Driven: Mercedes C63 S AMG Coupé
Review: We get behind the wheel of this street hooligan dressed for dinner.Damien Reid May 7, 2016
There was a time when I would have dismissed the C-Class as the junior burger of the Mercedes-Benz family, but as I stepped into the C63 S AMG Coupé, priced just under Dhs400,000 and offering more than 500bhp under my right foot, I realised that this was not the time to judge a car by its badge.
The new AMG Coupé is a C-Class by name only, and a full blown, high-horsepower, executive express by any other measure.
In fact, unlike some of its competitors, which are clones of their sedan counterparts with two doors lopped off, it’s not even all that close to the C-Class sedan. It sports some intrinsic design alternations that extend to the suspension and the car’s overall footprint on the road.
We are in Spain, in the normally sunny corner of the country around Marbella that is home to some fantastic, winding roads, which traverse the mountains and drop down towards the coastline. But best of all, for what we are driving today, the roads lead to the Ascari test track, where we can give the C63 Coupé a thorough working over.
However, there is an unexpected problem that greets us on this day and it’s rain; lots of rain, that threatens to flood some of the quieter country lanes, compounded by fog in the hills.
In one sense, the coupé gives you immense reassurance under these adverse conditions, with a solid build quality that makes you feel safe inside, excellent demisting, so you can see where you’re going, and fantastic brakes that give enormous confidence when you feel you’ve approached that corner a tad too quickly.
But it’s offset by constant wheelspin that not even its giant 285/30 tyres on 19-inch rims on the rear can control, let alone the traction set- tings. With the slightest dab of the throttle it squirms and snakes its way along, accompanied by a soundtrack from under the bonnet that could easily come from the big American muscle cars of 30 years’ ago.
This is not the Mercedes C-Class I remember. It’s a street hooligan dressed for dinner.
The C-Class is the last in the AMG range to fall into line with the new selection of engines, so despite it’s 63 badge, it has dropped the naturally aspirated 6.2-litre, hand built V8 and in its place is the cleaner, more efficient, twin-turbocharged, 4-litre V8, which thankfully doesn’t sound anything like a smaller turbo engine and still carries over that luscious deep, bass burble of its predecessor.
This aural delight comes from the high-tech exhaust system, which features a bypass valve actuated by a button on the centre console that opens up three flaps inside the pipes to let it howl like an old-school American V8.
It puts a smile on my face, knowing that turbos don’t have to sound like turbos. Even at a low burble, shut your eyes as one drives past and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a big, lumpy old seven-litre Chevy from the early 1970s warbling past.
I’ll go so far as to say it’s the nicest sounding V8 currently on the road and by far the sweetest sounding turbocharged engine ever.
Essentially, it’s the same unit used by the company’s AMG GT performance flagship, and is offered with the choice of two power outputs: the 469bhp version with 650Nm; and the car at our disposal, the ‘S’, which enjoys more turbo boost, as well as detailed changes to the inlet manifold and dynamic engine mounts that vary in stiffness depending on revs.
The result is a further 34bhp and 50Nm, endowing the range-topping model with a sturdy 503bhp at 5,500rpm and 700Nm from just 1,750rpm.
In short, that’s precisely the same power as the AMG GT S Coupé, but with 50Nm more torque and, perhaps most importantly for Mercedes, it surpasses its nearest competitors, the BMW M4 and Audi RS5, in both power figures.
While it’s 50kg lighter than the current C63 sedan, it’s also 70kg heavier than the Coupé it replaces and a whopping two-litres smaller in engine size. But that doesn’t stop it recording an extraordinary acceleration time of 3.9 seconds from zero to 100kmh, with a top speed of 290kmh. In both respects it is verging on genuine supercar territory.
On the road, the seven-speed automatic transmission gives the car very different characteristics, depending on whether you’re in the smooth vzone with the ‘Comfort’ setting or ‘Sport Plus’, or in the case of the S model we had, the ‘Race’ mode.
In the sportier modes, the upshifts are crisp and quick, but it’s the intuitive downshifts that impressed me. After a short while, I managed to initiate downshifts without touching the paddle by simply tickling the throttle at just the right point, mixed with a dab of brakes, and it decided to go back one, two or sometimes even three gears. I’m normally no fan of this level of driver assistance, but I have to say it worked a treat.
If you want to, you can also just pull the left- hand paddle back and it will drop up to four ratios to within 1,000rpm of the redline, making those flowing country lanes an absolute blast to drive along in ‘Sport Plus’ mode. The upshifts were determined on a wide open throttle in manual mode, putting just as big a smile on my face.
The biggest change visually to the baby Coupé is from the rear, which now resembles a baby brother to the big S-Class Coupé. But it’s not just for show, as the new tail was needed to incorporate a new rear suspension not only compared to the sedan, but also to other C-Class Coupés, that takes up more room underneath.
- Engine: 4-litre, twin-turbo V8
- Power: 503bhp @ 5,500rpm
- Torque: 700Nm @ 1750rpm
- 0-100KMH: 3.9 seconds
- Top speed: 290kmh
- Price: Dhs 389,000
Its wheel track is 73mm wider than the regular C-Class Coupé at the front and 46mm wider at the rear, while overall it’s 45mm longer, 107mm wider and 12mm higher than before.
Even though the car has a higher roofline, you’re sitting lower thanks to AMG’s own seats, which are placed 20mm closer to the floor than the regular units.
Its flared wheel arches make it look fatter than the sedan and are also needed to house the giant rims, which as we found out in the rain, are desperately needed to control that grunt. In fact, only the doors, roof and bootlid are carried over from its four-door brother.
Overall, the C63 Coupé is a driver’s car like no other model to wear its badge, and, if anything, that’s also its downside. The road noise and “tramlining”, where the wheels tend to follow every rut and crevice in the road surface, are due to its overly large wheels and low profile tyres.
However, these are needed to keep traction with the road, so that’s the compromise to owning a car that offers a connection with the road better than any other Mercedes short of the AMG-GT and better than the BMW M4 and Audi RS5 options.
As a weekend toy that I could occasionally take to a track day, I loved it. Could I live with it every day to drive to the office, shops and back? I’d be willing to take that risk and give it a good try.
Just remember, this is not like any C-Class Mercedes you’ve experienced before. It’s a precision performance tool that just might even make you reconsider that Porsche Cayman.