Mercedes-AMG C 63
THE NEW Mercedes-AMG C 63 doesn’t hang about. Panting expectantly as soon as you’ve twisted the key in the ignition, it accelerates from 0 to 62mph before the woman on the sat nav can finish saying, “In 100 yards turn left.”
At speed, it whistles like a landing jumbo, while its logo-etched, four-pipe exhaust system can be made to open its flaps and parp out punk-inflected trumpet noises at neighbourhood-ruining levels. Clearly, if you buy only one smartly fitted and status-affirming Mercedes saloon this year, with a view simultaneously to indulging your inner yob, it should be this one.
On a slightly less excited note, we need to record a change of name by deed poll, the Mercedes-AMG C 63 being the hot-headed and highly successful stunt car formally known since 2007 as the Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG — a minimal piece of tinkering but one from which the branding people would have us infer a tighter embrace between the parent company and its high-performance offshoot. We duly do so.
We also note that the new C 63’s skin-tingling feats of speed and sound are (in the now-familiar industry-wide way of things) somehow the results of fastidious belt-tightening, level-headedness and general pragmatism by the car’s manufacturer. The 6.2-litre V8 engine in the old model has become a smaller, lighter, tiny-pistoned 4-litre twin turbo V8 in the new one, yet the available power has gone up from 451bhp to a stonking 503bhp in the C 63 S model, or 469bhp in the non-S version in which I did most of my driving at the launch in Portugal last week.
If you buy only one smartly fitted and status-affirming Mercedes saloon this year, with a view simultaneously to indulging your inner yob, it should be this one
Those pistons, outgoing and incoming, were available for hands-on comparison purposes. The old one was large and heavy enough to employ in the beating to death of an angry rhino; the new one would barely function as a garlic-crusher. Such economies of weight and heft help to make this C 63 the most economical eight-cylinder car in the flame-generating performance sector and to decrease fuel use over the outgoing version by up to 37%. So, immense power, awesome racket, knuckle-whitening pace — and a gleaming conscience too.
Lashed to the sculpted and bracingly thin-looking sporty driver’s seat, and with my fingers gripping the chubby, flat-bottomed steering wheel, I gingerly depressed the accelerator and went bellowing off across the sunny Portuguese countryside in the rough direction of Spain.
Mercedes had thoughtfully taken the trouble to furnish the car with a brief written guide to the Algarve — “Portugal’s most beautiful province” — drawing attention to its history and the exceptional diversity of its scenery. Fat chance to appreciate any of that, though. I had my eyes entirely bolted to the fast-approaching horizon, some worrying detail from which was always charging towards the windscreen, and when I did dare to vary my gaze it was only ever to lower it as far as the head-up display.
Even then it is my duty to record near-collisions with a pedestrian, a Fiat Panda on the wrong side of the road and a small, long-legged and curiously upright white bird, which I failed to identify while wrestling the wheel to avoid crushing it but which was clearly indigenous to the area — and, blessedly, still is. Oh, and also a mangy Portuguese cat, which may, on reflection, have been looking for the bird.
The driving modes begin with Comfort, with its eco-sensitive coasting function, which Mercedes calls “sailing” (a pictogram of a boat obligingly appears on the screen in front of you), wherein the engine decouples from the powertrain whenever you lift your foot off at speed. Those modes then graduate in sharpness through Sport to Sport+, in which the exhaust continuously and impressively evacuates its nostrils and, as you decelerate into corners, produces an uplifting volley of thumps and rim shots.
In the S version there’s also a Race mode, in which, as far as I could make out, the car refuses to do anything but go sideways unless driven by someone with a minimum of three seasons of experience in Formula Three .
Fat chance to appreciate any of beautiful scenery. I had my eyes entirely bolted to the fast-approaching horizon, some worrying detail from which was always charging towards the windscreen
In addition to these fixed setups, the fussier driver can form their own customised blend — called Individual mode — of damper settings, exhaust note and so on. This too separates the new model from the old one, in which the attitude was essentially take it or leave it. In the provision of these variations you sense the engineers waging a small battle for control with the marketing department, and narrowly losing.
Such options are offered in the name of customer choice — the irony being that most customers, having paid for the privilege, don’t much bother with these customisations anyway. It’s an old-fashioned view, perhaps, but, in a performance-oriented car of this kind, wouldn’t a one-size-fits-all business model be braver? Go ahead, Mercedes engineers: tell us how a car built such as this should really be set up. After all, if you don’t know, who does?
Anyway, I spent most of my time toggling idly between Comfort and Sport+, because they were there, enjoying the car’s rather stately straight-line waft, then feeling it tighten and cling like a magnet on corners. The Algarve’s roads obligingly provided a multitude of testing surfaces, and the C 63, in any of its setups, bore itself manfully through all of them without liquidising any of my organs or causing my head to smack against the side window.
I can, however, also report from experience that it’s more challenging in the rear seats, so the car may prove a tough sell to the whole family. Still, they can always distract themselves with the Algarve, or whatever else is going past, and you can get on with going fast — which, after all, is what’s important here.
Giles’ verdict ★★★★☆
We like Performance with a green conscience
We don’t like Doesn’t feel like a saloon in the back
Mercedes C 63 AMG specifications
- Price: £59,795
- Engine: 3982cc, V8, twin turbo
- Power: 469bhp @ 5500rpm
- Torque: 479lb ft @ 1750rpm
- Transmission: 7-speed automatic
- Performance: 0-62mph in 4.1sec
- Top speed: 155mph
- Fuel: 34.5mpg (combined)
- CO2: 192g/km
- Road tax band: J (£485 for first year; £265 thereafter)
- Release date: On sale now
Mercedes C 63 AMG rivals
BMW M3, £56,590
- For Looks better than the C 63 ; fun to drive; comes as manual and automatic
- Against Neither as powerful nor as fast as the C 63; no engine upgrade available; steering lacks feedback
Audi RS 4, £56,545
- For V8 engine sounds terrific; four- wheel drive gives great roadholding
- Against Available in estate form only and with automatic gearbox