Mercedes-AMG C63 review
The mighty Mercedes-AMG C63 blends exhilarating performance with quality in a usable everyday package
Based on the Mercedes C-Class compact executive saloon, the C63 features a subtly reworked version of the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine that recently made its debut in the Mercedes AMG GT sportscar. Despite being smaller than the old C63’s naturally 6.2-litre engine, the new unit manages to deliver even more power and even greater efficiency.
Like the larger E63, the new C63 is now available in standard and even more powerful C63 S guises. The entry-level model delivers 469bhp, 650Nm of torque and a 0-62mph time of 4.1 seconds, while the S packs a hefty 503bhp and 700Nm, but only lowers the time for the benchmark sprint by a tenth of a second. Both engines achieve 34.5mpg on the combined cycle and emit 192g/km of CO2.
Performance for both versions is blistering. The V8 engine responds crisply to the throttle, while the muscular torque delivery allows you to blast past slower traffic in the blink of an eye. Adding to the drama is the seven-speed auto gearbox that delivers fast and crisp shifts, while the optional £1,000 sports exhaust provides a spine-tingling soundtrack.
Even better, the inclusion of uprated suspension and heavily revised steering has helped transform the standard C-Class’ handling. There’s loads of grip, rock solid composure and the ability to subtly adjust the car’s line using a combination of steering and throttle.
Visually there’s little to differentiate the C63 and C63 S models, but both get a number of tweaks that help them stand out from standard C-Class variants. The most obvious changes are the deeper front bumper, side skits, subtly vented front wings and quad exhaust layout. Eagle-eyed fans will also notice that the C63 rides on 18-inch alloys, while the S features larger 19-inch rims. As before, the fast Mercedes flagship is available in both four-door saloon and practical estate bodystyles.
As with the exterior, Mercedes has taken a low-key approach with the C63’s cabin. There’s a bespoke AMG instrument cluster, a chunky three-spoke steering wheel and heavily bolstered sports seats, but the rest of the interior is pure C-Class. That’s no bad thing, because the slick design and top notch finish help create a real sense of occasion.
You get a decent haul of standard kit, too, including sat-nav, leather seat trim and LED headlamps. However, as with any Mercedes model it’s easy to get carried away on the extensive and expensive list of options, such as the £2,595 Premium Pack that adds keyless go, a Burmester sound system and a panoramic sunroof.
Our choice: Mercedes-AMG C63
Mercedes has taken a low-key approach to the design of the C63 AMG, and at a glance you might struggle to tell it apart from the standard car. However, look closely and you’ll spot the deeper front bumper that takes its cues from the larger E63, the subtly flared wheelarches and the prominent quad exit exhaust.
Other highlights include the small ‘V8 BiTurbo’ badges on the front wings and the powerful all LED headlamps.
Standard versions get 18-inch alloys, while the more powerful S is identified by its larger 19-inch rims and red brake calipers. Overall, the C63 doesn’t shout about its potential in the same way as the more aggressive looking BMW M3, but for many buyers this less showy approach will be a big benefit.
In many respects, Mercedes has made even less effort with the C63’s interior. There’s a thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel complete with gearshift paddles, a bespoke AMG instrument cluster and a pair of heavily bolstered sports seats, but that’s about it.
The rest of the cabin is pure C-Class, which means slick design, neat detailing and top notch fit and finish. It’s heavily influenced by the brand’s flagship S-Class limousine and oozes that sort of premium appeal that even Audi and BMW struggle to match. Highlights include the metal-finished ‘eyeball’ air vents, the intuitive rotary controller for the COMAND infotainment system and the 8.4-inch tablet style screen mounted on top of the dashboard.
It’s fair to say that the current C-Class trails the compact executive elite when it comes to driving dynamics. Lifeless handling, a poor ride and a line-up of lacklustre engines have taken some of the shine off the otherwise upmarket Mercedes. However, AMG has worked hard to transform the C63 from a humdrum saloon into a high performance humdinger.
At the heart of this turnaround in fortunes is the car’s new 4.0-litre V8. The twin-turbo unit has already been seen in the brand’s Porsche 911-rivalling AMG GT sportscar, and it promises to deliver an unrivalled blend of performance and economy. By locating the turbochargers in the ‘V’ between each bank of cylinders for a quicker response, Mercedes have created a unit that feels every bit as eager to throttle inputs as the old C63’s naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8.
Yet with a muscular 650Nm of torque at just 1,750rpm, the new car is faster than ever. The 0-62mph sprint takes just 4.1 seconds, but it’s the scorching mid-range acceleration that really impresses.
Further increasing the impression of speed is the standard 7-speed auto gearbox, which on the whole provides fast and crisp shifts via the steering-wheel mounted paddles and delicious throttle blips when you change down a gear. However, in Sport+ and Race modes the gearbox can take a fraction too long to respond the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
The Mercedes’ blistering performance is accompanied by an equally exciting soundtrack, particularly on models equipped with the optional £1,000 sports exhaust. At idle it burbles away in typical V8 fashion, while extending the revs creates an evocative NASCAR bellow.
