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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - C-Class - C63 AMG sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Prodigious performance, handling, seat comfort, engine note
Room for improvement
Ride quality, steering precision, steering rack rattle

20 Mar 2008

THE C63 AMG starts life as a rather ordinary, nondescript entry-level executive sedan - but look just a little harder and you will see the signs that not all is as it seems.

Under the bulging bonnet lies AMG’s thumping 6.2-litre V8 engine, to go with its sports suspension, somewhat subtle bodykit, sports seats and a whole lot more.

Slide into the driver’s seat - mind the heavy bolstering on the way in - and you can see the traces of the $80K-plus spend over the entry-level C-class to own this car, but you don’t feel as though you can entirely forget its origins.

Trim joins and material quality just are not as polished as you might expect for the money, and the black-over-grey colour scheme doesn’t seem particularly inspiring.

The front buckets offer loads of support and are not designed to only accommodate slim-hipped jockeys - unlike many other cars with sporting intent. While the C63’s buckets will pin down even those who have put on a few pounds, they do so with a great degree of comfort.

There could be more storage in the C63, with not enough bins and pockets that most people need these days to carry their stuff. At least the controls are easy to use and don’t need a Harvard degree to work out, except that the foot-operated handbrake is beginning to feel very old-school.

Press the start button and the V8 cracks into life like a starter’s gun. This is no quiet, slip-away-in-the-early-hours kind of car. The 6.2-litre V8 is a perky sort of engine, one that jumps out of a slumber with a loud ‘good morning’ right from the very first fat spark hitting compressed high-octane fuel.

Things only get livelier from there. This car is like the Energiser bunny, only one that has had an unexpectedly large charge of current. Select a gear and make sure you’re strapped in for the carnival ride about to take place.

The C63’s drilled aluminium throttle pedal feels as if is set for launch mode until you become accustomed to it. It first feels as though you nee to be careful when you sneeze, in case you jolt the throttle and find yourself in the next suburb.

Even though low-rpm torque is turbine-like and the sound from the exhausts a V8-lover’s delight, the best bit is actually when the engine extends into high revs, with the accompanying, addictive V8 howl sounding like only a highly-strung V8 can.

There is no lack of motivation anywhere with this engine, with the 6.2-litre providing ample low-rpm torque and high-rev power. The only complaint - such as it is - is that when it is cold, the V8 is a bit lumpy and is hard to modulate throttle input.

Fuel and economy are almost mutually exclusive terms in the C63, with spirited driving on test yielding a 17.0L/100km average. Perhaps 13L/100km is achievable if you drove conservatively on the open road, but why on earth would you with a car like this?

The seven-speed automatic transmission offers you the choice of either leaving the auto to do its business or manually change gears by flicking the steering-mounted paddles or pushing the transmission level side to side.

The transmission has a nice rev-matching blip of the throttle for fast downshifts and while shifts are smooth the auto is not quite as decisive as the automated double-clutch manual in BMW’s M3 when coming in hot and late-braking into a sharp corner.

The brakes, cross-drilled discs front and rear, do an excellent job of hauling up the C63 with no ugly fade making its presence known - even after several hard applications when exercising the V8 up and down a mountain pass.

The C63 does not quite have the superb balance of the BMW M3, but feels somehow more raw and entertaining - and has better steering feel than the otherwise more capable BMW, even though in the C63 it is accompanied by a surprising amount of rack rattle.

The C63 is incredibly fun to drive quickly, with good turn-in and great suspension control generally - although it quickly resorts to understeer if you don’t get the entry speed right.

It also requires a measured dose of power while exiting tight corners unless you want the awkward feeling of either the traction control fun police clamping down or (with traction control off) power-sapping wheelspin.

It also doesn’t grip as well generally as its closest rival in the M3, but that doesn’t seem to take away from the pliable, well-mannered way the C63 tackles all but the sharpest of corners.

If you are completely ham-fisted the C63 won’t play and you won’t enjoy it, but if you are trying to get it right the C63 will encourage you and provide plenty of enjoyment while doing so.

The only downside to the suspension’s precision generally is that ride quality is fidgety. While some may find it unacceptable, it is by no means bad - there is no banging and crashing around, but if your passengers like to drink brimming cups of coffee while you drive, the C63 is not the place to do it.

Although you would expect any $150,000 car to be good, the C63 AMG is more than that. Yes, its interior could feel more luxurious yes, it feels a little nose-heavy in sharp corners and the rack rattle is disconcerting.

But for anyone who loves cars, the way that the C63 AMG goes about its business of devouring the road before it is highly addictive. It is a car that, more than most, is built for pure, unadulterated fun.

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