| A Week at the Wheel | Herts, England | Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG saloon |
Inside & Out:
We like the look of the C-Class and there's no denying that in AMG guise it's got some serious visual muscle. It makes BMW's M3
look a little bit half-hearted in the styling department, the C 63 AMG's more aggressive styling giving the C-Class more menace than a group of hoodies loitering around a park bench. Inside it's just as sinister, the entire cabin swathed in black - not even the glossy optional carbon fibre trim lifting the cabin. You could of course opt for another interior colour, but performance saloons really should be trimmed in black leather and Alcantara to add to their Q-car status. The sports seats look very bulky and their hard seatbacks eat into rear legroom, but they provide great support, though would perhaps benefit from being positioned a touch lower.
Engine & Transmission:
AMG's 6.2-litre V8 engine is a high-revving masterpiece. The big V8 was the first engine wholly developed by AMG's engineers and it's used extensively across the AMG line-up. It works best when squeezed under the bumpy, blistered bonnet of the C 63 - its high revving antics suit the compact C-Class. Certainly it feels more potent than it does in any of its other installations - with the notable exception of the utterly madcap pseudo-racer CLK 63 AMG Black Series
. In the C 63 AMG is produces a thumping 451bhp and 443lb.ft of torque. That latter figure is produced high up the rev range at 5,000rpm, but the peak output cloaks the fact that a good chunk of that twisting force is available from low revs.
That ensures the C 63 AMG offers remarkably linear performance. Sure, it lacks the bombastic tyre-shredding low-rev urge of its 5.4-litre V8 predecessor, but replaces it with a more cultured, useable delivery. It also sounds sensational. The 6.2-litre V8 brings with it AMG's seven-speed automatic transmission, which can be left to do its own thing or shifted by paddles behind the steering wheel. Throttle blips accompany downshifts and the engine and transmission work very well together - though the paddle shifters feel rather small and insubstantial in their action. Good as this all is we'd love a proper manual, but it'll never happen...
Ride & Handling:
Key to this specific AMG is the option box ticked for the Performance Pack. Choose it and you'll be £3,210 poorer (inconsequential really when the car you're buying tops £50k) and you'll add a few choice features to the C 63's performance armoury. Ceramic front brake discs improve the C 63's already neck-straining stopping power, but the key aspect to the Performance Pack is unquestionably the fitment of a limited-slip differential (LSD). Because of it the C 63's rear feels notably tighter and less prone to waste its prodigious power by spinning it away when accelerating out of junctions or through longer bends. It allows you to play the hooligan and slide the rear about with power oversteer too, the LSD adding predictability and making the C 63 a more enjoyable and effective track car. Its benefits are notable on the road too; however, some of the other Performance Pack additions aren't quite so successful.
The suspension, which is already firm and focussed on the standard car
, is just too extreme for a car with such a mixed brief. Where a non-Performance Pack car will just about manage to shrug off the worst bumps and ripples, the stiffer, more focussed car skips and judders. That affects everything. The chassis loses its finesse, and the messages coming through the chunky, well-weighted steering wheel are filled with nervous edginess. It's just too firm for our pock-marked roads. Ask AMG nicely if it'll build you a C 63 with that LSD, the lovely Performance Pack steering wheel and nothing else.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money:
We can't help but think that anything with the sort of grunt the C 63 AMG delivers should come as standard with the limited-slip differential that comes with the Performance Pack. This is a car that can accelerate to 62mph in just 4.5 seconds after all. It is the range-topping C-Class that costs in excess of £50,000. That makes Mercedes look a bit stingy in not fully-loading it as standard with kit like the 'Comand' entertainment and satnav system - you need to pay £1,750 for the privilege of the pretty hopeless satnav system getting you lost. Economy isn't likely to be an issue if you're opting for an AMG model, but even so an official combined fuel consumption figure of 21.1mpg and CO2
emissions of 319g/km isn't going to win you any friends among the green chattering classes at a dinner party.
The AMG C 63 is a four-star car in standard guise, but the Performance Pack equipped version loses a star because of the compromised suspension settings. We're sure it makes for shaved tenths of a second around the Nurburgring, but it also causes frayed nerves, as it struggles to cope with what we call roads in the UK. We'd recommend the LSD on its own and AMG is certain to oblige, but forget most of the rest of the Performance Pack additions.