Mercedes-AMG C63 review
The mighty Mercedes-AMG C63 blends exhilarating performance with quality in a usable everyday package
In the world of high-performance cars, the Mercedes-AMG C63 S is one of the best on sale in any class. The AMG badge is synonymous with devastating straight-line pace, and Mercedes has underlined this by doing away with the standard version and now only offering the more powerful S model in its line-up – sitting above the AMG C43 4MATIC. It delivers rear-wheel-drive handling that will put a grin on any driver's face, and that applies whether you're piloting the saloon, estate, coupe or even the convertible as they are all powered by the same muscular engine.
The C63S has a number of rivals. The coupe is the sportiest option, and has opponents in the shape of the BMW M4 Coupe, Audi RS 5 Coupe, Lexus RC F, Alpina B4 and even the Nissan GT-R. The saloon takes on the BMW M3 (which is identical to the M4 underneath), Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio, Audi RS 5 Sportback and Alpina B3, while the C63 Estate challenges the Audi RS 4 Avant and Alpina B3 Touring. The C63 S Cabriolet has rivals in the shape of the BMW M4 Convertible and Alpina B4 Convertible. Really, all these cars compete amongst themselves and choice bodystyle is more down to personal needs than anything else.
All current C63 S versions are powered by a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 503bhp, and power is sent to the rear wheels via a nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox, which replaces the older 7G-Tronic.
But there's much more to the latest C63 S than simple power figures. While that bombastic V8 sounds great and provides character by the bucketload, AMG has spent time honing the standard C-Class' chassis to cope with the extra power. There are wider tracks front and rear, plus bigger tyres and lowered suspension to give more grip. On board, there are adaptive dampers that can improve handling or comfort as necessary via a button on the dashboard.
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Prices for the C63 S start from around £77,000 for the saloon, while the estate is around £1,000 extra. The coupe is £2,000 more than the saloon and the cabriolet is around £4,000 more than the coupe. On top of this, Mercedes offers C63 S Premium Plus versions, which have enhanced equipment levels - including a panoramic electric sunroof, a Burmester sound system and a 360-degree parking camera.
High list prices are just the start of the impact the C63 S will have on your bank balance. Road tax is attracted at the premium rate, while business users will be paying top-rate tax bills running one as a company car. Then there are the fuel costs. Use the V8's performance to the full, and you won't get anywhere near Mercedes-AMG's official figures, which range from 24.4mpg to 25.9mpg.
The C-Class has led the way for the joint partnership between Mercedes and AMG. It was the first car to get an AMG model when the C36 AMG arrived in dealers in 1993 as an official Mercedes model, rather than an aftermarket upgrade. Faster C43 and C55 models appeared over time, while the current C63 badge arrived in 2008 along with a 6.2-litre V8 under the bonnet. Today that has been replaced by the more fuel efficient, but just as powerful, 4.0-litre twin turbo V8, but the C63 badge remains, as smaller C43 and C53 versions have expanded the AMG line-up.
Few cars can match the muscular Mercedes-AMG C63 S for driving thrills. With a booming V8 soundtrack, scorching performance and involving handling, it forces you to savour every moment. It’s not cheap to buy or run, but with this type of car you’re buying with your heart over your head.
The twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 is a mechanical masterpiece. Not only does it deliver thumping performance, its backed by a thunderous soundtrack that adds to the car’s hugely engaging and entertaining character. And the C63 S backs this up with great handling. Sure, the ride is firm, but the Merc delivers great composure. There’s also plenty of scope for personalisation, as the throttle, suspension and gearbox settings can be altered independently.
Engines, performance and drive
The current Mercedes C-Class isn't the sweetest handling compact executive car. Lifeless handling, and a line-up of modest engines have taken some of the shine off the otherwise upmarket Mercedes. However, AMG has worked hard to transform the C63 S from a humdrum saloon into a high performance humdinger.
The C63 S is engaging and involving, and it maintains a rock-solid composure where rivals such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio can get a little flustered. This is partly down to the Mercedes’ superior traction, which allows you to make better use of the available performance for more of the time, particularly when the roads aren’t dry.
