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Driven: Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate. Image by Richard Pardon.

Driven: Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate
How to do the perfect super-estate, by Mercedes-AMG.

 



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Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: power, noise, looks, noise, chassis, noise, interior, noise, boot space, noise, ride comfort, THAT NOISE!

Not so good: nothing, really...

Key Facts

Model tested: Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate
Price: from 61,000; 61,810 as tested
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, seven-speed AMG Speedshift MCT automatic
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 196g/km (Band J, 500 VED first 12 months, 270 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 33.6mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.2 seconds
Power: 476hp at 5,500- to 6,250rpm
Torque: 650Nm at 1,750- to 4,500rpm

Our view:

I'll lay my cards on the table and say that there is no more appealing car to me than a stupidly fast estate. I love them; always have, always will. Although starting a Mercedes review by mentioning its two most bitter rivals might not be the most sensible thing to do, we can probably credit Audi for starting this unusual trend with the Porsche-fettled RS2 Avant of the early 1990s, and in my opinion the formula reached its zenith with the E61 BMW M5 Touring.

It had its faults, the big BMW. Not least: an absolutely scandalous thirst for super unleaded that was only exacerbated by a thimble-esque fuel tank; oil usage in the order of a litre of expensive fully synthetic 10w-60 every 1,000 miles; the love-it-or-loathe-it SMG III single-clutch sequential manual gearbox; and a peak torque figure of 520Nm, which was accessed at a giddy 6,100rpm. The 5.0-litre V10 engine sounded like an utter dog on start-up, clattering like a bad 1997-era turbodiesel and I've heard horror stories about just how unreliable that S85 lump and its attendant gearbox/clutch assembly are.

Doesn't stop it being the car I'd buy in a heartbeat if I ever came into any significant money, though. That V10 might have been relatively peaky for torque and unattractively lumpen when cold, but once it was warmed through and singing round to its 7,750rpm redline, all else was completely forgotten. I've driven many supposedly much sportier vehicles in my time than that M5 Touring, but it remains my number one automotive desire, because it felt so ludicrously, spine-tinglingly special - like someone in the factory had accidentally dropped a 5 Series Estate body onto the prototype chassis and running gear of a yet-to-be-built BMW supercar. It was, and still is, an epic, epic machine.

Since it arrived, a few rivals have come close to usurping it in my dreams, but strangely not its natural alternatives, the Audi RS 6 Avant and the Mercedes E 63 AMG; rather, it is the two smaller cars from these German firms that hit the spot. The B7-era Audi RS 4 remains quattro GmbH's finest production yet - that glorious 420hp 4.2-litre V8, the delicate balance of its four-wheel drive underpinnings, the muscular looks of it. Faster the soon-to-be-replaced B8 version might have been, but the B7 was quantifiably the sweeter car to drive.

And then we come to the Mercedes C 63 AMG. The simple premise of it was enough to have me seriously considering switching my worship from M to this brute. AMG, in a fit of pique, dropped a normally aspirated, 6.2-litre V8 into a C-Class! Complete madness of the highest order, and all the more desirable as a result. And if you've ever driven one of the old 6.2 C 63s, you'll know that they generate the most tremendous symphony that feels like it should fail every noise regulation in the book. Of anything, it came the closest to surpassing the M5 Touring as a motoring demigod.

So now I'm driving the new C 63. I'll admit I was sad to see the 6.2-litre M156 engine could not make it past emissions laws, meaning the newly-named Mercedes-AMG had to resort to the 4.0-litre 'hot inside-V' biturbo V8 as seen in the AMG GT supercar. I'll also admit I thought bolting a couple of turbos onto the unit would lead to the subjugation of the V8's intake roar, in favour of noisy exhausts and (whisper it) a possibly synthetically augmented soundtrack to compensate. I therefore thought that the new C 63 could not be as good as the old one, and therefore the M5's position was safe.

How wrong I was. You'll notice that there's no 'S' in this C 63's badging, so I had to 'make do' with the model that has 'only' 476hp and 650Nm, as opposed to 510hp and 700Nm (an extra 6,750 to shave a tenth off the 0-62mph time). The test car also sat on 18-inch alloys, which are not huge in this day and age. And yet I'm still convinced this is the greatest, most astonishing performance estate car yet to be bolted together anywhere in the world.

The noise is key to it. If you're lucky enough to sample the gamut of Mercedes-AMG's five-strong current engine line-up, you'll know that they're all possessed of fine voices. But it's clear to see (er, hear, surely?) that the 4.0-litre tops the lot of 'em. My word, it sounds phenomenal. It's so multi-layered and rich, gargling away at idle like a proper American muscle car from the 1960s, rumbling with menace on light throttle openings and minimal revs, bellowing through its mid-range on the way to a clean, soaring eight-pot tenor as it closes in on the redline. It's marvellous. It's sensational. It's everything you could want to hear from a car. You could charge friends and neighbours good money just to come and listen to it sitting on a driveway, muttering to itself in an angry fashion.

