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First drive: 2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

First drive: 2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S
Mild updates for an already serious hot car. The V8-engined AMG C-Class remains ahead of the chasing pack.

 



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2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Saloon

5 5 5 5 5

Squeezing a big V8 into a medium-sized car is never a bad idea, especially when it's AMG doing the squeezing. A round of small updates keeps the meanest Mercedes C-Class on top of the super-saloon segment.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Saloon
Pricing: circa 75,500 as tested, C 63 starts at circa 66,500
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol
Transmission: nine-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 227g/km (Band 225-255 - 1,760 year one + 450 surcharge)
Combined economy: 28.5mpg
Top speed: 180mph
0-62mph: 4.0 seconds
Power: 510hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 700Nm at 2,000-4,500rpm
Boot space: 435 litres

What's this?

It's the updated Mercedes-AMG C 63 S. That means that this is the ultimate bad-boy C-Class, the one with the same howling-mad V8 turbo engine as the AMG GT Coupe and the bigger E 63 AMG. This is a serious performance car. How serious? Well, Mercedes hasn't just crammed the V8 in, the whole structure of the car ahead of the windscreen has been altered the make way for the engine and its cooling requirements. Plus, Mercedes regards the rear-drive chassis balance of the C 63 as being so pure (or, possibly, it just can't squeeze the extra bits in) that there's no 4Matic four-wheel-drive option, even though that's available on the lesser V6-engined C 43.

The heart of the C 63 and C 63 S is, of course, the V8 engine. It's the 4.0-litre twin-turbo unit, with both turbos squashed in between the angled cylinder banks - the famed 'hot vee' configuration. That's intended to improve the engine's throttle response and increase efficiency while you're at it. Standard C 63 models have 475hp, while this C 63 S saloon gets the full-fat 510hp.

It drives those rear wheels through a nine-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox (there's no manual option) and an electronically controlled differential, which can shunt torque from one rear wheel to the other, improving both traction and, when you're cornering hard, how the car points into an apex.

AMG stuffs the car full of driver aids, so there's adaptive dampers (with steel springs - there's no air suspension option) and the Dynamic Select system that allows you to choose between Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and, for the S model only, Race modes. Beneath that is another layer of AMG-specific electronic trickery, running the gamut from Basic to Master that decides how much assistance the car needs to deploy to keep you from doing yourself a track-day mischief. The more expensive S model also gets the option of having dial-a-setting traction control, much like the AMG GT-R Coupe.

The cabin gets a similar makeover to that which the regular C-Class has already received. So, you can (as an option, which seems a bit rich on a car costing this much) have the 12.3-inch all-digital instrument pack. This is a far more flexible package than that of most rivals, allowing you to tweak the layout in multiple ways to your liking and which even has displays (should you call them up) for tyre temperature and gearbox oil temperature. God knows how accurate those are, but it's nice to have them either way.

All of that is controlled by a new steering wheel, which gains a plethora of buttons and switches, and which in the AMG way has flattened bottom and sides. The grips are finished in gorgeous Alcantara suede, and there's a marker at the 12-o'clock position just in case you need to grab a dab of oppo on the way out of Waitrose.

In the dash centre, you can upgrade (again, rather shockingly, it's an option) the main Comand display to a 10.25-inch unit, and in the S model that includes a telemetry tracking system, showing you a graph of your acceleration, braking and cornering force. Clearly, if you have time to look down at that, you're not going fast enough. There's also a comprehensive head-up display.

Physically, the cabin is as reasonably roomy as it ever was (those seeking extra practicality should trade up to the estate, our favourite model of the range. Those seeking less should get the coupe) and as with the regular C-Class there are some improvements to trim quality here and there. The high-backed AMG bucket seats (grippy but wonderfully comfortable) can also now be chilled as well as heated.

On the outside, there's a new, more aggressive, 'Panamericana' style grille, a tweaked body kit and, for S models (optionally on the standard C 63) an aero kit that consists of a slimline carbon boot spoiler and a chunky rear diffuser.

How does it drive?

In a word - brilliantly. OK, it was bone dry and sunny during our test drive, so there's always the chance that the C 63 S is a snappy, bad-tempered monster in the wet, but on the relatively smooth German roads we were using, and on the swooping, twisting, Bilster Berg race track, the 63 S was a total pussycat.

