Civilised to civil un­rest for new AMG

Business Day - Motor News - - FRONT PAGE -

The new ra­di­a­tor grille on the forth­com­ing Mercedes-AMG C63 rep­re­sents much more than a facelift of AMG’s most pop­u­lar model. Due in SA in the fourth quar­ter of 2018, the C-Class halo model is yet an­other step on the AMG evo­lu­tion to­wards pro­duc­ing not just hairy-chested su­per-sedans with Godzilla-like power, but cars you can en­joy tootling along with the fam­ily on a trip to visit grandma.

On a trip to Ger­many, we ex­ploited the full tele­phone­book-rip­ping power, as well as the car’s mild Clark Kent na­ture on back­roads. The con­sen­sus was that un­der the man­age­ment regime of Mercedes-AMG CEO To­bias Mo­ers, Mercedes’ per­for­mance di­vi­sion has moved light years be­yond the “hot-rod­ding cul­ture” of a few years back.

That Panamer­i­cana grille with its dis­tinc­tive high-gloss chrome ver­ti­cal slats rep­re­sents cur­rent GT class rac­ing glory and also harkens back to the early 1950s when Mercedes re-es­tab­lished it­self as a megaforce in in­ter­na­tional sports car rac­ing, no­tably with its crush­ing vic­tory in the Panamer­i­cana road race across Mex­ico.

The way that new grille has been in­te­grated into the C-Class sedan shape (as well as in the coupe and cabri­o­let) is ac­tu­ally un­der­stated. The new look for 2019 has been ex­tended to the rear of the car with new tailpipe trim el­e­ments, and on the S mod­els, a new dif­fuser. The boot spoiler has also been re­shaped.

The light-al­loy wheels have also been sub­tly restyled, which Mercedes-AMG says are “aero­dy­nam­i­cally op­ti­mised”, with outer rim aero rings and spoke de­sign. Stan­dard on the C63 are 18-inch rims, while the S mod­els get 19-inch­ers. On the flanks of the facelifted model, there are re-de­fined side-skirts, and this com­bi­na­tion is said to be ren­dered with op­ti­mis­ing brake cool­ing in mind.

In­side there are new de­tails too, most im­por­tantly a new AMG flat-bot­tomed sports steer­ing wheel with func­tion­al­ity that en­ables you to ex­ploit its per­for­mance to the max.

So much for the looks, but what about the “go” de­part­ment? Well, it may come as a mild dis­ap­point­ment to those fix­ated on horse­power num­bers to re­alise that the power and torque out­puts for the new car re­main the same. Those fig­ures from the awe­some twin-turbo 4.0l V8 re­main at 350kW and 650Nm for the stan­dard C63 mod­els and 375kW and 700Nm for the C63 S ver­sions.

“The idea was not to in­crease power, be­cause that is suf­fi­cient,” said AMG pow­er­train spe­cial­ist Hannes Lo­erhrmann in the pit lane of the mar­vel­lous Bil­ster Berg Drive Re­sort in the Bad Driburg area near Pader­born. “More im­por­tant is how that power is de­liv­ered, and in this case we have installed the new nine-speed gear­box in the car, as well as var­i­ous drive func­tion pro­grammes.”

The new nine-speed gear­box is key to this car’s blis­ter­ing track per­for­mance, as well as its func­tion­al­ity as a bur­bling back­roads cruiser in keep­ing with the Bad Driburg area, fa­mous for the sooth­ing prop­er­ties of its min­eral hot springs.

En route to the Bil­ster Berg pri­vate track, I found my­self think­ing that this ef­fort­less V8en­gined de­vice re­minds you of a su­per-pow­er­ful V8 speed­boat, eas­ing down the river on a light throt­tle, re­quir­ing only a quick hoof on the ac­cel­er­a­tor to un­leash enough ac­cel­er­a­tion to turn the still-life scenery into a blur of fast-for­ward mo­tion.

It helps enor­mously that AMG cars th­ese days have the brak­ing sys­tems to cope with any amount of power that their en­gine de­part­ment can de­liver. Even bet­ter, though, is the way the new trans­mis­sion re­acts.

The use of nine ra­tios (pre­vi­ously there were seven) in the new AMG Speed­shift MCT 9G trans­mis­sion means that here is now an op­ti­mum ra­tio for just about any oc­ca­sion. The new trans­mis­sion en­ables light­ning quick up and down­shifts. And, tes­ti­mony to all the com­put­erop­ti­mis­ing car­ried out by AMG engi­neers, the new trans­mis­sion adapts to your driv­ing style. It never sec­ond guesses it­self (or the driver’s in­ten­tions).

