We live in strange and testing times. Downsizing, hybridisation, electrification, emissions scandals and even talk of banning the combustion engine in the world’s most significant cities – It often feels as if people such as you and I are alone in the pursuit of pleasure from driving, that the planets regulators, politicians and policy makers lack any sense on humour in their straight cut suits. Then something modern, yet so fundamentally old captures your attention and tugs at your happy strings – some people wear suits that are a little different, clown suits.
Few major manufacturers have managed to circumnavigate the constricting python that has squeezed any remaining ounces of fun from new cars today. Mercedes-AMG certainly have with the V8 still at the core of the model range – they may have been subjected to the challenge of having to go turbocharged, but that has by no means has resulted in them sounding like leaf blowers and being dull to drive. I’m in Germany, the heartland of speed, to drive the latest iteration of the C 63.
Yes, it is just a facelift and the changes are predominately cosmetic in and out, but the point is that I am sat behind a throbbing hunking great V8 that is casually spitting fuel out of its tailpipes for the fun of it. This is a rarity in the this day and age. It is also hilarious, it’s so unnecessary, it’s a drama queen that is begging for attention and a heavy right foot. This car is the that kid at school that would eat play-dough and stick crayons up his nose – he’s a bit silly but thoroughly amusing and there’s never a boring moment when he is around.
I expected this to be the same as the older car with a new grill and a few fancy toys. Boy, was I wrong…
The C 63 has always been the lunatic that packed a mighty punch. Dynamically it has always been strong, yes, it may not be the sharpest knife in the kitchen but the bludgeoning engine has always been the lead actor of the show and dominated the driving experience. I expected this to be the same as the older car with a new grill and a few fancy toys. Boy, was I wrong…
Landing in Flughafen Paderborn-Lippstadt is a fabulous experience and one that last all of 3 minutes. The average holidaymaker jumps into a taxi and is on their way to the stunning German countryside in mere minutes. I jumped into a C 63 S Coupe with a racetrack dialled into the navigation system. This is how you do a fly-drive holiday.
First impressions are as fabulous as they were in the pre-facelift car. The engine makes it hard to focus on much else as it absolutely obliterates any silence in the hills as it pounds through the rev range, backing off the throttle and downshifting is even more of an occasion as the antisocial snaps and cracks fire out the quad exhausts. Owners of such a car frankly must look deranged to passers by when grins fit for a mental asylum appear on their face as the car comes to a halt. It is pure magic.
So what’s new? Well, as you would expect, there are a number of visual changes inside and out that bring the AMG cars into line with the rest of the family. The Panamericana grill has been applied to all four variants and to my eyes looks stunning when combined with the new LED lights. At the rear, there are new quad tailpipes in black chrome that match the savage sounds the car makes – it’s a shame that the pipes are not functional but hide (poorly) four very skinny pipes behind them.
Inside the cabin is arguably where the most significant changes can be found. The update is great with a futuristic digital display binnacle housing the important details such as RPM, speed and configurable options either side ranging from the usual navigation instructions to G Force read outs. It is all very interactive with the entire instrument screen becoming a giant shift light that flashes red as you blast towards the redline.
As with all other MB models, there are steering wheel mounted touch buttons, one for the drivers’ cluster and the other for the media display. The biggest disappointment with the interior is that the all-new MBUX system that was promoted as being a revolution that is still yet to be integrated in the C-Class.
Doing so would result in significant redesigning that we will see in the next generation cars. Staying on the interior (yes, there is more!) the innovative steering wheel mounted elements on the performance steering wheel, first seen on the AMG GT4 Door, have trickled down into the C 63 with significant effectiveness.
Seeing the controls in the GT4 Door presentation prior to unveiling at the Frankfurt Motorshow made me think the circular control on the right and two toggles on the left were something of a gimmick, but the LCD screens integrated into the buttons are a joy to use.
They allow drive modes (Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race) to be scrolled through using the rotary control on the right with Individual being activated by pushing the centre of the button. Using the toggles on the left, exhaust, suspension, ESP, gearbox mode and more, can be individually adapted. The usual mode controller remains on the scroll wheel on the centre console.
How do all of these controllers affect the drive of the cars? Driving the Coupe and Saloon at the Bilster Berg racetrack is the best way to find out. The results are staggeringly impressive. The track is tough and technical with huge elevation changes, the perfect place to test the dynamics of the cars and their modes.
The Coupe is deeply impressive, the 510 horsepower thrusts the car out of corners with a creamy ferocity with the 700Nms of torque on tap. The new 9 speed AMG Speedshift MCT is great, but still lacks the instant crisp responses of Porsche’s PDK.
The steering is well weighted and provides valuable feedback, but the car still feels heavy and understeer intrudes in slow tight corners. This is where the new ESP and traction control options come in handy. Switch the ESP to sport…or completely off and the rotary selector on the steering wheel becomes the traction control switch ranging from 0-9 and then off. This has been taken straight from the AMG GT R and when around 5-6 with the ESP in Sport, the car begins to dance with the throttle becoming a tool to battle the understeer in an extraordinarily fun way. It is all very controllable and confidence inspiring.
There is a problem though. Back out on the road in the Cabrio, Estate, Saloon and Coupe, you can feel the weight of the cars. The Coupe weighs in at almost 1900 kilograms with a driver in the car, even with the 510 horses (476 in the non-S models) it doesn’t feel blisteringly fast as the weight blunts the sensation of velocity. The figures, however, are undeniably impressive – 0-100km/h is dispatched in 3.9 in the Coupe, 4.0 in the Saloon and 4.1 in the Cabrio and Estate for the S models I drove.
The C 63s in every form are desirable places to be sitting. The diversity in body style means there is something for everyone and they are all built around something marvellous – that pulsing V8 that is a temptress that just wants to be played with every time you hit the pulsating starter button.
Yes, there are competitors, think M3/4, RS4/5 and Guilia Quadrifoglio – all have their own pros and cons, but none have such significant positives like the C 63 does. It is a charming, lively machine that is so unique with its 8 cylinders and rear-wheel-drive layout, something that is dwindling within the AMG family itself. This is why the C 63 and Mercedes-AMG needs to be celebrated and enjoyed, for the sheer pleasure, enjoyment and laughter there is not much on sale today that can compare.