Fine, maybe not total. You can get the traction control squirrels going in third gear on a dry road if you give this car the beans, and smoky tail-slides that put pound signs into the eyes of Michelin shareholders are there for the taking (well, with 700Nm of torque what did you expect?). But, considering the power and torque, considering that there's no four-wheel-drive safety net and especially considering that AMG has, as a brand, a reputation for barely-hinged lunacy, the C 63 S is actually pretty benign.

Which is not to say it's not fun. It is. Big, loud, noisy, stampeding fun in fact. That V8 engine is one of the finest ways of burning hydrocarbons behind which we've ever sat. Keep the C 63 S in comfort mode and it's merely bonkers fast and very loud, capable of pushing you back hard into that bucket seat with the slightest push of the throttle pedal. In this form, the suspension is firm, but not unyielding, and you could happily drive the AMG until the fuel light came on. Which probably wouldn't take long.

You now use a small, Porsche-style, rotary switch mounted on the steering wheel to go from Comfort to Sport and Sport+, and there's another switch on the other half of the wheel that gives you individual control of the dampers and the traction control. Thusly, you can have the sharper acceleration and snappier gearchanges of Sport, but still with the dampers set to Comfort, which is possibly the best way to sample the C 63 S on public roads. It's fast, it's flowing and yet it's soft enough to allow you to keep up the speeds on bumpy stretches. The steering is pretty wonderful too - perfectly weighted and full of feel, with the tactility of that suede rim.

Sport+? Here's where it gets noisy - literally, as the exhaust now lapses into loud mode, and there's an induced engine overrun when you back out of the throttle, causing cannon fire pops and bangs down the exhaust. Clearly, whoever designs AMG's exhausts has had their Bullit DVD on hard rotation, as there's even a growl-pause-growl sound effect on the up-change, that mimics McQueen's Mustang. The ride is now very firm indeed, the steering a touch weightier and the throttle response so savage that you'd think this was the old 6.2-litre naturally-aspirated V8 engine, not a turbo unit.

For Race, you should really go to a race track, and that's exactly what we did - the Bilster Berg race resort near Hannover. Here we could play with that adjustable traction control setting (which runs in numbers, but which should really just go from Safety to Abject Terror) and feel just how lairy the C 63 S is. The result is - as lairy as you want it to be. Act like a twat with the throttle pedal and, yeah, of course, the C-Class is going to go sideways and turn its tyres to atoms. It's fun, of course, but it's actually more satisfying to feel just how good the C 63 S is when you try to be more precise. The answer is very, very good indeed. Get it dialled up right and the AMG just monsters the track, finding grip and astonishingly finding even more grunt as you get towards the top end, almost as if there's an extra, hidden, turbo. It's bonkers fast, but unlike the snappy BMW M3 and M4, it never feels as if it's going to try and kill you should you slacken your grip. For a rear-drive car with 510hp and an outlaw attitude, the C 63 S is actually one of those cars that wants to work with you; covering up for your ham-fistedness, and then rewarding your deft movements with an eight-gun salute of glorious V8 gnash and thrash.

Verdict

The C 63 S isn't quite the only V8-engined car in its class (have we all forgotten the Lexus RC F V8 coupe?), but against the big-three competition of BMW M3, Audi RS 4 and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, it is the only one with a full complement of cylinders. True, the V6 Alfa matches the Merc for power and for noise, but it doesn't have the gorgeous cabin, nor (quite) the deftness of the handling. The M3, getting on a bit now and due for replacement, is left behind, while the Audi, although gorgeous and fast, can't compete with the AMG's delicate steering feel.

So, the C 63 S is out on its own at the head of the class. It has the thunder and fury you expect from an AMG V8 car, but carries it with such velvet-gloved authority that, net of the fuel cost and the dangers to your licence, you really could use one every day.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Neil Briscoe - 24 Jul 2018









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2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Saloon. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Saloon. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Saloon. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Saloon. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Saloon. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Saloon. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Saloon. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Saloon. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Saloon. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Saloon. Image by Mercedes-AMG.








 

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