Car reviews - Mercedes-AMG - C63 - S sedan
Menacing but understated exterior, sporty and high-quality interior, ferocious engine, stupendous dual-clutch transmission, high-speed body control
Room for improvement
Cheap steering-wheel display buttons, dated infotainment system, huge thirst, easily overwhelmed rear axle, so-so ride quality, hit-and-miss steering
Mercedes-AMG hasn’t changed too much, but the C63 S sedan is still a firecracker
6 Nov 2019
THERE was a time not that long ago when BMW’s M3 was universally regarded as the benchmark sports sedan. Oh, how times have changed.
Mercedes-Benz’s skunkworks, AMG, took this personally and developed an absolute beast of a rival for the M3, the W205 C63.
And being a bunch of lead-footed Australians, we were only given access to the most potent C63 of them all, the S.
The rest is history. The C63 S has reset the benchmark, which makes its first facelift a very, very interesting case study.
How much does Mercedes-AMG tweak an already winning formula? Not much apparently, but that’s very good news. Read on to find out why.
The C63 S is one hell of a sports sedan, and so it should be.
Just look at its recipe. Rear-wheel-drive? Check. Dual-clutch automatic transmission? Check. Twin-turbo V8 engine? Check. So, there’s no doubting that it has the makings of something really, really good.
Admittedly, AMG hasn’t done much to the C63 S, but you’ll pick the facelifted model from a crowd by its new Panamericana grille insert that is now shared with most of Affalterbach’s stable.
It therefore pays to look beyond the sheet metal, where you’ll find that the seven-speed transmission has been replaced by a new wet-clutch unit with two extra gears and it’s one of the best two-pedal set-ups we’ve tested in a long time.
Suitably, gear changes lightning quick… but they’re also smooth – a combination seldom seen. More importantly, though, the nine-speeder is very intuitive, creating the perfect marriage with the throttle.
Then there’s also its ability to kick down multiple gears in quick succession and accurate perception of the current driving style that enables it to settle down when the time is appropriate.
Purists will particularly enjoy the faith it puts in the driver when Manual mode is engaged. Unlike others, this setting truly means do-it-yourself, hanging on to the redline all day, waiting for an upshift or deceleration to occur. Brilliant.
Of course, the new automatic’s dancing partner is a familiar performer: a 4.0-litre engine with a point to prove. There’s no need to lament that this bent eight has been left untouched for the facelift, because it didn’t require any love to begin with.
Case in point: with 700Nm of torque on tap from 2000-4500rpm, the C63 S has so much shove, you can’t help but be pushed into the backrest of your seat. Resistance is futile.
Once you’re done being assaulted by its mid-range, 375kW of power nears at 6000rpm, which is the equivalent of receiving a left hook to the jaw time and time again.
There’s no doubting, then, that the C63 S can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in four seconds flat, as AMG claims, but traction is a constant threat to peak performance, with full throttle near impossible to achieve off the line without invoking serious wheel spin – even in optimal conditions.
Want further proof of much trouble the rear axle has dealing with these outrageous outputs? The wheels will even spin in fourth gear at speeds above 100km/h.
You can imagine, then, that the C63 S is an absolute beast to manage in the wet, even with its new Slippery drive mode engaged and working to curb its immense power.
But you’re unlikely to care that perfect starts are near impossible to achieve, as the bi-modal exhaust system connected to this bruising V8 is downright anti-social. Crackles, pops, burbles – you name it, it’s got it.
Downshifts are particularly fun thanks to the constant backfire that ensues. It goes without saying that this set-up will upset your neighbours, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
The trade-off to all of this fun, though, is fuel efficiency. We achieved a tear-inducing 19.3 litres per 100 kilometres over 275km of driving that admittedly didn’t feature much highway driving. Even so, it’s a long way away from AMG’s 10.4L/100km claim, but that’s no surprise.
AMG says performance has also been enhanced via an overhaul of the C63 S’ suspension, with new components introduced to improve cornering stability as well as occupant comfort on longer journeys.
