Mercedes-AMG C63 review: first drive of the 510bhp C63 CoupeSam Philip tests the AMG two-door aiming to give BMW’s M4 a headache
What’s this, then?
Merc-AMG’s answer to the BMW M4: it’s the 510bhp, very-rear-wheel-drive Mercedes C63 S Coupe.
510 horsepowers is a lot of horsepowers.
It is indeed, the C-Coupe’s twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 – effectively a wet-sumped version of the engine from the AMG GT S – punching a long way north of the M4’s 425bhp turbo six-cylinder. 510bhp, it should be noted, is the output of the ‘S’ flavoured C63 Coupe, the non-S version coming in at a mere 476bhp.
I want the more powerful one.
You’ll pay an extra £7k for the privilege, the C63 S Coupe weighing in at a not-insignificant £68,070. That’s a fair chunk more than the M4, which starts at £57,000. Then again, you do get a brace of extra cylinders with your AMG, not to mention a 0-62mph time the correct side of four seconds.
This is a sub-four car?
It is. According to Merc’s numbers, the standard C63 Coupe will do 0-62mph in 4.0 seconds exactly, with the S coming in a tenth quicker. That M4? A tardy 4.3 seconds.
It’d be even faster if it had 4WD, surely?
Yes, Merc engineers admit they could have trimmed a couple of tenths by making the C63 four-wheel drive rather than sticking with their traditional rear-drive configuration. AMG, remember, now offers the E63 with 4WD, in mainland Europe at least.
But such a set-up, say the AMG guys, would be against the C63’s driver-first philosophy. This isn’t a car to flatter eejits on an icy morning, rather one that demands respect.
So how does it drift?
Always you and the drifting. Our first outing in the C63 Coupe came at a very, very wet Ascari circuit, doing hot laps behind Merc ace Bernd Schneider in an AMG GT S. Ascari is a mighty circuit but, with a notable absence of run-off in certain places you’d rather like run-off, not necessarily the gentlest introduction to a 500bhp rear-drive coupe while keeping up with a serious sports car and serious sports car driver. Especially when you have no idea which way the track goes.
Though the semi-aquatic conditions made it tough to verify that 0-62mph time, it proved a rather good chance to discover the approachability – or otherwise – of the C63’s chassis.
Leave it in one of its less aggressive driving modes, and – even in the soppingest of sopping conditions – the C63 will dedicate its considerable processing power to keeping you facing (roughly) forwards. There’s decent feel from the electro-mechanical – but non-variable-rate – steering, the traction control letting you slip far enough to signal you’ve exceeded your talent, but stopping you well short of a spin.
But turn it all off and the AMG reveals itself to be quite keen on the whole ‘sideways’ thing. Put it this way: you’re never concerned understeer might present a problem, while spectacular/ill-advised slip angles are only ever the faintest prompt of the accelerator away.
In the wet at least, the C63 doesn’t feel snappy as such, just properly rear-wheel drive, and every bit as powerful and torquey as those power and torque figures suggest.
How does it sound?
Though the turbo V8 doesn’t have the same shimmering crescendo as the naturally aspirated monster in the last C63 coupe, it offers a stonking soundtrack nonetheless. Order the exhaust system into its noisiest mode, and you’re treated to a bass-laden barrage of innard-churning thumps, overlaid with a healthy array of snaps and cackles. Best of all, it all sounds rather more natural than the synthetic efforts of many modern performance cars.
It’s in keeping with the AMG’s very analogue character. There’s no sense this engine is especially turbocharged: you feel no noticeable lag, simply a broad, vast, even sweep of power that continues unrelentingly until you batter into the redline. Throttle response is exemplary. With the exception of Ferrari’s 488 GTB, I can’t think of a car that does turbocharging better.
Apart from the C63 saloon, of course…
True, the four-door hot C boasts all the same noise and power as this two-door. But the coupe does feel, to these hands at least, noticeably different to the saloon. Good different.
I drove the C63 saloon in similarly soggy conditions during our Speed Week epic at Austria’s Red Bull Ring, and didn’t especially get on with it. It felt a little woolly and wayward, a slightly imprecise tool. In even wetter conditions on an even hairier track, the C63 Coupe seemed more confidence-inspiring, giving a better idea of what its rear tyres were up to.
That’s not because it’s lighter – oddly, the coupe is actually a fraction heavier than the four-door. Why? Largely because the two-door uses, in the words of AMG boss Tobias Moers, ‘basically a whole new rear suspension’ with a whole lot of extra metalwork around the rear axle, helping make the coupe stiffer and more responsive than the saloon and estate.
While the C63 saloon, says Merc, is pitched at road drivers who might occasionally venture onto track, the coupe has been tuned much more for circuit driving. The result is a car that tells you better what it’s up to at the limit, that feels a little less meat-cleaver and a little more paring-knife.
Moers says the suspension set-up of the new C63 is roughly on a par with the old C63 Black Series (a car, incidentally, I managed to chuck ingloriously off the outside of Hammerhead a few years ago). Imagine how pointy the next C63 Black will be…
Does the track-biased suspension mean it’s a rock-hard teeth-cruncher on the road?
No. The C63 Coupe isn’t what you’d call ‘pillowy’ exactly, but even on 19-inch wheels it’s entirely bearable on roughly surfaced roads. That’s not to say that driving the C at decent lick on, say, a damp Spanish mountain road is a relaxing experience as such. Get even slightly over-enthusiastic with the throttle and it’ll kick sideways before you’ve had a chance to think ‘opposite lo-'.
But it’ll absorb some pretty rubbish tarmac without bouncing you off the road, adopting a mellow cruise at speed. Despite AMG’s claims, this still feels like a car pitched at road driving – albeit pretty full-bore road driving – first, and track second. Just the way it should be.
Should I buy one?
You might question whether a small coupe developing over 500bhp is perhaps a little… excessive. And you’d be absolutely correct: the C63 Coupe is entirely over-specced for duty. In real-world driving, you’ll struggle to exploit even 50 per cent of the Merc’s potential without risking the livelihood of nearby hedgerow foliage.
But there’s something charmingly raucous about the C63, a dedication to excess that seems even sillier – in a good way – in coupe form. Yes, it might have embraced turbocharging in a sop to economy and emissions, but this is still a petrol-gargling brute of an old-school coupe.
Sure, the C63 saloon might make more sense as a fast car of genuine duality, but there’s no getting away from the fact the four-door looks understated to point of missable. The coupe, with its prop-forward arches and angrier stance, feels rather more special. As it should, for close to seventy grand.
Rather than thinking of it as a very expensive C-Class, consider it a more practical, cheaper alternative to the newly turbocharged Porsche 911 Carrera, a car I reckon it could push pretty close down any road.
And what about that M4?
Of course we’ll need to get the two face-to-face – and in the dry – to form any definitive conclusions, but first impressions are that the AMG might be a little more feelsome, a little less artificial than the M car. It’s almost certainly noisier and, I suspect, even keener to torch its rear tyres...