A year ago to the day, I wrote a column titled ‘The Death Of The Drivers Car’. A tad dramatic? Maybe. False reporting? Certainly not. It was a borderline rant aimed towards the regulations being implemented that seem to stifle the specific elements that make us love driving.
The effects of such regulations are so extreme that they have buyers turning to the classifieds to buy models built before such stringent regulations were enforced as an alternative to buying new. Prime examples are the Porsche Cayman & Boxster. The previous generation, 981 Cayman and Boxster, featured 6-cylinder engines that, when paired with the gorgeous chassis and mid-engined layout, were huge successes. Following the introduction of strict emission laws, the 718 replaced the 981 and the 6-cylinder was banished in place of a 4-cylinder. Yes, the 718 with its turbocharged 4-cylinder was faster in almost every way, and crucially – cleaner, but the magic of the burbling, naturally aspirated masterpiece, that was the 6-cylinder engine, had disappeared. The older car became more desirable than its replacement, a change that was reflected in the slow sales of the newer cars.
These are signs of the times, but are there still a few examples of cars that have bucked the trend and managed to comply with downsizing and the new laws? Yes, well, sort of. This is a good time for me to introduce the 2019 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe that I’ve been running for a week. The car looks very similar to the car I drove back in 2016. Since then, the entire C 63 range has been treated to a facelift, predominantly cosmetic with few tweaks to the infotainment system and a few cool gadgets like the AMG Dynamics programme, digital dash and the GT R inspired traction control system.
I drove the entire updated C 63 family (Saloon, Coupe and Estate) on road and track and found the changes to be very impressive. As customer cars began to be delivered, I heard there was another change that I had not experienced on the press launch – the addition of something called an OPF or GPF. The Otto Particulate Filter or Gas Particulate Filter is a sizeable filter this is fitted between the downpipes and the mid damper. They are passive and are appearing in almost all petrol-powered cars in the European market. This is a direct result of the new Euro 6 emission rules as they are the easiest solution. The Euro 6 law came about as a result of the Dieselgate scandal.
The application of the OPF has a profound impact on the sound that a car makes, this is not such a big deal on a Suzuki Swift or Ford Fiesta, it is on an AMG product and this is what inspired the the title of this story. It seems that with each are iteration, facelift or update that we lose precious elements of feel and connection to automobiles. That’s not to say that this C 63 is a bore – if it was the first time I had driven one, I would place it in a distinguished category of cars that I would aspire to own. It is just that I have been spoilt. I have driven the C204 generation of C 63 Coupe that was the last to feature the fabled 6.2-litre V8. The engine was free of turbo chargers and produced a sound that will be noted in the history books as being one of the most fearsome and terrific ever to be attributed to a road car. The move to the bi-turbo 4-litre in 2016 was noted as being one of the best sounding turbo charged engines, good but not as great as the NA predecessor. The car was objectively a better allrounder, but the connection faded. The engine still dominated, but to a lesser extent.
Moving to the current generation, there is a distinct lack of that harsh, hard hitting V8 rumble and an absence of loud pops and bangs that would make driver and passengers alike, chuckle childishly despite everyone knowing that they were artificially generated. Now we have a much softer noise, to reiterate, it is not bad, it’s just that it cannot be compared to the throaty and trademark symphonies of C 63s of old. This is widespread across the industry and it is sad to see. The fact that the current generation of C 63 is fitted with a V8 is a triumph that should be celebrated. Dynamically the car is better than ever before with the advanced settings and the ability to configure the car to suit every driving style. Further more, that traction control system is a marvel, something that I hope is rolled out across the range of rear-wheel-drive cars. Ahh, yes…
In a 4Matic world, only the GT family, excluding the four door, S 63 and the C remain rear-wheel-drive, the result of the power race ever intensifying. It is easy to question whether or not the next generation of C 63 will be driven through the rear wheels, or if the advantages of 4Matic will, once more, rob us of the need to focus and think twice about stamping on the loud pedal when the traction control is dialled back. The special bond between a driver and the rear tyres of a powerful RWD car is something that is unique and cannot be replaced, however good 4Matic systems are.
In the face of adversity and ever more constricting regulations, the C 63 S Coupe remains an object of desire. The V8 still lies at the centre of the driving experience and the joy of a rear-wheel-drive layout remain, this is still a drivers car and one that you should wake up early on a Sunday morning to enjoy empty roads in. It is just that its predecessors shouted a little louder, they goaded you into pulling for a downshift to celebrate the process of turning fuel into sound and I fear that we will no longer be able to enjoy that for much longer. The C 63 S AMG Coupe truly is one of the last of a dying breed; let’s relish it while we can.