The Mercedes-AMG C63 is one of the best-known practical performance cars, and for good reason. Available in sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible shapes, all packing a wild 375kW/700Nm twin-turbocharged four-litre V8, the AMG C63 is a sports car that fits a wide variety of lifestyles, but consistently delivers huge bouts of weekend fun while being just comfortable enough to be a suitable commuter for the nine-to-five.
In this test, we sample the 2020 C63 S sedan – the classic form factor for this car. The C63 is the spiritual descendant of the AMG ‘Hammer’ of the 1980s – an epic blacked-out super sedan that made 268kW/500Nm 5.6-litre V8. While the Hammer was actually an E-Class, today’s C-Class has grown larger to accommodate smaller sedans beneath it. The modern C63 carries a flame of a great tradition of fast four-doors.
The $162,542 C63 sits at the apex of the popular, six-strong C-Class sedan range that includes turbocharged four-cylinder and V6 models. The AMG is the sole C-Class version with a V8 – and with reports suggesting AMG are considering an electrified turbocharged four-cylinder for the next C63, it may be the last. That would be a shame: the C63’s 375kW/700Nm heart is, to us, its best asset.
The current generation of the C63 launched four years ago and coincided with the C63 switching to a more fuel efficient turbocharged bent-eight, replacing the storied atmospheric 6.2L unit of the previous car. Purists needn’t have worried. The boosted four-litre unit is still a nutcase of an engine: brilliantly refined, surprisingly high-revving, lovely to listen to, and still incredibly fast.
The C63 will sprint to 100km/h from rest in just four seconds … if you can get all of its power to the road. That’s easier said than done in this rear-wheel-drive super sedan that eschews the AWD systems of some rivals in favour of the heritage RWD setup that has made AMG sedans of old great. Our test car’s tyres had seen much better days and as such, straight line runs were accompanied by a smoke from the rear end rather than traction – but in the real world, that’s fun, and not a hindrance.
We’re convinced that rivals like the 2.9-litre, AWD-equipped Audi RS5 Sportback are faster in almost every situation, but the AMG’s brilliant powertrain and rear-drive antics make its more laid-back, muscular nature feel worthwhile. The engine is amazingly responsive for a turbocharged unit: boot the throttle out of corners and the ESC works overtime to rein in the wayward rear. Switch the ESC to Sport and you’re safely let off the leash – partially – with easy, predictable slides offered up to keen drivers.
And then there’s the sound: bassy, bellowing and utterly intoxicating, provided you’ve switched the exhaust to ‘Powerful’ through the customisable drive modes. Leave it in normal and the C63 can be almost sociable – which neighbours will appreciate on a cold morning.
You’ll want to get to know those customisable drive modes, because they need to be set up just so in order to get the best out of the C63’s other dynamics. Leaving the admittedly brilliant engine to one side, this full-fat C-Class can often feel compromised in other areas on pockmarked Australian roads.
That starts with the suspension. The harsh ride of the initial, pre-facelift ‘W205’-gen C63 was altered as part of the recent subtle update to the car, but we’d still describe the ride as very stiff. Even in the suspension’s Comfort mode, the C63 on loud-riding 19-inch wheels crashes over speed bumps, urban potholes and surface changes. Flick the suspension into Sport and body control noticeably improves but the stiffness, naturally, remains.
As an overt sports car, the a hard ride is not necessarily a problem. What is definitely a problem is how the hard ride appears to impact on the interior. Our test car had 10,000 hard-driven press kilometres on it and the amount of loud rattles and sounds of shifting interior components was impossible to ignore – but they were only audible when the car was traversing bumps. In Australia, there are a lot of bumps! The outgoing BMW M3 is just as hard, but the aforementioned Audi RS5 is more supple.
Thankfully, the meaty steering offers less to complain about. The C63, with its heavy V8 over the front axle, does not deliver the dainty front-end engagement of the six-pot BMW M3 but there is a heavy, deliberate nature to the AMG’s steering that many will appreciate. There is enough grip in the front tyres to bite properly when you commit while turning in and your line can be corrected with modulation of the throttle.
We set up a combination of sport settings for the engine, gearbox and suspension while leaving the steering in comfort – that felt best. All of those changes are conducted from the luxurious confines of the C63’s cabin, which – aside from the aforementioned ride-related rattles – is a beautiful place.
Our test car’s two-tone black and grey nappa leather sports buckets – a $3,700 option – matched surprisingly well with open-pore ash wood on the dashboard, and the bright aluminium finishing of the steering wheel. Many believe Mercedes-Benz is on a roll with the design of their interiors and that is easy to see. Visually, the C63 has a beautiful cabin – though as the owner of two previous-gen W204 C-Classes, the high watermark for material quality remains with the older car.
The recent facelift of the C-Class brought with it some changes to the interior technology front. The ‘C’ does not have the latest MBUX software as the impressive new A-Class hatch – instead, the old system mimics some of the functions of MBUX, including the way the driver interacts with the central screen and digital driver display.
Those interactions can be performed through two tiny trackpads on the steering wheel, or a dial between the seats, or a trackpad above that. Sound confusing? Honestly, it is. You’ll need to allocate plenty of time for a delivery briefing if you buy one of these cars. We don’t doubt that owners will master the tech, but the simplicity of the Audi or BMW systems is simply not present. For one, we didn’t find a way to skip a music track without at least two swipes.
Apple CarPlay is included but the integrated navigation and audio software is pretty good – once you’ve worked your way around the controls. Plus, the Burmeister stereo reproduces tracks with good clarity. The digital driver display is bright, crisp and highly customisable, and replaces the previous car’s forgettable partially digital cluster.
The C63’s sports buckets might look thin but they delivered a high level of comfort over a long day of road testing, with plenty of adjustment for both front seats, plus integrated heating and memory. Likewise, comfort in the back is acceptable, though parents of taller teenagers wanting a fast school sleigh will prefer the C63 wagon for its greater headroom and load-lugging capability. The sedan has 435L of boot space while the wagon offers 490L and a more practical tailgate.
Standard specification on the C63 is generous: you won’t need to option much. Attractive 19-inch wheels come standard, as does a sunroof, full LED headlights, nappa leather upholstery, a stunning IWC analogue clock, a head-up display, and a performance exhaust system. Our test car’s ceramic composite front brakes ($7,900) will be important if you want to track the car, and we did like the performance front seats ($3,700) but the standard pews are quite supportive.
Like other Mercedes-Benz vehicles sold in Australia, the C63 is covered by a three year warranty. Only Lexus offers four years in the luxury segment, but almost every mainstream manufacturer has moved to five years.
So, that’s the Mercedes-AMG C63 S sedan. This is an extroverted and rapid sports sedan that packs a serious punch from its twin-turbocharged four-litre V8 and its muscle car-esque nature. While the stiff ride quality won’t suit every buyer, those looking for a loud, luxurious four-door ought to take a close look at this AMG monster.
Key specs (as tested)
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