Change of direction
AMG fits a smaller yet still potent V8 — and a tiller that’s too fat to grip
FORGET Porsches and Lamborghinis, if you crave a real-world supercar then you need a three-pointed star.
The Mercedes-AMG C63S is brilliantly quick, surprisingly comfortable and, with a base price of $155,489, excellent value. It can also carry four people and luggage and, if you ever get to the Top End’s Stuart Highway where the open-road limit has been erased again, you can even wind it up to 280km/h.
In fact, it’s just the overchunky steering wheel that stops me immediately awarding it The Tick before I even start the engine of the new hero of the C-Class family.
What’s that? The steering wheel? Yes, the wheel is far too fat in the rim for me and it ruins my enjoyment of the car on my favourite driving road.
I like to keep a light touch on the rim but I can’t get my fingers comfortably around the chunky wheel. This means I’m obliged to over-grip and hang on instead of stroking it as gently as I’m doing with the accelerator — which can unleash 375kW of twin-turbo V8 power.
This is not the only car with an over-fat wheel (think BMW M3) but it’s time to talk about it — AMG has overdone the deal in favour of people with big hands and fat wallets. Were I buying one, I’d order it with the wheel from the base C200.
But back to the rest of the package, which takes a power of beating and, for me, comfortably trumps the M3/M4 and the Audi RS heroes.
The 63 is built up from the C-Class that claimed our Car of the Year award for 2014, so I know the basics are high quality and spot-on.
That covers the modern cabin design, the safety gear and the Benz quality in the materials and final finishing. I’d prefer a bigger fuel tank but the C-Class package precludes that.
The 63 still claims an acceptable range until you choose to exploit the engine’s performance. Then it easily guzzles 15.0L/100km or more.
The new-age 63 abandons the previous 6.2-litre V8 in favour of a 4.0, meaning you can get better economy with a light foot while indulging in the greater thirst when the highperformance mood strikes.
In the AMG upgrade, the turbos are tucked down inside the vee for better packaging and throttle response. It adds a seven-speed sports auto, truly excellent performance settings for the engine and gearbox and, among other fruit, 19-inch alloy wheels with big brakes.
This test car, one of the last without a real-world owner, also has the Edition 1 package used to launch the model in Australia. It brings cosmetic tweaks including diamond stitching on the front bucket seats, dark alloys and exhaust tips, spoiler and more. Again, were I spending my own money, I’d tick the $8000 box for the Edition package.
Settling in, I take the time to program the “personal” settings.
Basic choices run from Sport and Sport+ up to Race (including Launch control) but I select Sport+ on everything but the suspension, which I leave in full soft to ensure compliance and grip.
Initially it was in full Sport+ and the ride was rattly, far too firm and noisy. Backing it off suits local roads far better.
There is great comfort in the basic C-Class and the 63 is even better, thanks to the grippy seats, and there is space in the back for adults. The six-yearold is hugely happy with his view and the AMG fun factor.
The exhaust has a mature grumble at idle but can also be switched to menacing. Dials are big and simple, the head-up display ensures you always have an eye on your speed and the Burmester audio is great.
There is no reason to think the safety is less than five-star, even though ANCAP won’t be crashing a C63, and Benz has proven long-term quality.
What about potential rivals, even including a 911 or a Nissan GT-R? The 63 heads them because of the all-round strengths of Benz engineering and the car’s overall practicality. It’s easy to park, the boot space is good, and yet it can still get up and go.
For me, the chassis and suspension work better in Australia than the M cars from BMW, and the slick way the peak torque of 700Nm flows to the back wheels makes the performance less abrupt.
The 19-inch rims are similar to those on the new Ford Mustang yet I’m surprised that it’s not as compliant as the American pony car. I’m also surprised that, despite the claimed economy of 8.6L/100km, I get sevens on the highway and most of my running is in the 12-plus range.
But I’m running, not walking, in a car that loves to get going. The 63 is always eager and willing, right from idle up to the bellowing redline.
My favourite fun is braking very late in a high gear to get the visceral feel — and sound — of the Sport+ program working down through the ratios. There are programmed “blips” of throttle on the downshifts and zero instability as it finds the right gear.
It’s obviously as fast as a catapult, with an official 0-100km/h time of 4.1 seconds, but I rarely need more than a brief stab on the pedal to get ahead of the traffic. Overtaking? It’s always a snack.
I love the styling, with just the right amount of menace, and the way it drives. With the road rules tightening all the time, it’s a car that shows driving can still be fun
I don’t like the steering wheel but it’s not a deal breaker, so it’s another tick for the C63S. Was there any doubt?