► AMG C63 S review
► Out with NA 6.2-litre V8, in with 4.0-litre Bi-turbo
► The engine is the star
Mercedes’ crazy AMG powered cars have always been the stuff of legend, but they’ve always fit into two distinct categories. On one side, you’ve got sports cars like the GT and SLS – and on the other you’ve got ridiculous cars like the C63 S. Combining premium feel and refinement with bonkers noise and power, AMGs saloons have always been full of pure speed and character – and the C63 S is no different.
The main thing here is the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 beneath its bonnet – which replaces the 6.2-litre naturally aspirated engine of the outgoing model. Is it another casualty of the trend to downsize, or does it make the Mercedes an even better car in its new, Bi-turbo form? Read our full review of the C63 S to find out.
Mercedes-AMG C63 S review: the engine
Codenamed M1777, the 4.0-litre V8 is hand-built at Affalterbach, and is smaller, lighter, more powerful and more efficient than the engine it replaces. Featuring an iron block with aluminium heads, the V8 is effectively a pair of 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines from the A45 AMG on a common crank. The turbochargers are packaged in the vee, helping compactness, while the intercoolers are nestled behind the air scoops in the chunky front bumper. If you’re vaguely worried the turbos will mute AMG’s goose-pimple soundtrack, you’ll want to opt for the AMG’s sports exhaust pack.
It’s rare to devote an entire paragraph to the sheer noise of a car, but the C63 S warrants it. Even in standard trim, the C63 burbles and rumbles at traffic lights, and begins to show its mettle when you pick up the revs – although the roar comes later than you’d expect. With the sports exhaust mode engaged, however, the C63 S snarls at every opportunity, and pops and and bangs during hard braking. It’s an incredible way to soundtrack your journey, and when combined with the somewhat understated looks of the car, it’s even more satisfying.
We’ve had special-edition C63 S before with increased power outputs – the excellent DR520 and Edition 507, for instance, while Performance Packages have previously been offered – but this is the first time a choice of power outputs are available from launch. The C63 offers 469bhp and 480lb ft torque, while the C63 S boosts that to 503bhp and 516lb ft – but you’ll pay almost £7k for the privilege. There’s more kit too, but more of which later. Either way, the C63 easily bests the BMW M3/M4’s 425bhp and 406lb ft torque.
Both C63 and C63 S claim the same 34.5mpg and 192g/km C02, while the S saloon’s 0-62mph time drops a tenth to 4.0sec. All of those figures make for a very small – but crucial in the Top Trumps stakes – advantage over the BMW.
Mercedes-AMG C63 S review: what else is different?
No, those days are long gone. The C63 sticks with electro-mechanical steering, but ditches the weird variable-rate rack you’ll find in lesser Mercedes C-class models. The front and rear tracks are both wider, there are unique springs and dampers and anti-roll bars, and 360mm-diameter discs all round. Just like the BMW nemesis, you can also specify carbon-ceramic brakes for the first time, which add £4285 to the sticker – pricey, but much more palatable than the £8-10k often charged on higher-end cars.
Long overdue is a standard-fit limited-slip differential. The base cars gets a purely mechanical set-up, while the S adds electronic control to the same unit – it measures various parameters including throttle position and steering angle to pre-empt the best response.
Other S-specific goodies include 19-inch alloys (18s on base cars), dynamic engine mounts (they stiffen up when you cane it for a more connected response, but soften off when you’re cruising for better refinement), chunkier 390mm front brakes and AMG Performance Seats.
Mercedes-AMG C63 S review: what’s it like to drive
The C63 S’ 4.0-litre V8 is the star here great engine, and one – thank the lord – that retains much of the character of AMG’s naturally aspirated engines. I just don’t think anyone has quite mastered downsizing and turbocharging to the level of Mercedes-AMG. There’s a tiny little bit of lag, but it’s neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things, and the throttle response and the way it pulls is fantastic. Is it better than the 3.0-litre six in the M3? Yes it is.
With electro-mechanical steering, some of the magic of the old steering is undoubtedly lost. This isn’t bad steering, far from it, but it self centres a little too keenly, and just can’t match the old rack for fluidity.
The gearbox is much improved, and didn’t once baulk at a downshift to second on track, which is a first for an AMG. There’s no doubt, however, that the M Division dual-clutch units are sharper and more incisive.
The M cars have better traction too. To say the C63 S is a very tail happy car, is an understatement. In heavy rain, with Sport+ mode engaged, an reasonable go of the throttle will see traction broken immediately. Greasy roads and painted lines make wheel spin almost certain too.
The C63 S wants you to be patient on the throttle, and to put the power down cleanly, but then that’s part of the fun. Light up the rear tyres, which you’ll often do, and the C63 S is hilariously playful and incredibly adjustable. It’s a mark of how well sorted the front end is that you can throw it at corners at ludicrous angles and it still doesn’t lose its excellent steering precision.
Even when you’re not sliding it, it’s still exceptionally good. Go hard into a corner and the front end feels very well tied down, giving a consistency to driving through long, fast corners that really imbues confidence, whichever driving mode your in.
And another bonus? The C63 S is packed with Mercedes’ autonomous tech, and it’s one of the best systems on the market. Like other high-end Mercedes cars, the C63 S has a stalk specifically for its driverless functions, and it’s incredibly simple to use: Pull back to set your speed, twist to set your distance – and that’s about it. After that, the Mercedes will sit at a user-defined gap to car in front and will brake and accelerate to maintain it – until it hits your prescribed top speed. Functions like these are great in anything, but in a car as focusing as the C63 S can be, they provide the occasional bit of calm.
Mercedes-AMG C63 S review: verdict
The Mercedes-AMG C63 S is a proper bit of kit, one that delivers a killer blow to BMW M Division mainly courtesy of its incredible V8 engine. I can’t emphasise this enough – the V8 is an absolute peach, and worth the price of entry alone. But it handles superbly, stops and steers well, shifts gears with improved precision and plays the hooligan when the mood takes you.
It does feel like a relatively heavy car, and an M3 is a more precise handler, thanks mainly to its vast reserves of traction. The truth is, it’s swings and roundabouts here, but if, like me, you’re mourning the passing of the M3’s naturally aspirated V8, the C63 S provides a much more compelling replacement for displacement.