What do you get when you put the new 4.0 V8 engine of the AMG GT into a family limousine? Right, the new Mercedes-AMG C63! The new naming structure at Mercedes-Benz and AMG takes some getting used to but the C 63 follows the same old formula; Powerful V8 engine and rear-wheel drive. With more than 40,000 C63s sold of the last generation C63, expectations for the new AMG C63 are high, naturally. We went to the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao to find out if it’s living up to our expectations.
The new C63 comes in many shapes and flavours; you can choose between limousine and saloon, C63 and C63 S, sport – or performance – exhaust, with ceramics and without… The spec sheet of the new Mercedes-AMG C63 and C63 S provide some mouthwatering numbers; 476 / 510hp, 650Nm / 700Nm of torque and 0-100 km/h in 4.1 and 4.0 seconds respectively. The top speed is limited to 250 km/h but can be raised to 290 km/h with the optional AMG driver’s package.
We looked forward to return to the circuit at Portimao. Not only is it a very challenging and attractive race track, it is also the track where we tested the C 63’s most obvious competitor; the BMW M3!
But our journey starts at Faro Airport in Southern Portugal where a group of C63 and C450 AMG models are shining away in the winter sun. We snatch the keys of a brand new C63 S finished in the stunning Brilliant Blue metallic. I might have criticised Mercedes-Benz before for their fairly conservative choice of colours on new cars – but recently their colour offering seems to have brightened up quite a bit.
I slide the key into the ignition (no keyless go in our test car) and turn it 90 degrees to the right. The new 4.0 litre V8 twin-turbocharged engine comes to life with a loud cry and then tones down to a pleasant humming. I pull out of the parking lot and slowly press the accelerator after the barrier opens. A smile appears on my face and by the time I’m writing this more than 24 hours later, the smile is still there.
The S model that we are driving has a few treats over its non-S counterpart. Besides 34 horsepower and 50Nm of torque more, it comes with a newly developed electronic rear differential, the optional carbon ceramic brakes and several design cues (like a black splitter, silver chrome grille and matt silver rear diffusor) that give away to insiders that you are driving the C63 S.
The new Mercedes-AMG C63 and C63 S come with a revised version of the AMG Speedshift MCT 7-speed sports transmission. The gearbox is much faster and has a more natural response in all automatic modes we tried. Using the paddles ourselves, it still feels a bit slow compared to many double-clutch systems in other performance cars.
Using the AMG Speedshift, we also discovered some new features. Normally when you engage M-mode – for manual – it won’t shift up even if you hit the rev limiter. Some like it and some don’t, so AMG came up with a solution, it is what they call the ‘Momentary M mode’. Any time you pull the up- or down paddle in automatic mode it will let you shift manually but shifts up when you hit the rev limiter. If you don’t use the paddles for a while it automatically switches back to automatic mode.
Another neat feature we discovered is that you can pull the down paddle for a longer time to drop to the lowest possible gear at once. Particularly helpful when you want to overtake a car in front and you can drop the automatic from 7th to 4th gear without having to pull the paddle three times or push the accelerator all the way to the kick-down.
New on the C63 AMG is a small AMG Dynamic Select switch on the centre console. Here you can toggle quickly between the various drive modes including Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race (only on C63 S) and Individual. Each mode changes the characteristics of the car from soft and efficient to hard and aggressive. The sound changes with the modes as well. Sport+ and Race offer the best sound experience. If you opt for the Performance Exhaust System there is a separate button to open the exhaust flaps in Comfort mode as well – certainly worth the few extra pennies!
Compared to the normal C-class the C63 AMG is a world apart. Where the normal C-class is entirely focused on comfort, the C63 is the exact opposite. Yes, there is a comfort mode that allows you to cruise to work with 8.6 litre / 100 km fuel consumption and comfort suspension setting that won’t crush your spine with every bump. But even in comfort the steering is much more direct, the suspension less forgiving and the tremendous power always ready to be unleashed under your right foot. You can say the C63 is certainly the GTspirit version of the C-Class.
