Is the new Mercedes-Benz AMG C63S merely a shrunken S63? In some ways, yes. In other ways, definitely no. The previous C63 is/was a beast, a perfect German muscle car. It's fast and loud without any sign of remorse for its antisocial behavior. It exists to destroy tires and melt faces. This new car is closer to Beast, aka Hank McCoy, instructor at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Animalistic abilities mixed with education and sophistication. It's still fast, but it isn't loud (not all the time, at least), and it isn't so blatant in its dislike of civilized driving.
I once wrote a blog about threatening AMG's then president over lunch. Let me clarify; the blog was written about me threatening him while we were eating lunch. It was in 2011 and the C63 was slated for a refresh. I had just driven the new turbocharged V-8-powered CLS63 and it was rumored the C63 might head in the same direction. I told him how disappointed I would be. Because the C63 was special, unique in its raw appeal. I warned of hordes of polo-shirted, Grey Goose Molotov cocktail-chucking young executives rioting in strip malls if the naturally aspirated 6.2L V-8 was ever replaced with this smaller, forced-induction engine.
Four years and an entirely new C-Class later, that day has finally come, and let's hope I was wrong. The new generation of C-Class has brought a more grown-up car. The introduction of the smaller entry-level CLA gave Mercedes-Benz room to move the C to a slightly different position. The company and the critics are both referring to it as a mini S-Class.
Mercedes-AMG will sell the C63 in both standard and S versions. Historically, the majority of customers buy the S, because why wouldn't you? An extra 34 hp, another 37 lb-ft of torque, electronic limited-slip differential, dynamic engine mounts, upgraded interior, and 19-inch wheels for a mere 10 grand extra sounds like a bargain. Although I've driven both, let's focus on the C63S.
The most powerful version of the 6.2L C was the Black Series at 510 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers are still staggering, but that big thumper of a V-8 made its peak torque just north of 5,000 rpm. This new 4.0L twin-turbo V-8 in S trim makes 503 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. That's an extra 59 lb-ft. Plus, it's available from 1,750 rpm up to 4,500 rpm.
For those wondering, the smaller V-8 still sounds insane. The exhaust system has a valve at the crossover pipe sitting just aft of the catalytic convertors and then another valve at each of the two rear mufflers. The crossover valve allows exhaust gases (and noises) to operate like a traditional rumbly V-8. When it closes, it sounds more like two angry engines battling it out. With the center valve closed and the rear valves bypassing the mufflers, the new V-8 rips and snarls like a DTM car. It sounds more exotic than the 6.2 and, believe it or not, more aggressive. With the crossover open and the mufflers in play, it isn't much louder than any other C-Class.
On the highway, rolling along in Comfort Mode, the only thing interrupting the silence is tire noise. On nice, smooth asphalt, the car is reading-room quiet. Mercedes has done a commendable job at eliminating wind noise from the C-Class, the 63 included. When surfaces deteriorate, tire roar fills the cabin. It only happens on specific surfaces, but the transition from silence to rubbery growl is surprising.
Driving around the seaside town of Faro in Portugal, the C63S feels sporty even in Comfort Mode. There will be no mistaking the firm ride of this car for the more luxurious air suspension-equipped C-Classes. Road blemishes are communicated to occupants even in the softest setting; it's a sports sedan. The powertrain, however, transitions easily into commuter duty. The soft, low rumble of the exhaust is something I'd want coming out of a nightstand sleep machine, it's so soothing. The seven-speed, wet-clutch transmission snicks from gear to gear, and it's entirely possible to drive in the flow of traffic while never hitting 2,500 rpm. AMG claims this car will use 32 percent less fuel than its 6.2L predecessor. Turbos are magical things.
A quick jab of the throttle getting on the freeway invokes a little hip wiggle, but there's nothing little about the acceleration. Even cruising around town, the boost gauge shows the turbos are producing a couple of pounds. When that bar graph swings over toward the maximum 17.4 psi of boost, the car wakes up quick.
