Faro, Portugal – With the electronic key warm and cozy at the bottom of my pocket, I scanned the rows of meticulously aligned cars and found the C 63 S whose disproportionately wide German plates bore the inscription “S CW 6304.”
The S stands for Stuttgart, where the grand-daddy of all automakers reigns supreme. Perhaps the CW stands for sedan? And it’s easy to see why the number starts with 63 on all cars of the same model. Ah, the Germans. They think of everything – almost everything.
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The colour of my C 63 S is “brilliantblau,” a metallic cobalt blue that suits it nicely. The silhouette is already quite familiar. I was told repeatedly that this slightly longer and slightly wider fifth-generation C-Class has become subdued and conservative. I didn’t fly 10 hours on three different planes for a boring ride; I came for the express purpose of driving real sport sedans.
The AMG treatment
The best thing that ever happened to the C-Class was getting kidnapped by the AMG crew, who shaped it into a new C 63. Notice AMG’s signature large grille with huge air intakes on the bottom and an enormous star in the middle, like that of its big sister, the E 63. At the tail end, there are two almost-rectangular nickel-plated exhaust tips on either side of a three-grooved air extractor.
Atop the C 63 S’s trunk, there’s a small, perfectly discreet black spoiler. The S also sits on 19-inch five double-spoke alloy wheels fitted with 245/35 tires in front and 265/35 tires in back, while the C 63 has 245/40 and 265/40 tires mounted on rims with 10 thin spokes.
Both versions of the C 63 look a lot sturdier with their body lowered by 25 mm. Their aluminum front fenders are each 14 mm wider to cover a track width that is 31 mm wider. Overall, the C 63’s entire front end, aluminum hood included, is 5.4 centimetres longer.
I couldn’t contain my smile when I opened the car door. The passenger compartment is pure AMG with ultra-sculpted front seats, a superbly moulded three-spoke sport steering wheel, large gauges and aluminum parts and mouldings all over the place, including the pedals.
In the C 63 S, the seams and stitching for the seats and steering wheel, mouldings for the door panels and seat belts are all in a contrasting colour. It’s a bit intense in red. The steering wheel rim features a flat bottom and alcantara suede (instead of leather) on the side sections where you normally place your hands when driving.
Music, maestro, should I say meister?
The seat and the steering wheel are fantastic driving tools. Once adjusted, I pushed the Start button and the engine instantly made a sudden, husky roar. I turned it off and pushed the aluminum button again, just to hear that wonderful noise a second time.
Diehard fans of the 6.2-litre naturally-aspirated V8 that powered the previous C 63 – myself included – can rest easy. Once again, the wizards at AMG pulled off a small miracle by replacing it with a more compact and more powerful turbocharged engine whose character and sound are even more exhilarating. Their secret is valves in the exhaust system that they play like virtuosos, depending on the driving mode.
There’s nothing ordinary about this new engine – codenamed M177 – since it’s the very same 4.0-litre V8 found in the new Mercedes-AMG GT, the M178. The only difference is that the engine in the GT, a pure sports car, is lubricated by a dry sump.
With its two turbochargers located inside the V to make it more compact, more responsive and more environmentally-friendly, the M177 produces 469 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 479 lbs.-ft. of torque at 1,750 rpm. That’s in the C 63. These figures increase to 503 and 516 at the same engine speeds in the C 63 S. That means that the 0-100 km/h time is 4.0 seconds for the S and only a tenth of a second more for the C 63, using the Race Start function. As for fuel consumption, AMG is announcing an average of 8.2 L/100 km on the combined European cycle. That’s 32% better than the previous version.
Purring on the highway
I would have gladly continued to turn the ignition on and off, but I had to hit the road and travel about 100 kilometres to the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve where the second part of this worldwide launch was taking place. We didn’t foolishly restrict ourselves to the most direct route on highway A22. Instead, we periodically opted for narrow, winding roads.
After cursing the unclear instructions for the navigation system, I cursed the minuscule air conditioning buttons. Our C 63 S couldn’t care less. The V8 purred softly while I scrupulously respected the advice of the organizers to follow the speed limit. The Portuguese police weren’t likely to have a sense of humour about speeding, it would appear.
On the highway, Comfort mode provides almost complete silence and a smooth ride. The sound level increases substantially, however, on rougher sections of asphalt. This noise is the price you have to pay for the rigid body of a good sports car.
I slid it into Sport mode using the aluminum switch on the dashboard when the road began to turn. Everything got a little tighter: the suspension and steering were firmer, the accelerator was livelier and the gearbox was more direct. The C 63 S laughs in the face of turns, and its limits were much higher than those of my passenger.
I even tried Sport+ mode and, quite frankly, as with the E 63 AMG, it’s too much for the road. This is especially true of the transmission, which remains in each of its seven gears at speeds that are much too high. High engine speeds are almost unnecessary with all the new V8 biturbo’s torque.
Roaring on the track
All that was left was to test out Race mode where everything is turned up another notch on the C 63 S. The timing was perfect, as we were just arriving at the track not far from Portimão. It’s a gigantic complex opened in 2008 with a 4.692 km track that hosts international events and F1 testing.
When I was asked if I wanted to hit the track right away, I jumped at the opportunity. I strapped on my helmet and got into the second C 63 S in a row of three. I had never driven on this track before, but Jan Seyffarth, a young German driver who knew it like the back of his hand, was right in front of me. My C 63 S was in Race mode, I chose manual mode and shifted using the wheel-mounted paddles. I left the anti-skid system in Sport mode.
I followed Seyffarth as closely as possible to maintain the right trajectory on this undulating course. The sound of the V8 is absolutely fabulous, even spellbinding when accelerating. You always want more. My guide picked up the pace when he saw that I was able to keep up. With the C 63 S, it was almost easy. The front end has a lot of bite. If I had to tighten up in curves, I turned the wheel a little more and the Michelin tires brought me back to the proper trajectory.
With all that torque, you have to take it easy when coming out of turns. I fishtailed once or twice, but steered my way out of it, then managed to adjust the accelerator effortlessly so that the anti-skid wouldn’t intervene. The C 63 S’s electronic limited slip differential, which is a little more precise than the C 63’s mechanical version, certainly had something to do with it.
My sole criticism of the C 63 is its MCT gearbox that lags a fraction of a second too long when downshifting, even with the announced improvements. It’s still not on par with the best twin-clutch transmissions when it comes to quickness.
The braking, on the other hand, is nothing less than fantastic. Even at 250 km/hr at the end of the straightway after a few all-out laps the pedal was firm and the power irreproachable. Our C 63 S was equipped with optional carbon front brakes whose immense discs are 402 mm in diameter. There were no carbon brakes in the back: Yvonne Gassner, the young director of the C-Class program at Mercedes-AMG, told us that there’s no need and that leaving them out reduces costs.
The undeniable proof
There is no denying that the C 63 S is an absolute beast on the track. Bernd Schneider, DTM series record-holder with five titles, proved it to me beyond a shadow of a doubt by taking me for an unbelievable ride on the track. It was the first such ride in my career. Pedal to the metal, skidding at will, the S was like a toy for him and he didn’t hold back. I laughed from start to finish.
If you plan on doing a lot of track driving, the S version and carbon brakes are a must. If not, the C 63 has all the virtues of an exceptional sport sedan, in particular this fabulous new V8 biturbo, which is proudly advertised on the front fenders. Hats off, AMG!
Oh yeah, you’ll have to wait a little longer for the price, but the new C 63 will definitely not be much more expensive than the previous one, whose starting price was $65,000. It’s ready for the greatly anticipated duel with its main rival, the M3.