There's more mischief every time you start it, as the V8 gives a chunky flare of revs to up the anticipation levels. Of course, these great thumping barks of exhaust on start-up aren't always appropriate, or wanted. So you're trying to creep off the drive at 5.30am and not wake the neighbours - WHUMPH! You're sitting in a Halfords car park (having collected a bike for your wife's birthday) and a bloke nearby is innocently loading stuff into his Golf GTD - WHUMPH! You've gone to pick your kid up from his day nursery, and in a car park packed with cautious parents cradling their precious offspring, suddenly... WHUMPH! The C 63 will always make you look like a hooligan when all you're doing is simply igniting its V8, and for some that might be tiresome, but guess what? Not for me. I absolutely loved it (and so did the chap in the GTD, judging by his massive grin as he turned around to look at what had made such a magnificent racket); it is part of what makes the C 63 so special, as without ever becoming overly intrusive, the exhausts never let you forget you're driving the proper AMG monster.

Yet what makes the Mercedes even more exceptional is the fact it can function as a normal, day-to-day estate with little difficulty. The standard-fit automatic tailgate gives access to a 490-litre boot that's more practical than the physical volume figure might have you believe; you could easily get a couple of Labradors in there (I'd know; I have two myself) so you could act out the greatest motoring clich of all in squashing them against the rear windscreen when accelerating fast. There's a load of room in the back seats and the ride, while obviously firmer than your normal C-Class by some distance, is actually perfectly bearable and even pleasant in Comfort mode - this is selectable because the C 63 gets AMG Ride Control sports suspension with adaptive dampers as standard. Sure, I only managed to get 25mpg out of it at best, averaging a more miserly 20.1mpg from 276 miles, but two points in mitigation here: one, I was having, er, 'fun' in it, so it was hardly pootling around at sub-3,000rpm all the time; and two, the C 63 never once saw a dual carriageway or motorway during a week behind the wheel, which would have boosted its economy figures to somewhere closer to the official 33.6mpg figure. Put it this way, I got nearly 300 miles out of its 66-litre tank without trying too hard to conserve petrol, so it has a decent cruising range that could approach or possibly surpass 400 miles. For this sort of performance, that's exceptionally good.

And yes, it drives superbly. The steering is near faultless, weighted to perfection and without an ounce of slop in its response; there's plenty of feedback to feast on too. The body control in Sport or Sport+ modes would be monstrously effective for a sports car, never mind a 1,785kg estate (that makes it 170kg lighter than a V10 M5 Touring, by the way). The AMG Speedshift gearbox always seems to know exactly what gear to be in and it responds promptly to paddle-shift instruction, the changes near imperceptible at all times. With rear-wheel drive and 650Nm, the chassis commands respect, but, unlike the current BMW M3/M4 rivals, doesn't forcibly demand it by terrifying its driver all the time - indeed, the lower reaches of the C 63's throttle travel do not become no-go areas the minute it starts drizzling with rain. Dynamically, this thing is incredible, balancing enthusiastic responses with more-than-capable steady-state driving manners.

The C 63 wagon is a jewel. It takes everything that was great about its 6.2-litre predecessor and adds to it with a genuinely sparkling chassis set-up and such an incredible engine/exhaust note combination that it's hard to think of any car, modern or otherwise, which sounds better. It's even, as a high-flying Mercedes-AMG model, loaded to the gunwales with equipment, this car feeling really sumptuous with only rear privacy glass (265) and the LED Intelligent Light System headlamps (545) pushing up its ticket to a still-reasonable 61,810. Maybe not a bargain at that price, but supreme value-for-money nonetheless.

All of which means my dreams of owning the ultimate super-estate have been dashed, because instead of finding the considerable sum of 25,000 and spending it on a used BMW M5 Touring, I'd now need another 36,000 for one of these things. The Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate is, personally speaking, as close to all-round automotive perfection as you can get. It's a truly stellar piece of kit.

Alternatives:

Audi S4 Avant: we're still waiting for the latest ultra-hot RS version of the new A4 Avant to be confirmed, so for now you'll have to make do with the 354hp/500Nm S4 estate instead.

BMW M3 Saloon: BMW has never done an M3 Touring and it looks like it never will, so the four-door M3 is your most practical alternative; the Mercedes-AMG is better than it in almost every discipline.

Volkswagen Golf R Estate: you could save nearly 30,000 by opting for this thing, which is possibly Volkswagen's greatest-ever performance car; yet as cracking as the Golf R is, it's no C 63.


Matt Robinson - 19 Apr 2016









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2016 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate. Image by Richard Pardon.

2016 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate. Image by Richard Pardon.2016 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate. Image by Richard Pardon.








 

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