Buyers who want even more performance can opt for the ‘S’ model, which for an extra £6,750 ups the power and torque to 503bhp and 700Nm respectively. Yet despite these impressive under bonnet gains, the C63’s 0-62mph time is cut by just a tenth of a second to 4.0 seconds.
So the Mercedes is powerful, but is it possible to access all this performance on the road? Well, AMG has worked hard on the C63’s suspension, and the good news is that it has managed to transform the C-Class from a slightly lead-footed saloon into a genuine sportscar contender.
The uprated steering is direct and benefits from meaty weighting, plus there’s bags of grip. Body control is also excellent, and the C63 remains composed even during extreme cornering. Drivers can also alter the steering, gearbox and throttle response to suit their mood and road conditions. And while it doesn’t feel quite as alert as a BMW M3, the AMG’s more measured approach inspires more confidence, particularly when the road is wet and slippery.
Like all AMG models, you can adjust the rear-wheel drive C63’s line through a corner using a blend of steering and throttle. Turn the car’s electronic safety aids off and, on the safe confines of a track, it’s possible to indulge in some showboating, smoky tail slides.
The good news is that this hooligan behaviour and high performance doesn’t come at the expense of everyday usability. The low speed ride is firm, even in the softest damper setting, and the C63 fidgets a little on the motorway, but the road and wind noise are well isolated, while the V8 engine subsides to a distant hum at a cruise.
Overall the automatic gearbox performs smoothly, but there is an occasionally clunky low speed change. Like every C-Class, the C63 benefits from a wide-range of seat and wheel adjustment, making it easy to get comfortable.
Mercedes has cultivated a long-standing reputation for producing durable and well-build cars, and this is reflected in the brand’s excellent ninth place finish in our 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.
The C63 certainly feels robustly screwed together, while many of its components are shared with the standard C-Class. And although the new 4.0-litre V8 is new, it’s already seen service in the AMG GT coupe and, like all units from Mercedes’ high performance brand, the twin-turbo engine is essentially hand-built to the highest standards.
Safety is another area where Mercedes has built up an enviable reputation – and the C63 does nothing to undermine this tradition. All versions get seven airbags, an active pedestrian protection bonnet, autonomous emergency braking and stability control. And because it’s an AMG, you also benefit from bigger and more powerful brakes.
Of course, if you’ve got deep pockets you can add even more safety kit, including the £1,495 Driving Assistance Pack that features blind spot, monitoring, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. And for the first time on a C63, you can also add carbon ceramic brakes – although they’re only available on the S and will set you back an eye-watering £4,285.
Look past the supercar-rivalling performance and razor-sharp handling, and you’ll discover the C63 is every bit as practical as a standard C-Class.
It shares its exterior and interior dimensions with more humble models, so it’s no surprise to find it’s as spacious inside. There’s a decent amount of head and legroom in the back, but the large transmission tunnel eats into the foot space available for occupants sitting in the middle of the rear bench.
Elsewhere, the interior is littered with handy storage space. There are decent sized door bins, a large glovebox and a deep. lidded cubby on the centre console. There are also a number of useful cupholders dotted around the cabin.
Opening the tailgate reveals a well-shaped 480-litre boot, which can be extended by folding the standard 40/20/40 split fold rear bench.
Buyers wanting even greater carrying capacity can choose the estate version, which is around £1,200 more expensive than the saloon and features a 490-litre load area. Prod the remote release buttons and the rear seats fold flat to liberate a reasonable 1,510-litres of space. The C63 estate’s practicality credentials are further boosted by a powered tailgate, numerous shopping bag hooks and a 12V power supply.
You don’t expect a near 500bhp V8-powered sports saloon to be cheap to run, but the Mercedes-AMG C63 attempts to minimise the impact on your wallet.
By downsizing the engine from 6.2-litres to 4.0-litres and adopting technology such as stop-start, Mercedes’ engineers have managed to reduce CO2 emissions to just 192g/km and deliver fuel economy claims of 34.5mpg – these figures are almost identical to the smaller engined BMW M3.
Of course you’ll have to drive with a feather light right foot to achieve these fuel figures, but the reduced CO2 emissions will make the new C63 a far more cost effective choice for business users.
Private buyers will also be heartened by the news that residuals for the new models are strong, with our experts calculating that the entry-level C63 saloon will have retained around 49 per cent of its new value after three years. Mercedes also offer a service package that allows owners to spread the cost of maintenance by paying a £40 monthly charge.
Prices for the C63 saloon start at £59,795 (which is only a few hundred pounds more than an automatic gearbox-equipped BMW M3), while the more powerful S model is £66,545. The estate versions of each cost an extra £1,200.