Without driving the new and old set-ups back to back, it’s hard to say how much of a difference there really is.
As far as the ride is concerned, it’s certainly comfortable enough with the adaptive dampers set to their softest setting, although potholes are still met with a sharp crunch, while speed bumps aren’t so bad so long as they’re progressive.
The low-profile tyres (front: 245/35 R19; rear: 265/35 R19) that the C63 S rolls on certainly don’t help matters on uneven roads, with the ride quality deteriorating further when the adaptive dampers are at their firmest.
The trade-off, of course, is superb handling that catches the driver by surprise as the C63 S shrinks around them as corners are attacked with intent while little to no body roll is experienced no matter what suspension setting is selected.
That said, there’s no shaking its portly 1773kg tare mass, which is partly why the C63 S doesn’t feel as light on its tyres as the M3.
Don’t worry, though, there’s still plenty of theatrics, with the C63 S enjoying a bit of oversteer when provoked. And even its electronics don’t spoil the fun immediately, only springing into action when things are about to get pear-shaped.
Speaking of steering, feedback via the wheel is good but could be better and certainly doesn’t come close to the high standard set by the chassis.
The system is a touch on the lighter side, so much so that you’d expect a little more heft in a sports sedan. However, you soon forget about that because turn-in is so damn sharp that it feels very sportscar-like.
There’s no doubting that the C63 S sucks you in with its menacing but understated styling, but when you jump inside, the wannabe racecar driver is truly awoken.
Granted the front performance seats fitted to our test car are a $3700 option – adding to the C63 S’ $162,542 (plus on-road costs) starting price – they are nonetheless brilliant in regards to the high level of support they offer via their firm bolstering that can grow tiresome on long journeys.
In this example, black Nappa leather upholstery brilliantly combines with silver Dinamica microfibre inserts and contrast stitching, while the steering wheel also features a prominent 12 o’clock marker to keep the driver on track.
The steering wheel itself is a new flat-bottom design that notably features a pair of configurable display buttons that enables the driver to easily control key settings like exhaust and traction control. They’re both cool and useful, so it’s a shame they come across as flimsy, plastic add-ons.
The new digital instrument cluster is a much better upgrade, then, proving to be highly configurable, while its AMG-specific ‘super sport’ theme looks the business.
Given this technology upgrade, it’s a shame that the C63 S is powered by Mercedes’ old Comand infotainment system and not its new MBUX set-up that is arguably the best on the market today.
It seems like a bit of a missed opportunity to us considering its availability prior to this model’s release. It also means the awkward touchpad-rotary dial combination carries on.
Other than that, the C63 S is just like any other C-Class, meaning you get ample legroom behind our 184cm driving position and will have a hard time finding a hard plastic anywhere. Wolf in sheep’s clothing? You bet.
Warranty and servicing
As with all Mercedes-AMG models, the C63 comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with three years of roadside assistance.
Service intervals are every year or 20,000km, whichever comes first.
Let’s be honest, Mercedes-AMG didn’t really have to do much to the C63 S. It’s already a modern legend and now its resume is even stronger.
The biggest and best change is undoubtedly the nine-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which surprises and delights time and time again.
And considering it has one of the best engines in the world to work with, it’s a winning – and seriously addictive – combination.
But we can’t help but wonder what level of performance 4Matic+ all-wheel drive would introduce. At the very least, it would negate the ongoing traction issues.
That said, we suspect we won’t have to wait too much longer to find out…
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (from $145,900 plus on-road costs)
Alfa threw down the gauntlet to its German rivals in 2017 with the arrival of the Giulia Quadrifoglio, which features a Ferrari-derived 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 punching out 375kW/600Nm.
Audi RS5 Sportback (from $157,700 plus on-road costs)
Sporting a swoopier shape than the C63, the RS5 means business. What it lacks in cylinders and cubic centimetres, it makes up in quattro all-wheel drive, making it deceptively rapid in a straight line. Sleep on it at your own peril. Seriously.
Model release date: 1 February 2019
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