Mercedes C63 AMG

Flagship C-Class aims to set new benchmark.

  • A great driving position; engine has amazing mid-range punch; even on the bumpiest B-road, the suspension never lost control.
  • The single column stalk and foot-operated parking brake are outdated; ride quality lets the C63 down.

No effort has been spared in the C63’s development. Mercedes spent nearly three years getting this model right, testing it in 20 different locations around the world, from the Arctic Circle to California’s Death Valley. Why is so much energy being put into a car that won’t sell in huge numbers?

Two reasons: firstly, its arrival coincides with AMG’s 40th anniversary. Secondly, the competition is now so strong, AMG couldn’t just fit a big engine and hope for the best.

This is why the C63 has an all-new front axle, is 25mm wider than a standard C-Class, has a three-stage ESP system that can be fully disengaged and a more muscular body. Yet despite the quad exhausts and twin bonnet strakes, subtlety is the name of the game.

We wish Mercedes had gone to a bit more trouble inside. Open the door and you are greeted by a heavily bolstered seat – the side supports are so large, they force you to adopt an elbows-out driving style. But once you’re settled in and enjoying the excellent seating position and chunky steering wheel, there’s little to set it apart from an ordinary C-Class.

It’s not even that well equipped, with turn-by-turn sat-nav a £750 extra – full systems are standard in the Lexus and BMW. As with all these cars, the cabin doesn’t really feel special enough to justify a £50,000 outlay.

That’s especially true in the back, where the bulky new front seats restrict legroom to 670mm. The 475-litre boot is the biggest here, though, and there are lots of neat touches. The xenon headlights are strong, all-round visibility is great and the centre of the speedo flashes as the rev needle nears the limiter.

Get used to seeing that red glow, as the Mercedes’ performance is addictive. It starts as soon as you turn the key and the 6.2-litre V8 bellows into life. Blip the throttle and the whole car rocks. No rival offers this sense of drama and excitement – but then none of them has 451bhp and 600Nm of torque.

With all bar 100Nm of that available from 2,000rpm, the C63 is easily the best in day-to-day driving. Overtaking is a breeze, and the engine is tractable, if sensitive to low-speed throttle inputs. The Merc is also the fastest car – it outperforms an Audi R8, let alone the RS4. It was the only model to cover 0-100mph at the test track in less than 10 seconds, and our team felt it sounded the best, too. But it would have been quicker if you didn’t have to change gear so often. No car with this much grunt needs seven gears.

Left alone, the auto hunts around too much, changing down unnecessarily instead of using the awesome mid-range torque. It’s best to select Manual mode instead of Sport or Comfort and use the paddles, but even so, we think Lexus’s eight-speeder is smoother and faster. The M3 also offers marginally better braking performance and handling – although the C63 is more fun to drive.

It’s a touch heavier on the road, the steering needs more lock in corners and the ride is a fraction harsher than the BMW’s. But the Merc is every bit as involving and more characterful, while fantastic body control, poise and agility mean it’s able to cope with that mighty engine. Make no mistake, the C63 is a real driver’s car.

Details

Price: £51,317Model tested: Mercedes C63 AMGChart position: 1WHY: AMG has a wider track than the standard C-Class, plus a seven-speed box and new suspension.

Economy

Even if you can afford the C63’s fuel bills, you will be irritated at how often you have to stop at a petrol station. A 15.5mpg return means you’ll be filling up every 225 miles. When driving gently we got over 20mpg from the V8, but at the track that fell to only 8.9mpg.

Residuals

According to our experts, the C63 should be a big hit used, retaining 53.4 per cent of its value after three years. That’s 10 per cent better than the E63, which has the same engine and gearbox. You’ll lose £23,914 – less than on a high-spec Citroen C6.

Servicing

A super-saloon is never going to be cheap to run, as our service quotes illustrate. The C63 is the least costly, although three checks are still £1,075. And the attitude of garage staff was criticised in our Driver Power 2007 dealer survey.

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