Change of di­rec­tion

AMG fits a smaller yet still po­tent V8 — and a tiller that’s too fat to grip

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - THE TICK -

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

THE TICK

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?

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