Highlights- Rumbling V8 super C-Class takes on the BMW M3
- 375 kW and 0-100 kph in 4,0 seconds
- Multiple driving modes, from Comfort to Race
When it comes to debating the merits of a car such as the new Mercedes-Benz (sorry, AMG) C63 S, context is everything. After all, it is one of the “hero” models in the very broad Mercedes line-up. And although it is priced at more than R1 million, it remains a car that very many drivers of “lesser” Mercedes models aspire to own.
That’s all good and well. Those Mercedes folks will buy it regardless, as they did the previous C63 AMG, and the C55 AMG before that, and the C32 AMG before that – no matter how good (or bad) they were. No, the context we need here is provided by what is very possibly the very reason why this car exists – the BMW M3.
Pretty hardcoreThe man who lives across the road from one of our testers owns a Jaguar E-Type coupe – arguably one of the ten prettiest cars of all time. During five years of living within close proximity of each other, no more than five minutes of conversation have taken place. Yet, it took nothing more than the C63 S being parked outside for a short while, before Mr E-Type strolled across and hand outstretched commented; “That must be the prettiest Mercedes ever… Oh... Good afternoon.” Quite a compliment from a man with obvious good taste…
Certainly, the metallic burgundy red hue of our test car contributed to the head-swivelling looks. The standard C-Class is already an attractive machine, but gains obvious visual muscle in the transformation into an AMG. The nose is slightly longer (to accommodate the big engine), and at the rear, four squared-off exhausts represent a promise of aural delights to come. You’ll also notice some rather prominent bulges on the bonnet and a very small, very upright carbon-fibre spoiler on the boot.
Even after a week with the more aggressive Mercedes-AMG GT S, it was still noticeable how this C63 S turned heads. If you want more aggressive looks, consider the Edition 1 option pack. But that costs an extra R175 000, and some testers consider the add-ons rather garish.
What about the M3? Design, like art, is a very subjective matter, but the current M3 is undeniably the more muscular-looking of the two, while the C63 S is the more svelte option. But the difference in visual character is no longer as vast as before.
Tech and luxuryStep inside and the C63 S’ performance ambitions are surprisingly evident at first glance. The seats are figure hugging, yet comfortable and the driving position behind the fat, suede-trimmed steering wheel is nigh-on perfect. The instrumentation is deep-set under that hooded binnacle and the faces of the analogue dials have a racy, motorsport-inspired motif.
We’re not going into detail on the standard specification here – just about everything you’d want or need is standard anyway, and if it is not the optional features list is very long, too. Let’s rather focus on some of the technology.
You can adjust just about everything to your liking, either individually, or by configuring a personalised overall setting that is quickly called into action by flicking a knob on the centre console. For regular driving we chose to leave the suspension in its softest setting, but couldn’t resist pressing the button with the exhausts on it – the sound is just addictive (more on that later).
The latest version of Mercedes’ infotainment system is pretty easy to use once you’ve got the hang of the touch-pad interface on the transmission tunnel. The display screen is nice and large, too, and the resolution is excellent.
Overall, the think Mercedes-Benz has struck a very fine balance between offering premium luxury and comfort, and a racy environment.
And against the M3? Besides the occasional M badge and the special steering wheel, the M3 isn’t as different from a “run-of-the-mill” 3 Series as the C63 S is from a standard C-Class. So, if it’s a sense of occasion you’re after, then the C63 S scores quite an easy victory here. Note, however, that even in base form without extras the C63 S is already more than R100 000 more expensive than the M3. Therefore, you may want to consider the "standard" C63, which is priced at similar levels to the M3.
V8 rumbleFrom the shiny bits to the oily bits… The badge on the back of the C63 S may lead you to expect the charismatic 6.2-litre V8 of the previous model, but instead it is a new-generation 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that nestles so tightly underneath that sculpted bonnet. Basically the same engine as the one in the AMG GT S we tested recently, it does however feature a wet sump in this application.
In the standard C63 the engine delivers an already meaty 350 kW, but in this “S” the power is up to 375 kW, available from 5 500 to 6 250 rpm. A crunching 700 Nm of torque arrives at a low 1 750 rpm and hangs around until 4 500 rpm… so there’s the promise of huge mid-range thrust.
