The Mercedes C63 AMG is arguably the world’s most famous fast estate, having been seen by millions in its starring role as the Formula One medical car. And it’s clearly no ordinary C-Class Estate, with its bulging arches, low ride height, quad exhausts and AMG detailing.
As with all great AMG models, the C63’s real personality comes from its hand-built engine. The Audi has a high-revving race car feel, with its 4.2-litre V8, but the Mercedes’ 6.2-litre has 600Nm of torque and provides just as much character and performance.
Turn the key and it burbles into life, while a thunderous bellow from the exhausts is just a blip of the throttle away. On the move there’s punchy performance in every gear, and while the C63 is rear-wheel drive, it matched the 4WD Audi from 0-60mph, with a time of 4.4 seconds.
The AMG Speedshift MCT seven-speed double-clutch box has Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Manual modes. Shifts are smooth in Manual, while the sportier settings allow the engine to rev higher before changing gear.
For the most involving driving experience, it’s best to change gears yourself, although the steering wheel paddles don’t react as crisply as those in the RS4. Away from the gearbox preferences, the Mercedes is refreshingly free of complex adjustment. The steering, throttle response and damper settings are fixed, so while you can get lost in the Audi’s menus trying to find the perfect set-up, in the C-Class you just twist the key in the ignition and go.
And it feels lighter on its feet and more alive than its rival, while the freedom of the test track lets you indulge the rear-driven chassis with beautifully balanced tail slides. But the RS4 has better body control and changes direction with less fuss.
The C63’s steering is naturally weighted and accurate, while strong brakes mean it stops as well as it goes. With standard 18-inch wheels, the ride is firm, but no worse than the Audi’s. The cramped cabin hampers comfort, though: the heavily bolstered driver’s seat obstructs your elbows and doesn’t adjust low enough.
And despite its AMG detailing and robust build, the dash design is looking dated. In the back, passenger space is okay, and with the rear bench folded, the C63 provides 70 litres more carrying capacity than its rival, at 1,500 litres.
The muscular yet family friendly Mercedes is drama and excitement one minute, and relaxed cruiser the next, but it costs more than the Audi and won’t retain its price as well. Will this hold it back?