And while the AMG’s steering isn’t as quick as the Alfa’s, it’s better weighted and offers more feedback. Yet it’s the Mercedes’ composure over twisting and undulating roads that impresses. It’s less affected by bumps than the Giulia, which can skip and slide over broken surfaces, even when the stability control is switched on. Turn the systems off, and the Mercedes is more approachable.
The trade-off for this reassuring control is a firmer ride, even with the adaptive dampers in their softest setting. However, it’s far from uncomfortable, and in combination with low levels of wind and road noise it makes the C63 S an effortless and enjoyable cruiser.
Further increasing the impression of speed is the standard nine-speed auto gearbox, upgraded from the original seven-speeder. On the whole it 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 to inputs from the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
The Mercedes’ blistering performance is accompanied by an equally exciting soundtrack. At idle it burbles away in typical V8 fashion, while extending the revs creates an evocative NASCAR bellow.
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 sports car 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 S 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 S 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 S benefits from a wide-range of seat and wheel adjustment, making it easy to get comfortable.
Even if you miss the C63's power bulges in the bonnet, flared wheelarches and quad exit exhausts, you won’t be able to ignore the rumbling V8 soundtrack.
The 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 delivers 503bhp with 700Nm of torque and, as you’d expect, this translates into explosive performance. Mercedes claims a 0-62mph time for the C63 S of just 4.0 seconds, blasting on to a derestricted top speed of 174mph. The twin-clutch transmission responds crisply to manual gear change requests, but is smoother when left to its own devices in auto mode.
Then there’s the Mercedes’ addictive soundtrack, which starts with a baritone burble at idle before turning to a thunderous, crackling bellow as the needle on the rev counter swings around to the red line. By comparison, a V6-engined Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio sounds a little flat and muted.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
You don’t expect a 500bhp V8-powered sports saloon to be cheap to run, but the Mercedes-AMG C63 S 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 227g/km and deliver fuel economy claims of around 25mpg, depending on which body style you choose. Private buyers will also be heartened by the news that residuals are strong, and that Mercedes also offer a service package that allows owners to spread the cost of maintenance by paying a £47 monthly charge.
The pricing structure for the range is pretty straightforward, starting at around £77,000 for the saloon, while the estate version cost an extra £1,000. The coupe is £2,000 more than the saloon. The most expensive model (before options) is the cabriolet, which is around £4,000 more than the coupe.
Interior, design and technology
Mercedes has taken a low-key approach to the design of the C63 AMG S, 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.
A clear identifier of the C63 S is its larger wheels (19-inch fronts, 20-inch rears) 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.
However, the Coupe is far less subtle with Mercedes giving the two-door aggressive wide wheelarches and a look that matches the BMW M4 for visual punch.
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 an enhanced 12.3-inch tablet style screen mounted on top of the dashboard.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Look past the supercar-rivalling performance and razor-sharp handling, and you’ll discover the C63 S 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 on the saloon reveals a well-shaped 435-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 £1,000 more expensive than the saloon and features a 460-litre load area. Prod the remote release buttons and the rear seats fold flat to liberate a reasonable 1,480-litres of space. The estate’s practicality credentials are further boosted by a powered tailgate, numerous shopping bag hooks and a 12V power supply.
Unsurprisingly the coupe is the least practical of the lot - there's precious little space in the back for adults thanks to that sloping roofline and front sports seats. The boot is smaller too, naturally, with 380 litres on offer – in comparison, the BMW M4 provides 445 litres while the Lexus RC F packs a smaller 366-litre boot.
Reliability and Safety
Despite the C-Class finishing a lowly 26th in our 2019 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, there was much positive feedback concerning strong build quality, interior design and usable infotainment and sat-nav systems. High running costs are an issue for customers, with expensive servicing being a particular concern. However, Mercedes has attempted to address this by offering flexible servicing plans.
The C63 certainly feels robustly screwed together, while many of its components are shared with the standard C-Class. And although the 4.0-litre V8 is a complex piece of engineering, 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 £825 head-up display which projects key information such as vehicle speed and navigation tips into the driver’s field of vision. And, if you’re feeling particularly flush you can also add carbon ceramic brakes, although they’ll set you back an eye-watering £4,285.