Epic engines have always been what the AMG tuning division has done best – but the latest generation of hot Mercedes models has added some welcome finesse to the go-faster recipe.
When the C63 was launched in 2007, the firm lavished plenty of attention on the chassis. The swift, talented and desirable compact exec has been one of our class favourites ever since. And now, a raft of improvements promises to make this latest car better still.
Our left-hand-drive German model was one of the first to roll off the line, and is set apart by daytime running LEDs, plus a new grille and headlamps. On top of that, bigger power bulges in the bonnet give a more aggressive look. At the back, four tailpipes and a diffuser-style bumper complete the purposeful makeover.
Inside, the C63 gets the same upgraded dash – complete with an integrated screen – as the rest of the recently enhanced C-Class line-up. But there’s plenty to set the performance flagship apart. Its classy leather trim, aluminium paddleshifters and suede-rimmed wheel all strike the right note.
The seating position is superb, too, although the heavily bolstered cushioning forces you to adopt an elbows-out driving style. The bulky front chairs restrict back legroom as well and, as the 2,765mm wheelbase is 150mm shorter than the Vauxhall’s, the Mercedes isn’t as accommodating.
This trend continues in the boot, where the C-Class trails by 21 litres, with a 475-litre capacity. At least you can increase carrying ability by folding the 60:40 split-fold rear bench flat. So, the cabin is way ahead in terms of quality and style.
But it’s the mechanical upgrades that will excite performance car fans. And although the mighty 6.2-litre V8 engine is unchanged, it’s now matched to AMG’s Speedshift MCT seven-speed gearbox.
Doing away with a torque converter, this uses a wet clutch set-up and drives in four modes. You can choose from Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus, but such is its responsiveness that in most cases, you may as well simply switch straight to Manual mode and use the steering paddles.
These provide near-seamless changes in comparison to the laboured unit in the Vauxhall, while a sporty blip of the throttle on downshifts adds to the fun in the AMG.
Alternatively, if you drive the car as a relaxed auto, in Comfort mode, the low-rev upshifts help fuel consumption. However, it’s the character of the engine that really separates the Mercedes from the VXR8. As soon as you turn the key, the 6.2-litre V8 bellows into life. Blip the throttle and the whole car tingles. Its rival simply can’t match this sense of drama and excitement – and that’s before you get going...
On the move, the C63 rams home its advantage. With a huge 600Nm of torque, it is one of the punchiest day-to-day performance machines we’ve driven – especially as our example benefited from the Performance Pack power upgrade to 480bhp. It pulls strongly from low in the range and blasted from 0-60mph in a mere 4.5 seconds. Its in-gear thrust is even more impressive, and makes overtaking a breeze.
The quick-revving engine also contrasts with the Vauxhall’s lazy nature. Plus, with stronger brakes and sharper handling, the C63’s driver appeal stretches beyond its incredible engine. While the ride is firm, fantastic body control and impressive agility mean the chassis is more than capable of dealing with the power.
Revisions such as a stiffer rear anti-roll bar and revised camber settings have subtly improved a platform that already benefited from a wider track than any other C-Class model. The weighty steering provides more feel than its rival, so the Vauxhall certainly has its work cut out to beat the C63 for pure driver appeal.
Chart position: 1WHY: A mighty 6.2-litre V8 already made the C63 a fine sports saloon. Now, it gets a new gearbox and host of styling, suspension and interior updates.