C63 S proves its track mettle at Winton
UNLIKE A CERTAIN Bavarian rival, the C63 has never really been known as a track day car. A bit too big, soft and heavy, it’s been the cruiser keener on vaporising rear tyres than getting down lap times. But with every new iteration, Mercedes-AMG seems hell-bent on changing this perception.
With its motorsport-inspired solidmounted rear end and new Nine-Stage Traction Control (as seen on the AMG GT R road car and GT3 racer), the C63 S has never felt more ready for track use out of the box. A new onboard laptime and data-logging app, Track Pace, hammers the point home. And taking all that as encouragement, we thought we’d put the track promise to the test at a Winton Raceway Test & Tune day.
For starters, if you’re going to track your C63 S, fitting Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s will do wonders for helping conceal the car’s weight, but also in offering superb feel and friendlier wear characteristics. AMG offers them as a $1200 option but it’s much more economical to buy them yourself and stash the standard UHP tyres for later.
As we took to Winton’s 3.0km layout, there was no doubting you should get the 402mm optional six-pot ceramic front brakes. The reasonable $7900 ask is money well spent, the pedal feeling good for about six hard laps. Kinda what you want when barrelling towards Turn One at 195km/h in 1725kg of big, bad Merc. Although we did help the brakes by not throwing mechanical sympathy completely out the window.
And that is indeed a prominent theme when tracking the C63 S Coupe. The Sport Plus damper mode might be too stiff for the road but it’s ideal for a smoother circuit, keeping the C63 S’s body controlled and tight despite the newly softer spring rates. But still it’s with tyre and brake preservation in mind that you hurtle out of pitlane in a car like this – and, again owing to the weight, the on-track limit is not as difficult to reach as you perhaps would have thought, even with the Cup 2s.
That’s not to say, of course, that the C63 S is not spades of fun on a track. It’s stonkingly fast (with no let-up in the power even after repeated laps in fairly warm weather), snarls a loud V8 note easily heard through a helmet, the highly strung paddle-shift auto also stepping up its game for response in a fantastic way. There’s a clear-enough connection to all four tyres through both the steering and the seat; and a good overall balance with plenty of adjustability. It’s also fast enough that at a busy track day you’ll be carving up traffic like an LMP1 car at La Sarthe.
The nine-stage traction, controlled by a steering wheel rotary dial and activated by turning off the ESC, is also a giggle – and actually helpful. In its most conservative setting (nine), you can flatten the accelerator mid-corner and the computer will only apply the
THE SPORT PLUS DAMPER MODE, TOO STIFF FOR THE ROAD, IS IDEAL FOR A SMOOTH RACETRACK
maximum possible throttle to the exit. Wind the TC back and predictably you get more and more slip. It can be helpful to leave the traction to a computer while you focus on other things, but eventually you’ll want to take over. It’s not intended to be a drift mode either but it can sort of be used as such; no ESC meaning in theory it could be possible to spin the car, too.
The Track Pace app is also really cool. Drive a lap for it to record the track over GPS and then it’ll start logging your times on the centre 10.5inch display, showing best and worst and even a delta time (just to throw you off on a good lap). According to the app, yours truly (no pro) managed a careful 1:37.86, a lot left on the table. Winton is a bit faster now, too, thanks to its reprofiled turn four with its awesome F1-esque low and wide kerbs.
For track day addicts, you might prefer something a bit lighter but the C63 S combines track and road ability with everyday comfort in a pretty impressive package. And with its appetite for rear tyres intact... – DC
beforehand maximum power was produced at a lowly 5700rpm the new peak arrives at 6200rpm and at least 400Nm is available between 25005300rpm. The rev limit is 6800rpm in short bursts, though 6500rpm continuously. Ford claims 0-60mph (97km/h) in the “mid four-second range on premium fuel” which is outrageously optimistic, but we’ll strap the timing gear on to discover the true figures in a future update.
Helpfully, the chassis has had a thorough going-over, too. An alloy strut tower brace stiffens up the front end, brakes are lifted from the standard GT – 352mm discs and fourpiston calipers up front rather than the 380mm discs and six-piston calipers of the Performance Pack-spec Aussie GTs, combined with 330mm discs and single-piston calipers at the rear – and the front bar improves brake cooling and reduces front-end lift. The 2.3L HP is 65kg lighter than its V8 sibling at 1705kg, which is distributed 53/47 front-to-rear.
Wheels are 19 by 9.0-inch front and rear but wrapped in Pirelli P Zeroes rather than the GT’s Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S. There’s an optional “Ecoboost Handling Package” available Stateside which local HPs score half of; a larger 24mm anti-roll bar (up from 21.7mm, itself an upgrade from the standard Ecoboost’s 20mm) and shorter 3.55:1 diff ratio (3:31 standard) make the grade, but the wider 9.5inch wheels with 265/40 Pirelli P Zero Corsa4 tyres do not.
There are a few options available and our test car has the works: MagneRide adaptive dampers, Recaro seats and the body colour pack, which deletes the grey bonnet stripes and reverts the rear spoiler and mirrors to, funnily enough, body colour. It’s a good looking car, the nickel-finish wheels providing a subtly different look to the GT.
You don’t miss out on any equipment for forgoing the V8, quite the contrary. There’s the same 8.0-inch touchscreen with SYNC3 infotainment and smartphone mirroring, 12-speaker 1000w B&O stereo, 12-inch digital instruments, dual-zone climate control, eight airbags, adaptive cruise, auto high-beam, auto emergency braking and tyre pressure monitoring. Heated and cooled seats are standard, but selecting the Recaros deletes this capability. You even get a couple of small items missing from the GT, most notably the pony projection lights that shine the Mustang logo onto the ground as you step out of the car. A small touch, but a nice one.
The question is whether this thorough makeover has made the fourcylinder Mustang a viable alternative? The next couple of months will provide the answer, on road, drag strip and track, while the immediate switch to the V8 big-banger will be the perfect reference point. Will the 2.3L High Performance prove to be a rose, or more of a thorn? – SN
HAS THIS THOROUGH MAKEOVER MADE THE FOUR-CYLINDER MUSTANG A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE?
TOP Track Pace app syncs with a phone app and offers a swathe of data to analyse
MIDDLE Luffy managed a 1:36.3 in a Cup 2-shod sedan in 2015; Coupe would go quicker again
BOTTOM Front tyres work very hard, temps and pressures reaching 55 psi and 94°C
01 ONE Subtle rear spoiler is grey unless you tick the body colour option pack
03 THREE Nothing missing in here. 2.3 HP is packed full of all the goodies as standard
02 TWO Upgraded 2.3 scores an extra 12kW/7Nm but produces its grunt over a wider band
04 FOUR Badge also appears on the dash with a unique chassis number