Benz has produced a blockbuster in the new C63
TAKE the reigning Carsguide Car of the Year, give it to an engineering department with a single-minded focus on performance and you have the Mercedes-AMG C63 S.
This is the compact sedan that overcompensates in about every way, from the leather on the already impressive C-Class interior to the performance that rivals many vehicles regarded as supercars.
Apropos supercars, there’s a year-plus waiting list for the $300,000 Mercedes-AMG GT. Don’t wait: drop $154,510 on the C63 S.
You’ll trade off 0.2 of a second for the 100km/h sprint in return for two more doors, room for three more passengers and, with the badges deleted, the ability to cruise around town in a stealth missile. And it can be used as a family car, at least with the suspension kept in the default Comfort mode. For those who really want to go incognito, the wagon version costs $157,010.
AMG had a point to prove with this car. When it announced it was axing the 6.2litre naturally aspirated V8 for a turbo engine, there was angst among all except existing owners. They argued a turbo mill couldn’t deliver the instantaneous throttle response and hair-raising howl of such a V8. Turns out if you throw enough Teutonically efficient engineers at a problem, there’ll be a light-bulb moment.
Fitting the exhaust headers and turbos inside the engine’s V — in what AMG, with unflinching precision, calls a “hot inside V” — means there’s less distance for the gases to travel before they hit the turbo vanes, in turn meaning less lag. A massive plumbing system to ensure the engine stays cool was relatively straightforward.
Ensuring those gases exit the car with enough rumbling resonance to excite owners — and agitate passers-by if the switches are set to “sonic boom” territory — AMG turned to smart engineering in the form of a series of electrically operated exhaust flaps.
Complicated yes; efficient and effective, ooh yeah.
ON THE ROAD
Toss the kids in the back, their schoolbags in the boot and the C63 does a convincing job of being a mundane conveyance. The suspension is firm enough to transmit sharp-edged jolts into the cabin but there’s no impression the shocks have seized solid.
The shifts from the seven- speed auto and the slightly doughy throttle response at light loads also ensure occupants aren’t jolted and pitched.
If that modicum of effort is too taxing in stop-start traffic, hand over the duties to the adaptive cruise control which will happily brake and accelerate the car to match the traffic ahead, including automated stops and starts.
It is a huge step up on the previous C63, which now seems positively harsh in urban duties.
Head for the hills, dial up a more aggressive drivetrain and steering response and the civilised facade is stripped away in the wind rush.
The brakes are more than adequate for serious road work and the transmission shifts up and down the cogs at the same pace as the neurons are now firing in the brain.
Fire in fast enough and the electronic rear diff lock (overseas owners of the “regular” C63 have to settle for a conventional mechanical job) can be felt restraining the inside wheel to help sling the car through the turn.
Owners can — and will — spend hours with the dynamic control menu matching settings to situations, or customising elements to be combined in the Individual setting.
The “race launch” mode will be experimented with, if only to ensure the 4.0sec sprint time is achievable. That shouldn’t be a problem with 700Nm able to shred the rear rubber.
Beyond the driver’s appreciation, Benz has crammed most of its latest tech into the ultimate C-Class, from an airconditioner that ionises and scents the air to a digital TV tuner, 13-speaker Burmester audio, head-up display projected on the windscreen and a bird’s-eye view camera.
For all of that, the C63 isn’t quite perfect. Tyre noise from the massive Michelin rubber can intrude at highway speeds and the steering feel, as meaty as it is, isn’t M3 precise just off-centre. But perfection is overrated.
The C63 retains the dramatic sense of theatre of the previous model but is now quicker, more composed and more engaging. It’s the difference between a school hall show and a Broadway blockbuster. I’ll take tickets to that show.