This was made even more ap­par­ent when we drove on the track. It is a daunt­ing venue for the unini­ti­ated, with huge el­e­va­tion changes and zero run-off area. AMG thus em­ployed race driv­ers with DTM and GT sports car cat­e­gory ex­pe­ri­ence to guide jour­nal­ists around the track.

RACE MODE

Once th­ese pro driv­ers were as­sured that we had a ba­sic han­dle on the lines, they ex­horted us to try the Race mode on the steer­ing-wheel-mounted dial, which re­moves most of the trac­tion con­trol, sharp­ens up all the throt­tle re­sponses and, in fact, in­tro­duces a tad of over­steer on en­try to some cor­ners, and on ex­it­ing, if you lay on a bit too much power.

For tech­ni­cally-minded read­ers, it should be noted that this new gear­box is not a dual clutch man­ual gear­box, as used by many other man­u­fac­tur­ers. Rather it is a tra­di­tional au­to­matic gear­box, but in­stead of a torque con­verter, it uses a wet clutch pack, hence the name MCT, which stands for Multi Clutch Trans­mis­sion. Some mo­tor­cy­cles use a sim­i­lar wet clutch sys­tem. It of­fers more re­ac­tive re­sponses to even the small­est of load changes fed through from the en­gine.

When the man­ual mode is se­lected, this de­vice can up­change and down­shift in just 100 mil­lisec­onds, us­ing the steer­ing wheel-mounted pad­dles. But even if you leave the de­vice in full au­to­matic mode, as I did when learn­ing the dif­fi­cult Bil­ster Berg track, the shifts are ap­pro­pri­ate for your speed.

AMG has also gone to great lengths to make this halo model an ap­peal­ing track-day de­vice. There are six dif­fer­ent driv­ing pro­grammes from low-power slip­pery mode to Race. It was great to be able to se­lect Race merely at the twist of a knob mounted on the right-hand spoke of the steer­ing wheel.

There is also an AMG Dy­nam­ics func­tion which pre­cisely man­ages the amount of torque di­rected to the rear axle. The torque vec­tor­ing can be set in modes from Ba­sic to Master, which of­fers a de­gree of over­steer. There is also a race timer to dis­play lap times on the 12.3inch screen lo­cated ahead of the driver, and if a Track Pace op­tion is or­dered, you can down­load ad­di­tional data af­ter do­ing a hot lap, such as sec­tor times, and you can also over­lay your lap on a more ideal lap to see where im­prove­ments can be made to your lap speed.

The S sedan mod­els we used on the launch regis­ter 0-100 km/h in 4.0 sec­onds, with a top speed of 290km/h. An even faster time of 3.9 sec­onds for 0-100 is quoted for the coupe, while the cabri­o­let S is a tad slower (4.1 sec­onds and 280km/h). The sexy es­tate car was also on of­fer at the launch, but will not be avail­able in SA.

Af­ter an after­noon of hard­core fun at Bil­ster Berg, the re­main­der of our in­ter­na­tional launch was taken up with cruis­ing on beau­ti­ful un­du­lat­ing tree­lined roads in the Pader­born Lipp­stadt area.

It is here that the ge­nius of the C63 re­ally shines through. You don’t have to go flat out to en­joy this car, be­cause the emo­tion of that en­gine and driv­e­train is in per­fectly ar­tic­u­lated com­mu­ni­ca­tion at all times. For me, this is the real break­through that AMG has made in re­cent times, build­ing a thor­oughly civilised sedan (or coupe or cabri­o­let) that is pleas­ing whether you are do­ing 90km/h or 290km/h.

Pric­ing in SA for the new C63 and C63 S mod­els was not avail­able at the time of go­ing to print. We can con­firm the sedan, coupe and cabri­o­let mod­els will all be of­fered here for sale in the last quar­ter of 2018.

The rear gets the lat­est C-Class treat­ment and the S ver­sions get a unique dif­fuser, above. Be­low: The in­te­rior gets the full AMG treat­ment but look closely and you will see a new dial on the steer­ing wheel.

The 4.0l V8 still pushes out 350kW and 650Nm in the stan­dard ver­sion and 375kW and 700Nm in the S mod­els. Be­low: Tech­nol­ogy now al­lows you to bet­ter assess your times and skills on the track.

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