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Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance 2023 review


That ballistic V8 is now gone but in its place is an impressive hybrid system matted to a potent four-pot that makes you feel more like Lewis Hamilton

Good points

  • Outrageous power
  • Instant throttle response
  • Advanced handling

Needs work

  • Feels heavy
  • Steering lacks feel
  • Some cheap plastics

Things may have not gone quite Mercedes-Benz’s way in this year’s Formula One season, but that isn’t stopping the company from leaning on its involvement to help drive a little extra intrigue around the upcoming AMG C63 S E Performance.

This new flavour has more power and more advanced technology than any C-Class that came before, but it does come with a substantial penalty: weight.

Mercedes-AMG C63S 2023 rear sunset

It’s not the first time that AMG has dabbled in electrically assisted performance cars with the GT63 sedan and recently unveiled S63 E Performance boasting ferocious figures, and the new-generation AMG-badged E-Class is rumoured to follow suit.

Let’s get the techy details out of the way first because there are a lot of them, numbers and figures that all combine together to create a very organic and easy-to-appreciate 500kW of power and 1020Nm of torque.

Yes, that is a pair of whopping great numbers made all the more impressive that it’s primarily coming from a 2.0-litre engine four-cylinder engine.

Mercedes-AMG C63S 2023 engine

This is, per Mercedes, the most powerful four-pot on the planet, at least in a production car, and that’s if you strip off the power of the hybrid system. That leaves you with 350kW from the engine alone.

The E Performance hybrid system, then, adds a further 150kW maximum, delivered to the rear axle directly but still able to spin the front wheels too thanks to the C63 S’s standard all-wheel-drive system.

That’s quite a bit more than the AMG C43 which puts out 300kW/500Nm from a similar setup, with both expected to go on sale locally during 2023 where it will compete against the Audi RS5, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and of course the BMW M3.

Mercedes-AMG C63S 2023 rear 3/4

Augmenting this drivetrain is Mercedes’ 400v electrified turbocharger technology, which enables that small displacement engine to spin up those impellers nearly instantaneously.

Does it work? Remarkably well. Between the instant shove of the electric motor at the rear and the instant spin of the electrically assisted turbochargers, little twitches to the throttle are met with instant surges of acceleration.

Powerful surges at that. The C63 S is very, very fast, with a 0 to 100km/h time of 3.4 seconds. More impressive, though, is just how good it is at picking up speed anywhere in the rev range. Dip deeper into the throttle and this thing will send you sinking deeper into the sports seats.

Mercedes-AMG C63S 2023 front track 3

The power is routed through not one but two transmissions. The main one is a nine-speed automatic transmission, but here paired with a wet clutch system instead of the traditional, slushy torque converter.

The second transmission is out back for the electric motor, a two-speed unit that keeps it in the right rev-range.

Around town, shifts are smooth and calm and comfortable, with none of the bucking or jerkiness you can occasionally get with a dual-clutch system.

Mercedes-AMG C63S 2023 track drifting

On the track, shifts are brisk and clean, whether driven by the car’s own programming or requested by the metal paddles mounted to the AMG sport steering wheel.

As far as the rest of the interior is concerned, Australian specs are still yet to be confirmed but the vehicle we drove was fitted with a setup reminiscent of the regular C-Class with dual-screen multimedia and digital instrument cluster setup styled in a minimalist look.

Much of the cabin was trimmed in leather with touches of carbon fibre available in certain packages, though there were also some cheap plastics that could disappoint some buyers.

Mercedes-AMG C63S 2023 interior

While most C63’s will spend their days on the road, the track was the most telling part of the two days I spent driving.

It’s here I really got to sample all that power and, perhaps more importantly, feel the extra bulk of the new generation. This new C63 S E Performance weighs a whopping 2165kg, that’s roughly 300kg more than the outgoing model.

And yet somehow the car is still a blast on the track. Yes, as soon as you turn the steering wheel (which, by the way, has a very light feel) you are immediately aware of the heft of this thing.

There’s a lot more roll than I remember in the outgoing C63, which gives the impression that maybe it isn’t going to work. But somehow it does. The all-wheel-drive and stability control systems, plus the rear axle steering, work in harmony to make the car turn-in the way you want even when the optional 20-inch tires are giving every sign that they’ve long-since run out of grip.

Mercedes-AMG C63S 2023 front side

Ignore their complaints, keep turning and keep applying power and the C63 S just keeps on gripping and turning. It feels loose and playful and I’m sure it chews through tyres like Lewis Hamilton in Q3, but it all works.

So where does the F1 stuff come in? Beyond the electrified turbos, AMG engineers took some F1 inspiration in deciding how the hybrid system’s power should be deployed.

The 6.1kW battery can provide up to 13km of range, but the intent is actually for it to provide short bursts of torque and regen. Put the car into ‘Race’ mode and you can then dig through the MBUX screens to tell it exactly which track you’re at.

The car will then tell you where on the track is the optimal place to use that charge from the battery, a little like defining DRS zones for you.

Mercedes-AMG C63S 2023 taco

When you’re approaching a straight, you’ll see the word “BOOST” on the gauge cluster. Then, when it turns orange, you push the accelerator down through the detent and you get that extra 150kW of power for a maximum of 10 seconds. And yes, you can immediately feel it.

Boost mode can be set to deploy for either Endurance mode for longer sessions, or a Hot Lap mode for when it’s time to put up or shut up.

In Endurance mode, I found I was using about five percent battery charge per lap around the twisty, tumultuous Ascari circuit in Spain, which has a lap time of a little over two minutes.

That meant I could have theoretically run 20 laps before worrying about losing by electronic boost, plenty enough for your average track day session.

Mercedes-AMG C63S 2023 rear track 2

There is one other unfortunate Formula 1-style feature in the C63 S, and that’s a bit of porpoising.

On the occasionally bumpy public roads of Spain the car had a consistently bouncy feel when in Comfort mode, like it was over-sprung for the reduced resistance of the dampers. Likewise, the sports seats were a bit too firm for longer road-tripping, but on the track they were sublime.

Otherwise, the C63 S is a perfectly liveable daily car. The interior still has some of the cheaper plastic sections as any other C-Class, but it still has a great look and feel. MBUX meanwhile can still be a little overwhelming, likewise the large, dynamic gauge cluster and heads-up display provide a massive amount of information overload.

But, that’s quickly changed through the endlessly configurable systems of the car. Mercedes deserves a lot of credit for the amount of personalisation here.

Mercedes-AMG C63S 2023 front sunset

It’s also quite quiet and calm around town, only really speaking up when you enable the sport exhaust. As with a lot of modern cars it’s hard to tell where the sound of combustion ends and the digital augmentation begins, but the resulting engine note is appropriately rorty.

The new Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance then is a different car than the outgoing model in a lot of ways. When it comes to engagement it feels a little bit distant and, on the track, a lot less sharp.

But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s still a joy to power through the turns and, with all that power, the straights are literally eye-opening. That’s a good thing, because they’ll be over so quick if you were to blink you might miss them.

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