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Car reviews - Mercedes-AMG - C63 - S

Our Opinion

We like
Brutal V8 engine, aural pleasure, sharp handling, unrestrictive traction control, digital instrument cluster, improved microfibre steering wheel
Room for improvement
Ride still overly firm despite revisions, interior layout a mish-mash of trims and components, some cabin rattles, considerable road noise

Mercedes-AMG’s C63 S gains some fine-tuning but retains its brutal character

Mercedes-AMG logo7 Feb 2019

Overview

 

SINCE launching in 2008, the Mercedes-AMG C63 S has emerged as one of the Affalterbach-based brand’s most important models, playing a large part in justifying the brand’s expansion across other model lines.

 

First launched in mid-2015, the current-generation C63 S has now been mildly updated with revisions to suspension, a new nine-speed wet-clutch automatic transmission and some light equipment changes.

 

At its heart remains the brutal 375kW/700Nm 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, which outmuscles its two main rivals – the BMW M3/M4 Competition and Audi RS4/RS5.

 

Over a day of driving we found out that while the new C63 S has gained some extra road manners, it still remains the snarling and angry beast that has captured hearts for over a decade.

 

Driving impressions

 

The update to the C63 S applies to all four body styles – sedan, wagon, coupe and cabriolet – however, in our time with the car, we only got a taste of the four-door sedan, which Mercedes has tipped to be the second-most popular body style behind the coupe.

 

As mentioned, the headline act of the C63 S is its powerplant, which is the only offering in the premium med-size-car segment to be fitted with a V8.

 

Outputting 375kW from 5500-6250rpm and 700Nm from 2500-5000rpm, the C63 S shares the title of most powerful vehicle in the segment with the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio while offering an unmatched level of torque.

 

Meanwhile, the M3/M4 Competition and RS4/RS5 manage 331kW/550Nm and 331kW/600Nm respectively from their twin-turbo six-cylinder engines. Round one to AMG.

 

Driving the C63 S on the open road, it is clear that the ubiquitous 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is not just potent on paper.

 

Engine performance is prodigious, with ample power available just about anywhere in the rev range. The AMG’s extra torque over its competitors is noticeable, particularly when overtaking or going uphill.

 

No matter the situation, the AMG is able to pick up pace with ease, and while engine note is subjective, we think the C63’s bent-eight might be the best-sounding engine in the segment.

 

While its six-cylinder counterparts have a higher-pitched whine, the AMG V8 lets out a deep, booming note that snarls and crackles on gearshifts, and makes sure people know you are coming from a long way out.

 

One of the major changes in the C63 update is the introduction of a new nine-speed MCT wet-clutch automatic transmission, which replaces the old seven-speed DCT unit.

 

The new nine-speed box shifts well with smooth changes at low speeds and rapid changes when at full throttle. It is also capable of double-declutching and rapidly downshifting when sticking the boot in.

 

One small gripe with the new nine-speed unit is its tendency to hold gears for a long time after a burst of acceleration, particularly in Sport mode, and failing to shift upwards even when throttle input returns to a gentle, cruising nature.

 

Also, despite having nine cogs, we found the gears to be quite long, with a run from low rpm to redline taking a surprisingly long time. With nine gears at its disposal, we would probably prefer the transmissions ratios to be a bit closer.

 

The AMG employs a classic front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, and, as a result, handling is engaging and sporty.

 

Steering is well-weighted and precise with a tight turning circle, and throwing the car into bends leaves no hint of understeer, with the front wheels offering plentiful grip and poise, especially when braking into corners.

 

It also felt planted when coming out of bends, however, the AMG’s huge range of adjustable ESP and traction control modes can quickly change that.

 

The new C63 S allows for nine different programmable levels of rear-axle slip, giving confident and tail-happy drivers a particularly emotive driving experience in the age of ever-more-restrictive traction control systems.

 

With its loose rear end and beastly V8, the C63 S is the wild child of the mid-size performance segment, with a looser, more primal driving character than either the Audi or BMW.

 

Another of the more significant changes is the overhauled AMG Ride Control suspension, which introduces new componentry to the four-link front and multi-link rear set-up for greater cornering stability and enhanced comfort day-to-day.

 

While we felt the new suspension offers great cornering and handling characteristics, the C63 S is not particularly well suited to long journeys, with its ride comfort still far closer to firm than supple.

 

As a result of the firm suspension, we found C63 elicited a significant amount of road noise, particularly from the tyres and especially on road surfaces that are less than perfect – a common problem in Australia.

 

For driving characteristics, we would say the AMG is more exciting and unrestrained than the Audi RS, however, as a day-to-day proposition is struggles to match the Four Rings brand.

 

Inside, the AMG scores a new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that offers good customisation and ergonomics, able to change between multiple layouts and offering different information readouts for drivers.

 

Combined with the new, comfortable microfibre steering wheel with touch buttons, the new features give the AMG interior a lift, in a cabin that is otherwise a bit of a mish-mash of different trims and materials.

 

The 10.25-inch multimedia display looks like it has been glued onto the dash, and annoyingly does not offer touchscreen functionality.

 

Multiple different trims and lines feature on the dashboard and centre console. Mercedes would be better off paring back the complexity of its interior and go for something more minimalist, a style currently in vogue.

 

Also, in our test car, we encountered some small rattles over the course of the drive – one above the driver’s side window next to the grab handle and one in the steering wheel rake.

 

The C63 S is a brute of a car, in the best way. Its V8 engine and slippery but focused rear-drive handling offer raw driving thrills that are becoming harder to come by in this day and age.

 

It perfectly embodies the AMG spirit with huge power figures, a raucous engine note and a driveline that makes short work of sets of rear tyres.

 

Compared to its rivals, it is like a sledgehammer instead of a surgical knife. While it may not be as refined or as comfortable as an Audi Sport model, it can offer driving thrills that are just about unmatched in its segment.


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