The Courier-Mail

Sonic boomer

Benz has pro­duced a block­buster in the new C63

- CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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