We arrive at the Portimao race track where several track-ready C63 S models are waiting for us. It is exactly here where we tested the BMW M3 so a very interesting comparison opportunity. We start with a few warm-up laps and soon familiarise ourselves with the track again. After a few corners at speed it is clear that the AMG C63 S is a different beast to the M3. It is louder, rawer and more tail-happy. With ESP On, your right foot has to be as precise as a diamond cutter’s hand to accelerate without the ESP taking the power away nearly completely.
We quickly toggle through the modes from Sport and Sport+ to Race which automatically sets ESP to Sport but also stiffens the suspension and firms up the dynamic engine mounts. Now we can feed in power much sooner and don’t have to worry about the ESP taking the fun away. It also allows for a little oversteer and you can easily swing the back out. In this mode the ESP acts like an invisible hand that very subtle keeps the car on track.
We do a few quick laps, topping out at around 250 km/h on the main straight. We dare to say the C63 S AMG is faster than the M3 under acceleration and in fast bends. But if you are after a smooth, fast lap without any drama or unintended oversteer the M3 is your best bet. Overall we prefer the new C 63 S AMG over the M3. But in design the new C 63 AMG looks a bit tame and sophisticated, certainly too sophisticated to win it from the M3 in looks.
One mode we hadn’t tried yet, ESP Off. Hold the ESP button for a few seconds and another dynamic character change unfolds. Now ESP is no longer in the way to drift around corners beautifully. In true AMG fashion drifting the C63 S AMG is a feast for the senses, voluminous sound fills the cabin, a smoke tail traces from the rear and the 4.0 engine revs like a monster.
One very annoying thing we experienced on the race track, following racing legend Bernd Schneider around on track, is that the Pre-Safe braking system cannot be switched off – something we also experienced on the A45 AMG but that no solution has been implemented for by AMG yet. It meant that as soon as the car in front of me would brake the Pre-Safe Braking system would automatically make an emergency braking to prevent a collision – very useful on the road but undesirable on track. The first few times it took me by surprise but at the end I took it for granted and at the end of the main straight let the system do its thing to slow me down without touching the brake myself. Crazy? Yes.
With the sun about the set and the track about the close we change cars once again and find ourselves in a silver C63 T-Modell, or Wagon as you might call it. The T-Modell has more headroom and luggage space and in my opinion the better design of the two. For some reason the limousine with its smooth, round, rear doesn’t look aggressive enough for an AMG. The T-Modell looks better but it carries a bit more – performance-affecting – weight.
Like the normal C-Class you can pack every C63 AMG and C63 S to the brim with assistance- and entertainment systems. The Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Assist and Burmester Sound System certainly stand out. The interior is a pleasant place to be and the AMG seats offer the desired support.
The next morning we have one more road ahead of us in the C63 AMG and the weather gods presented some surprises. Although we are at the Algarve, a destination with one of the fewest rainy days in Europe, it is pouring with rain. So how does a 476hp rear-wheel drive monster with 650Nm of torque cope with wet roads? As you might expect these are not the ideal conditions for the C63. ESP has to work regularly and hard to prevent the wheels from spinning up. Balancing the throttle is key and accelerating out of corners is a big challenge. Manually overruling the automatic gearbox by choosing one gear higher helps a lot but almost creates a desire for a dedicated rain mode on the gearbox – or even better a gearbox that is linked to the rain sensor.
We end our journey at the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and take time to reflect on the new Mercedes-AMG C63 and C63 S. It is a brilliant, emotional and fun car. In true AMG fashion it is more of a muscle car, but the latest edition has also gained a lot more finesse. Do we miss the latest generation V8? Well, no, the new engine is fabulous and AMG put a lot of effort in to how it sounds to make us forget about the old V8 quickly.
The first customers can look forward to receiving their Mercedes-AMG C 63 from February 2015: the market launch will start with the Saloon, with the Estate to follow in April 2015. Prices in Germany start from 75.000 Euro for the C63 and 84.000 euro for the C63 S.