Off the highway and into the mountains, the C63S shows some athleticism. The body is stiff. There is no perceptible twist while driving over cambered transitions and rounded bumps. Sport Mode seems to be best for canyon driving. Sport+ is just overkill; bumps seem to pick up the rear of the car and set it down a few inches over to the side. The car is fast, and it's impossible to use anywhere near the powertrain's full potential in this environment. It's an absolute delight to paddle-shift between Second- and Third-gear turns while knowing there's so much torque in reserve.
The destination of this city, highway, and canyon route is Autodromo Internacional Algarve. It's a 15-turn, 2.9-mile circuit with everything from tight, Second-gear corners to a big, triple-digit sweeper and enough elevation to make spectators yearn for escalators around the grounds. Mercedes-Benz has instigated the lead/follow format, and today's leader is five-time DTM champion Bernd Schneider. I've driven behind Schneider before, and each time I take away new lessons in car control and humility.
Schneider recommends setting the driving mode to Race, while putting the suspension damping on medium. He says this damping rate allows us to use the curbs a little more, but I have a feeling he also likes the added weight transfer on throttle. Exiting the pits, the C63 feels immediately at home. Suddenly, the space-warping power makes a bit more sense and it's the first time I'm comfortable keeping the pedal down for more than a few seconds. The effortless acceleration is surprising. It wasn't long ago when I drove the AMG GT, which is far lighter but doesn't necessarily feel much faster. Even with all this open space, I'm careful with the throttle. One of the standout qualities of the last car is just how over-powered it feels. This car is the same. The first big accelerator prod out of a turn results in the back end stepping out. Even with the electronic limited-slip differential, I know immediately this engine demands respect.
Working up to speed, I find myself sideways much more than usual and more than I'd like. This car uses both rear tires better than the last car. That version compressed on the outside rear coming out of turns. It twisted everything over and back, feeling like it was trying to bury that corner in the asphalt. This model has far less perceptible roll. The whole back end squats down to get the most out of both 265/35 Michelin Super Sports at the rear. The last C63 used a softer spring with taller bumpstops that engaged sooner. The two components worked together to replicate a progressive spring rate. AMG increased spring rates on the back of the new C63S and uses a shorter bumpstop that engages near the end of travel.
Corners go something like this. Brake—hard, this car is always going fast, no matter how short the last straight. The steel discs are more than up to the task, although carbon ceramics are an option. Turn-in is smooth and linear with plenty of feel from the electric power steering. It transitions quickly to understeer all the way to the apex. Roll into the throttle gently and unwind the steering. Wait until the front tires are nearly straight to really get into the power. The car can be driven on the right foot, but it's not the fastest way, as I learn while I'm sideways and Schneider is disappearing without even a shimmy from the back end of his car.
This is perhaps the one complaint I have with the C63S. Just about anything else with this much torque has more rear tire. The 3,400-pound AMG GT-S with 37 fewer lb-ft of torque is equipped with 295s at the rear. A BMW M5 is 16 lb-ft down on this and also has 295s out back. Heck, the M3 is 110 lb-ft shy of the C63S and has a 275. What this car needs is more grip. The electronic limited-slip differential does everything it can, but it needs more rubber to work with.
Mercedes sees the aforementioned M3 as the main competition. Although the BMW 3.0L turbo straight-six is really down on both power and torque, performance numbers are similar. Both manufacturers are claiming around 3.9 seconds for the sprint from zero to 60 mph. I have a feeling both cars are limited in grip. Sadly, Audi has decided not to let the RS4 play the game in the United States. And I'm not sure anyone has a clue what's going on with the Japanese manufacturers, including those inside Lexus and Infiniti.
AMG tells us this is a sedan for the racing driver and I agree. In most modern cars, I can hop in and be on my pace in maybe two lapping sessions. Give me two days at a track I already know and, in most cars, my times won't improve much from halfway through the first day to my very last laps. In the C63S, I have a feeling I would keep chipping away until I got kicked out. Perhaps that's what makes this car so appealing—it would take a longer time to master.
I hope the riotous masses will cool their Bruno Magli heels at least until driving this car. I miss the 6.2, but change is good. Tobias Moer, AMG CEO, can sleep well knowing this is a worthy successor to what is one of the best cars on the road. It's not quite as crazy as the last one, but it's still an overpowered monster. This version just hides it a little better.