial gauges to a glowing barrel of a central tacho, supported by detailed telemetry.
The coolest new addition has to be the new steering wheel, though, complete with tiny screen-supported toggles to change drive modes on the fly. It’s slick tech nicked straight from the GT, which is cool, but lord almighty they feel creaky, cheap and flimsy.
The rest of the interior is a much closer match to the $160,900 (plus on-road costs) price sticker. Typically Mercedes-slick, packed full of showy LED ambient lighting, with smooth-grained leather and Alcantara on the seats, faux-leather covering the dash, and purposefully grippy front sports seats.
Like any other C-Class, the AMG version can do the family thing. There’s enough room in the rear to fit two passengers, or three at a pinch. A separate rear climate zone with face-level vents takes care of comfort and the boot can stuff in 435L worth of luggage.
If you wanted something more practical, there is, of course, the option of a C63 S wagon, or on the less practical side there are coupe and convertible versions too.
While it can moonlight as a reasonably sensible family sedan, that’s not so much the C63’s raison d'être. Performance is the bigger story here, albeit performance that can be daily driven to and from work just as easily.
A big part of the livability comes from revised suspension, which Mercedes-Benz has softened off markedly. It’s still firm overall, even in Comfort mode, but does a much better job of co-operating with scarred tarmac surfaces and suburban lumps and bumps without relinquishing vehicle controllability.
In fact, dial up the drive modes from Comfort through Sport or Sport +, or the even more mental Race setting, and the C63 goes from potent to almost weapons grade. Keener throttle, more decisive gear changes, heftier steering, firmed dampers, and more generous stability control all contributing to the experience.
AMG has also adopted a party trick that comes straight from the racetrack to your garage, with nine-stage adjustable traction control in the all-out Race mode. As the name suggests, it's intended for track work, not your commute to work. Curt explores the potential in more depth with his overseas first drive – check that out here.
A few points stand out. With so much torque being channelled to the rear axle, the differential needs to be equipped with a decent amount of ability. And in the C63's case, an electronically locking rear diff does a lightning fast job of allocating which rear tread (or treads as the case may be) is best served to handle the grunt.
It’s also still possible to steer by throttle if you’re so inclined, but with well weighted and reactive steering, correcting a sudden rush of blood isn’t beyond the C63’s undriven front wheels either. In fact, along with the revised suspension settings, AMG’s cheapest V8 model is now far less skittish than before, which comes as a welcome change in 99 per cent of driving scenarios.
The engine’s flexibility is also such that you can drive any way you’d like. Lean on the plentiful torque in slower-moving city traffic and let the transmission take it easy, or crank things up with plenty of wide-open throttle on a more fast-paced strip of tarmac and the upper end of the engine’s rev range is every bit as exciting to explore.
The new transmission works almost seamlessly, behaving itself at barely moving speeds, rolling off gears subtly on light throttle, or awakening into a fast-firing delight when instructed to do so, never once selecting an inappropriate gear under duress for any given situation.
Benz officially suggests a 10.4 litres per 100km fuel consumption figure. I’d suggest if you’re looking at one of these, fuel efficiency may not be your primary concern.
On the open road it’s possible to improve on that claim, but around town mid 15s are pretty common, or even higher if you find yourself hooked on that open-throttle soundtrack.
While the news is mostly good, there are still a few less-than-sparkly inclusions. Mercedes’s perseverance with a column-mounted gear selector is one of those. Sure, you can get used to it easily enough, but it really lacks the requisite look and feel of a premium sports sedan.
COMAND isn’t user-friendly or intuitive enough to easily work your way around, with fiddly submenus and small layouts that don’t make the best use of the available screen real estate.
Finally (and I guess subjectively), the chrome-toothed Panamericana grille sits uncomfortably on the face of the new C63. Instead of the purpose-designed ‘predator’ face of newer Benz models, the smiley C-Class tends to look a touch dopey.
Owners can at least get a snapshot of what’s coming up maintenance-wise, with Mercedes-Benz Australia offering pay-as-you-go servicing for three years or 60,000km (whichever comes first) priced at $4700, or pay upfront and the bill will be reduced to $3800.
Is the C63 S sedan the ideal way to have your cake and eat it too? Yes, now more so than ever before. Performance is unrelenting, when you ask it to be, but civility now takes a leap forward.
Instead of trying the patience of your friends and family, this updated version finally lets everyone enjoy the AMG experience more than ever before.
Listen to more audio of the 2019 Mercedes-AMG C63 S below