Mercedes' new C63 shifts up a gear
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Mercedes-AMG has stretched the boundaries of performance with its latest dream machine
The new Mercedes-AMG C 63 has become an all-or-nothing affair for Mercedes-Benz New Zealand — a serious performance car for serious people.
When it’s launched here mid-year it will be available exclusively in flagship $164,900 C 63 S form, which features even more power than the standard model, dynamic enhancements and extra equipment.
The C 63 is a hugely significant car for Mercedes-AMG. The C 63, introduced in 2007, has established itself as the best-selling AMG model yet.
This all-new model marks several milestones for the Three-Pointed Star’s high-performance division: it’s the first to be powered by a new-generation 4-litre biturbo V8 engine, which will be the beating heart for the next generation of AMG models — including the GT S coupe, which will be launched simultaneously with the sedan.
The C 63 is also the vehicle by which Mercedes-AMG is now establishing itself as a separate sub-brand. So for the record, this is not a Mercedes-Benz: it’s the Mercedes-AMG C 63. Forthcoming models from the high-performance division will carry the same nomenclature (including that GT S coupe).
Mercedes-AMG has downsized in style with the new 4.0-litre V8 engine: cubic capacity and thirst have diminished over the outgoing naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8, but power and torque have increased. With peak outputs of 375kW/700Nm, the New Zealand-specification C 63 S version boasts 25kW/50Nm more than the standard car. With launch control, the new car can sprint to 100km/h in just four seconds.
Breadth of talent has always been a hallmark of the C 63: the ability to rumble along in relative comfort on the road, yet take its place as a serious track car when required.
The C 63 stretches those boundaries further. Aside from the extra power, the S-model has dynamic engine mounts. At low speed they are softer, reducing vibration and improving refinement. But for performance driving the mounts become stiffer, locking the engine to the body for superior steering response and strength.
The C 63 S retains the switchable modes of other C-class models: Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. But it also has an additional Race mode, which makes the powertrain, steering and adaptive suspension even more aggressive.
The C 63 has different axles from the cooking C-class models, including model-specific steering knuckles and a wider track. The S-version adds an electronic rear-locking differential.
The international media launch for the C 63 was held in the Algarve, southern Portugal. A mix of conditions from deserted toll roads to bumpy B-routes gave the C 63 S every opportunity to showcase its abilities as an everyday car. Even if you ignore the performance and handling potential (hard to do), one of the joys of a character-packed V8 engine is the ability to enjoy low-speed motoring purely for the relaxed, rumbling soundtrack. That would probably also be your only opportunity to achieve the C 63 S’s official Combined fuel consumption figure of 8.6 litres per 100km: impressive but unrealistic if there’s an ounce of the enthusiast in you.
In truth, the new engine is not as aurally expressive as the old 6.2-litre V8. But it still has a more impressive soundtrack than just about any other four-door on the road. Mercedes-AMG is also rather proud of the fact that, unlike some of its rivals, it has achieved a feast for the ears without recourse to artificial enhancement.
All roads on the launch drive led to the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, a dramatic 4.7km rollercoaster of a place with huge changes in elevation and several blind corners; occasionally at the same time.
It’s a thrill ride when you can deploy every rev of that AMG engine, but also an object lesson in the ability to finesse the C 63 S’s dynamics for each driving situation. On a racetrack you might think you’d simply dial up the most aggressive settings and be done with it, but no: on the advice of AMG Driving Academy instructors, we set the powertrain to max-attack but dialled back the suspension a notch to compensate for some of the bumpier corners on the circuit.
Genuinely track-ready performance and handling potential combined with this ability to fine-tune the dynamic package will make the C 63 S a joy to own for those who like to indulge in a range of driving activities. The seven-cog Speedshift automatic transmission is especially good under duress, changing gears up to twice as quickly as the previous model. There’s nothing to fear from such hard use save the insurance: the C 63 S is built for the “professional driver”, says the Mercedes-AMG blurb. Although speaking from experience, a ham-fisted one can also have a ball.
The C 63 has always had one point of difference that remains in the new model: unlike its chief rivals from Audi and BMW, it has always been available as a sedan, wagon and coupe. The sedan and wagon will launch together (the latter at a $3000 premium); the coupe version will come later.
Standard equipment on the C 63 S includes an AMG performance exhaust system, Burmester surround-sound audio, head-up display, Nappa leather upholstery and Mercedes-Benz’s LED Intelligent Light System. The last-ever version of the previous-model C 63, the Edition 507, had nowhere near that equipment level and less power, but cost $181,000.
There will also be a C 63 S Edition One model available for a limited time at launch, with special trim elements inside and out. It’ll be $170,900. Order now to avoid disappointment.