Mercedes-AMG C63 S (2018) International Launch Review

Mercedes AMG C63 5

We headed to the speed-limit-free autobahns of Germany to get to grips with the facelifted version of the Mercedes-AMG C63 S, which will be introduced in South Africa before the end of the year in sedan, coupe and cabriolet guises. If these impressions are anything to go by, this very potent road weapon is well worth the wait.

What's new?

Visually, the biggest changes to the C63 S is the Panamerican grille at the front, some new-look alloy wheels and redesigned tail lights. In terms of engine, the 4.0-litre biturbo V8 has been carried over from the outgoing (pre-facelift) version. There was apparently no need for a power increase, as the Benz already delivers sledgehammer-like performance. For the record, the motor produces 375 kW and 700 Nm – and it's absolutely devastating in terms of the in-gear acceleration that it can deliver. Interestingly, despite the fitment of the new 9-speed transmission, acceleration from 0 to 100 kph remains the same, but we suspect the car simply cannot put its power down more effectively. Even with warm tyres on the track, burying your right foot in 1st or 2nd gear results in a loss of traction as the rear tyres struggle to deal with a 700 Nm surge. Entertaining? Absolutely. 


The Panamerican grille dominates the front end.

The main benefit of the 9G-Tronic transmission is that its ratios are closely spaced, which means you have greater access to that sonorous engine's generous spread of torque. Below 3 000 rpm, there's an entertaining noise, but beyond 4 500 rpm the 4.0-litre V8 produces a cacophonous din that would do a Highveld thunderstorm proud. When you come off the throttle and shift down a cog, there's an almighty crack out of the exhaust that is so percussive that you can feel it through the base of the driver's seat. There are also substantial revisions to the suspension (that obviously benefit handling) as well as the introduction of a brake-based torque vectoring system, which Mercedes calls AMG Dynamics, and the top speed has been increased from 250 kph to 290 kph. The electronically controlled rear-axle limited-slip differential is now standard across the range too. 

Click to see the detailed changes here: 2019 Mercedes-AMG C63 S: 5 Key Changes

What about the cabin?


A new steering wheel and digital dashboard. Note the new AMG controllers, which are brilliant

There are numerous changes in the cabin, both from functional and aesthetic points of view. The substantially revised infotainment system not only has a more modern look – it's far more intuitive to use – and the new-look steering wheel, reminiscent of the unit we recently experienced in the Mercedes-AMG E63 S, is glorious to wield. Whether you stick with the standard Nappa-and-microfibre-trimmed 'wheel or opt for the audacious carbon-fibre version, it feels appropriate for a vehicle of this nature. We haven't forgotten the tiller's 2 new rotary controllers; we'll discuss them later.


The digital dashboard from the more upmarket Mercedes-Benz products has found its way into the C63

Mercedes-AMG has introduced a 12.3-inch instrument cluster for the C63 S. It looks very similar to that found in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which is a system we greatly admire. The graphics are crisp and modern, and customisable with 3 themes. You can further tweak the data displayed and choose what information is critical for your drive. Some may fancy seeing engine data such as gearbox temperature and turbocharger boost, while others may prefer viewing navigation and audio information. As far as cabins go, the new-look Mercedes-AMG C63 S is modern and advanced.

What is it like to drive?


Thanks to 700 Nm, tail sliding action is very possible, but thanks to the 9-stage traction control, it's completely manageable

There's no other way to put this: the ferocity of the 4.0-litre V8 motor makes the C63 S an unsubtle vehicle to pilot. Sure, you can put it in Comfort mode and let it shift gears on its own, but you're constantly reminded that you're piloting a barking, snarling German road weapon. While the new 9-speed transmission is good, in full-automatic mode (in Comfort) the 'box is simply too eager to change up – as if the Benz is trying its utmost to be thrifty and economical. All of which is fine, but when you want to overtake slower traffic, the 'box will quickly kick down 2 or even 3 ratios and it feels fussy for such a powerful car. Fortunately, you can rectify this by putting the car into Sport or Sport+ mode and switching the gearbox into manual mode. Besides, it's quite a treat to hear a reassuring clink-clink with every tug of the handsome, tactile metal paddles located behind the 'wheel. 

The C63 S' adaptive damping system is praiseworthy too, because in the more dynamic modes such as Sport, Sport+ and even Race, there's a negligible loss of ride quality between the settings; the real acid test, of course, will be the suspension's performance on South African roads. We really like the in-between setting of Sport+ which gave you a firm, but not jarring, ride. And, the Benz truly shines on the highway... With so much torque available and the new 9-speed transmission eager to give you the perfect gear for maximum effect, the sedan's in-gear shove is immense. 


