► The ultimate compact performance estate
► Unique in its class: V8, rear-drive, five doors
► Prices start from £62,395 for non-S model
If you want a V8-powered compact wagon, the Mercedes-AMG C63 estate is the only (extremely rapid) cab on the rank. An M3 Touring is stuck in BMW blue sky meetings, and Audi’s RS4 Avant is on the way for 2017 but pared back to six cylinders.
The AMG-fettled C-class wagon may persist with a 63 badge, but under the bonnet you’ll still find a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 – first offered in 2014 as the replacement for the naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8. Buyers can pick between a ‘regular’ and an S model, the latter tune delivering double-digit boosts in power and torque compared with the old 450bhp C63.
How’s it feel on the road?
Fire up the blown V8 and the £1000 AMG Performance exhaust system barks from its slumber, before settling into a bassy rumble. Pile on the revs – and this engine loves to spin out to 6250rpm, where its 503bhp peak is delivered – and the bassy thunder becomes a captivating, shrill howl. All the while, the speedo is piling up stratospheric digits like a Tesco bank fraudster. The C63 S monsters the standstill to 62mph benchmark in 4.1secs – yes, that’s 4.1sec for an 1800kg estate car.
Despite the performance fireworks, the C63 never feels out of control, even though it’s resolutely rear-drive (Merc’s newly announced E63 is all-wheel drive, hardly surprising with its 604bhp) – thank the C63’s well set-up chassis. The ride is taut but not punishing, with the AMG adaptive sports suspension endowing the C with an incredibly stable feel through corners.
This encourages you to push, with the body remaining flat and composed, and the diff noticeably massaging its torque across the rear axle for precise corner carving. And that’s in comfort mode – there are harder Sport, Sport+ and sadomasochist settings, should you so require.
The steering feels light and delicate, but also incredibly responsive: the nose reacts to the merest plam flex, without ever feeling flighty. Not that we’re going to entirely canonise the C63: the seven-speed automatic can be a bit clunky (particularly on downshifts), and I swear the throttle response is a touch laggy at lower revs.
You will also find it challenging to get within 15mpg of the 34.5mpg combined fuel consumption figure: but such denial would be like entering Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and only popping chewing gum in your mouth.
Plenty of upside to the inside?
The firm and grippy AMG Performance seats are more comfortable than they look, and kudos to two brilliant driver aids: the crystal clear, 360-degree-view parking camera, and the searingly legible head-up display. Unfortunately they’ll cost you £335 and £825 respectively.
Another well-executed element is that the car remembers your last settings for damping, steering, exhaust and so on, allowing you to pick up exactly where you left off without myriad button presses.
To help you justify your decision to your partner, this practical wagon stows 490 litres behind the rear seats, or 1510 with them folded. You can even spec a dividing cage for man’s best friend.
The Mercedes-AMG C63 S estate has a delicious breadth of ability, from hushed motorway cruiser to B-road Exocet, and its V8/rear-drive/wagon combination is unique in the segment. The M3’s star has dimmed a little, and the Alfa Giulia QF hasn’t quite sparkled as brightly as we hoped – while the RS4 is an undiscovered constellation.
With that in mind, and whether it has four or five doors, the three-pointed star is our chosen one right now.
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