What is it?
The C 63 S is essentially a very high performance version of a regular Mercedes-Benz C-class. Built by the company’s sports and racing arm, AMG, it features the highest levels of performance, a design that spells restrained aggression and a cabin that blends luxury and sport in equal measure.
This may be difficult to imagine, but not much of the original C-class is carried over to the AMG version. The engine is completely new, the gearbox is different and even the front and rear suspensions have nothing in common with the road car. On this S version, there’s also a new e-diff to help put all that power down cleanly when coming out of corners. The C 63 S we are driving also gets carbon ceramic disc brakes in the front, an all-new steering system, and larger 19-inch wheels. There are very few changes to the car’s ‘body in white’, but that’s only because Mercedes had already made allowances for this AMG version when it designed the original road going car. It elongated the nose to help fit the longer V8 engine and the rear of the car had been widened as well, in an effort to help with the wider track.
Considerable effort also goes into making the C 63 look the part. There’s the now-familiar gaping AMG lower bumper, the front wings are wider and there’s a new rear bumper as well. The signature square chromed tailpipes and a subtle rear deck spoiler round off the design.
Under the hood rests a wet-sump version of the AMG GT sportscar’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8. It makes a frankly ridiculous 503bhp at 5,500rpm and spins all the way to 7,000rpm. In comparison, the new BMW M3 makes 425bhp. What’s really is astounding is that the power-to-weight ratio of the C 63 S has gone up past the magic 300bhp per tonne mark, right into the serious sportscar league. Drive, of course, is sent to the rear wheels via AMG’s seven-speed Speedshift automatic that provides five different driving modes, including Race (R) on this C 63 S.
What’s it like to drive?
If you are accustomed to the luxurious insides of the new C-class, the AMG version comes as a bit of a surprise. Unlike the regular C, which looks a lot like baby S-class on the inside, the accent here is firmly on sport. You get plenty of black and grey, there are new sport seats with a wide racing harness-like backrest, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and the cabin’s awash with plenty of carbon fibre, red stitching and Alcantara. So instead of looking luxurious, it now looks sporty; it’s amazing what a bit of colour and trim can do. The most important upgrade is the new seats. With the kind of g-forces this car can muster, it’s really important that the driver is locked in place, and these new seats have tremendous lateral support.
The showpiece of the new C 63, however, is the new rip-snorting V8. There’s a disarmingly loud boom from the rear when you fire up the engine, and the square pipes lay out a thick layer of thunder behind you, even as you pull away. This is especially true if you kick the right pedal hard for short bursts in power.
The C 63 also does a decent job when it comes to ride quality. In ‘Comfort’, with the adjustable dampers on the softest setting, the new C 63 smothers most bad patches of road quite effectively. There’s a hard edge here for sure, because these are stiff fixed steel coils and not air springs, but it does manage to keep movements down to a minimum. However, should the quality of the surface deteriorate, the AMG does tend to hop over undulations in the road surface. And this is likely to affect how the car drives over rough patches in our conditions back home too. We’ll just have to wait and see how well it manages in our conditions.
But the C 63 S isn’t a car you buy to be cosseted in. What you buy this car for is manic, take-your-breath-away performance. And frankly there’s containerloads of that here. Toggle up to ‘Sport’ or ‘Sport+’ and the C 63 S comes into its own. Now everything is primed for action ¬– gearbox, throttle responses, steering and dampers – and the C 63 S digs its rear tyres into the ground so hard, it feels like it is vaulting from corner to corner in massive, barely controlled leaps. And I’m only still using part throttle!
Low and medium engine speed responses are so explosive, I don’t really use full throttle for a bit. Eventually I learn the ways of the car and gain enough confidence to use 100 percent of the power, the AMG exiting corners like it’s been shot out of a cannon. Now acceleration is nothing short of feral, the engine pulling hard all the way to the 7,000rpm redline. In fact, so strong is the pace, you tend to literally hold your breath as you feed in the power exiting a corner. What completes the experience is the racing V8-like manic howl towards the top end. AMG claims a 0-100kph time of 4.0sec for the C 63 S sedan; think about that! The only reservation we have is that the performance of the gearbox is a bit inconsistent; it feels fast and brilliant at times and frustratingly stubborn to shift down at others.
What enhances driving pleasure massively, however, is that the chassis allows you to use all that power. The electric steering isn’t the most communicative, but it’s well weighted and precise, and the front axle has so much grip, you tend to carve out tighter and tighter lines on the track with great amounts of confidence. What also works fabulously is the rear axle. It possesses outstanding poise and has the ability to transmit serious amount of power without getting nervous. And you can even add in power as you exit the corner, breakaway at the rear happening in a controllable manner; as long as you are smooth and precise. Still, using the multi-stage ESP really does help here.
Should I buy one?
Mercedes will launch the C 63 S towards the end of the year at an expected price of Rs 1.25 crore. For that money, you get a four-door sportscar you can use every day. There’s little contradiction here; owners can either sit in the back and enjoy the comfort of being driven around, or take the wheel and enjoy serious performance any time they wish. Yes, this car needs to run on smaller wheels for India, it could have steered with a bit more precision, and the gearbox could have been more intuitive and quicker, but as things stand, the C 63 S is one of the best cars in its class. Question is, is it better than its other legendary rival the BMW M3? Unfortunately that’s only something we’ll be able to answer when we drive these two cars back to back.