How good does this look? The Mercedes-AMG C63 S coupe, complete in a beautiful matte finish

Track Driving 

To really get a feel for the changes Mercedes-AMG made for this version of the C63 S, we turned off the beautiful B-roads around Paderborn and headed for the track at Bilster Berg, which is a highly technical course due to its elevation changes and blind corners. Thankfully we had ample time to get to grips with both the track and the car; our first few sessions focused purely on stringing some corners together in a tidy fashion and then going deeper into the C63's driving modes: Sport became Sport+ and then we found ourselves turning the wheel-mounted dial once more to Race. 


The new AMG controllers, where you can switch driving modes, modify traction control, adjust suspension settings and more

Track fanatics should be very excited by the new Mercedes-AMG C63 S. The driver has been prioritised in the slight redesign of the cabin, and the first adornments you're likely to notice on the new steering wheel are a pair of rotary controllers located under its spokes. These are programmable and instead of having to glance over to the centre stack to change your drive modes, gearbox and suspension settings, you can keep your hands on the wheel and do everything there instead. We appreciate the fact that Race mode no longer affects the stability control. Previously it would activate ESC Sport, which would allow some slip, before catching you in a safety net. Now, you have the option of deactivating the traction control completely and then choosing 1 of 9 traction control stages. 9 is completely off, whereas 2 allowed for gentle tail action before the car intervened.

This technology was first seen in the Mercedes-AMG GT R, where a rotary switch dominated the centre of the dashboard. Fortunately, the AMG designers integrated it into one of the C63 S' rotary controllers, resulting in a cleaner-looking cabin. The result? Well, in full Race mode with the traction control carefully set to "Have Fun, But We Have Your Back", this author was able to turn in some more-than-decent laps and exploit the quick steering and rear-wheel-drive dynamics in pursuit of the AMG GT R pace car, piloted by DTM and F3 professional racer Maximillian Gotz.


AMG Track Pace is absolutely brilliant if you want racing telemetry. All the major circuits are loaded into the system!

Meanwhile, the optional Mercedes-AMG Track Pace application, underpinned by an integral data-telemetry measuring and capturing system, comes pre-loaded with famous tracks such as Spa Francorchamps and the Nurburgring Nordschleife (but you can record any circuit on it). It records more than 80 sets of data 10 times per second (such as speed, braking, G-forces and acceleration) and saves lap and sector times, so that you can use the app to improve your skills. You are also able to measure acceleration and deceleration performance (0-100 kph, quarter mile and 100-0 kph).


We preferred the flatter-cornering coupe version over the sedan as it looks terrific, particularly in a matte paint finish.

Summary

With the competition downsizing (Audi and Alfa Romeo have opted for 2.9-litre V6s and BMW has reverted to a 3.0-litre straight 6), the brutish Mercedes-AMG remains the sole provider of V8 goodness in the segment. Sure, it's not as precise a tool as a BMW M4 Competition Pack, nor does it have the grand tourer capabilities of the Audi RS5, but it beats both hands down in terms of entertainment and soundtrack. With these latest revisions, the Benz has narrowed the dynamic gap to the outgoing BMW, without compromising its day-to-day driveability. The C63 S reminds you (in an oh-so-unsubtle way) that you need to have your wits about you when pressing on. The engine is still undeniably the star of the show – it's brutal in its power delivery and revs freely, with no trace of turbo lag. Plus, it sounds absolutely glorious. Long live Affalterbach, long live!

The changes implemented for the facelift may be small, but they combine to make the C63 S a little more manageable/easier to drive when you're really pressing on. Mercedes-Benz South Africa will be bringing in the C63 S in coupe, sedan and convertible guises before the end of the year. Sadly the C63 Estate will not be coming, but we're pretty sure that if you ask nicely, they'd make a plan. We preferred the flatter-cornering and slightly wieldier coupe version over the sedan, as it looks terrific, particularly in the matte paint finish, but the sedan is nonetheless impressive. 

Further reading:

Facelifted Mercedes-AMG C63 Shown

Facelifted Mercedes-AMG C43 Announced

BMW M4 DTM vs Mercedes-AMG GTR - Drag Race

Drag Race: BMW M5 vs Mercedes-AMG E63 S

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S (2018) Launch Review

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