At Mercedes-Benz, cars still generate the most sales volume and the C-Class is still at the pinnacle. With it undergoing a slight makeover this year, we had the chance to take the most explosive version – the 2019 Mercedes-AMG C 63 – for a test drive. It is undoubtedly the best of the bunch in the AMG high-performance stable. Its overall qualities make it worth every penny.
For decades, sport sedans have been waging war, and luxury brands have been trying just about everything to demonstrate their skill. Historically, the BMW M3 – and now the M4 – has always been the benchmark, but Mercedes-Benz made a big splash in 2008 by replacing its C 55 AMG with its very first – and very dynamic – 63 AMG. Ten years later, the C 63 and its even more dynamic spin-off, the C 63 S, is truly at the top of its game. BMW had better batten down the hatches.
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So subtle are the changes to the 2019 edition that you’ll need a keen eye to spot one on the street. The most significant differences are in front, with a new grille featuring vertical chrome strips instead of a horizontal one as seen in the past. There are a few additional design tweaks here and there, but all you really need to know is that the C 63 offers a nice balance of sportiness and simplicity.
It doesn’t take a genius to tell that this is no ordinary C-Class, and unconventional is just what buyers want when shopping for this type of vehicle. Nineteen-inch rims, quadruple exhaust, painted brake calipers, matte body finish – it’s all present and accounted for. The manufacturer also had some fun by offering less classic colour schemes, such as yellow stitching on board. At last, some extravagance!
Don’t forget the “S”
A few years ago, the 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 was replaced by a smaller-capacity (4.0-litre) engine that, thanks to its twin turbochargers, increases output to 469 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. That’s far more than the 425 horsepower of the BMW M3/M4 and the 444 horsepower of the Audi RS5 coupe. It sets the bar very high, especially when you consider its traditionally advantageous price compared to that of its rivals.
If that weren’t enough, the sedan also comes in an “S” version – coupes and cabriolets are factory-standard S versions – meaning that it’s even more savage. The engineers increased the turbo pressure from 1.2 bar to 1.3, which helps the 4.0-litre V8 reach 503 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque available from 2,000 rpm. At the end of the day, the C 63 S shaves just a tenth of a second off the 0-100 km/h time, but owning such a powerful whip is its own reward.
A feast for the senses
Start the engine and you’ll hear the V8’s purr, which is no less charming since it became turbocharged. You’ll instantly notice the AMG sport steering wheel, which includes several new features this year. A dial allows you to select the various driving modes, including the hard-to-resist Sport+ mode or even Racing mode that amps up the engine’s roar and transforms the instrumentation to provide you with more performance data.
When you first start familiarizing yourself with the car, you’ll quickly notice the extreme rigidity of the body and all the details at the heart of its performances, including the ultra-precise steering. You’ll get comfortable fast, and before you know it you’ll have just one desire: to hammer the accelerator. Once you do, you’ll instantly be pinned to the seat while the engine emits a positively thrilling sound. None of its rivals can boast this kind of sound that urges you to push it even more. It’s a feast for the senses that makes it difficult for you to hold back. Fortunately for us, we were in Germany with a few sections of our test drive on the autobahn. Had we been anywhere else, we may very well have lost our driver’s licenses on more than one occasion. That is the biggest danger when driving the C 63.
On the track
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG C 63 was free to express itself to the fullest on the track at the Bilster Berg Drive Resort. Its new nine-speed Speedshift gearbox, the only major new mechanical addition this year, turned out to be very efficient. Its manual mode helped shift gears as we pleased without any lag. It uses a wet clutch instead of a torque converter, which not only reduces the weight but translates to a more rapid response when you’re really accelerating.
In straightaways, the raw acceleration was almost enough to keep up with the instructor in the lead car (an AMG GT coupe), but, of course, he had the advantage when braking and negotiating corners. No doubt that the C 63 provides superior performance and its electronics will bail you out of any driving errors or excesses. We had a grand old time dealing with the electronic systems and trying to push the car’s limits. However, you can adjust how forcefully the electronics intervene – from 1 to 9 – using the rotary dial located on the steering wheel. At one point we found ourselves almost perpendicular on the track coming out of a turn. We had to get back to driving basics immediately.
There’s no all-wheel drive in the C 63. Power is sent only to the rear wheels, but fortunately, there’s a limited-slip differential that reduces the torque sent to the interior wheel during turns, enhancing stability and performance for a faster exit.
Back on the road, activate Comfort mode and the machine gives you almost all the comfort of a regular C-Class. This gives it a clear edge over other performance cars in the segment. That’s the beauty of the C 63: it’s efficient in all situations, transitioning seamlessly from the track to a family trip, mainly due to its adaptive suspension that adjusts damping depending on different conditions.
Of course, the sedan remains the most versatile configuration, while the coupe is the sexiest and most dynamic. As for the cabriolet, we wonder why one would want an AMG version, especially since it’s heavier and less practical with its cargo space cut significantly.