Power goes the rear wheels via an automated multi-plate clutch to a seven-speed torque converter gearbox. This model also features, by the way, an electro-mechanical limited slip differential… Music to the ears of hard-driving enthusiasts, indeed.
Settle into the driver’s seat, press the starter button and that V8 fires up with immediate intent, before settling into a rumbly idle. Boot the throttle and an almighty roar is the result. Even when cruising at low revs you can significantly alter the volume and tone of the rumble by pressing that button on the transmission tunnel. It is hugely addictive and one of the most memorable aspects of the car, in fact. Downshifts are also often accompanied by nice crackles and pops.
In terms of straightline performance, Mercedes claims a 0-100 kph time of 4.0 seconds and of course it is limited to a top speed of 250kph
Does it trounce the M3?: In terms of sheer numbers and loudness, it certainly does. It packs significantly more power and is more entertaining, even when cruising along. The BMW’s turbocharged six-cylinder, however, comes to life at higher speeds and the sprint performance is pretty much identical (0-100kph in 4.1 sec). Remember, the BMW is significantly lighter than the Mercedes, so it doesn’t need more power.
Multi-dimensional driving characterOn the move the C63 S can pretty much be tailored to whatever mood the driver is in, mostly courtesy of the adjustable multi-stage dampers. Stick it into its more comfort-oriented settings and it will happily play the luxury, premium sedan role. A possible irritation, however, is the transmission. In Comfort mode it is simply too slow to react to gentle low-speed throttle inputs, so there is often a frustrating pause before the power arrives to continue your daily grind. You can, of course, work around this issue by changing gears yourself or even selecting a different gearbox mode (thought the latter option does perhaps make it a bit too aggressive).
With the racier modes selected, the Mercedes-AMG C63 S is a real handful, but not nearly as one-dimensional as some of its predecessors have been. There’s certainly a greater sense of security when pressing on than before, mostly because there’s lots of grip and the controls, particularly the throttle, appear to be more finely tuned to the driver’s needs. The steering is still a let-down, being devoid of feel for the most part. So it really is up your ability to decipher G-forces to ascertain when the limit is being neared. Of course, if tail-out action is what is required, this is an area in which the C63 S will happily comply.
Out-corner an M3? No… not quite. The M3 remains the sharper driver’s tool, mostly because it is lighter and has a grippier front end. The BMW feels more agile, overall, in fact. But the difference is no longer vast, and seen in isolation the C63 S’ dynamics are outstanding. Plus… it has a far more comfortable ride quality than the M3.
Conclusion and SummarySo let’s look at the context. The Mercedes-AMG C63 AMG S is more expensive than an M3 and offers more power (yet similar straight-line performance), a better cabin, superior ride quality and an engine that more often thrills the earbuds. It is slightly beaten by the BMW, however, in terms of ultimate dynamic ability. Within that context, it is clear that the top-dog C-Class is massively improved. Enough to convince a BMW M3 owner to switch? Unlikely. Brand loyalty is immense with these cars. But if there’s one thing that this exercise has taught us, it is that Mercedes-Benz is getting awfully good at making cars with split personalities. And yes… to a great degree, we can thank BMW’s M3 for that…
Mercedes-AMG C63 S Price in South AfricaThe Mercedes-AMG C63 S costs R1 171 495 in South Africa and comes back with a two-years/unlimited km warranty and a six-years/100 000 km Maintenance Plan.
The Mercedes-AMG C63 S is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It can be calm and sedate when driving in the city but when you open the taps, a whole new animal emerges. The C63 S is classy and comfortable with exhilarating performance only a few revs away. Its combination of luxury and performance is certainly difficult to ignore.” – Gero Lilleike
The C63S has not lost any of its charm or appeal due to its downsized engine, plus it's even faster and sounds the part too. A good balance between premium sedan and supercar-like performance. This, or a BMW M3? Tough call... – David Taylor
We Like: Lovely engine, great cabin, thrilling performance, comfort and dynamics balance
We don’t Like: Slow shifting box at low speed (Comfort mode)
Also consider: BMW M3, Audi RS4 Avant