Powered by
Subscribe to the only car newsletter you’ll ever need

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance 2024 review

 
Curt Dupriez
Deputy editor

We throw the tech-laden, new-school plug-in hybrid C63 muscle sedan at some of Australia’s finest roads and assess the pros and cons in the loss of turbo-V8 power  


Good points

  • Surly performance
  • Much more comfy
  • Polished hybrid drivability
  • Economical for its potency
  • Lashings of cabin tech
  • Impressive dynamics

Needs work

  • Loss of turbo V8 character
  • Loss of turbo V8 street cred
  • Price is getting up there
  • Cabin lacks distinction
  • No wagon option
  • Paltry boot space

Controversy. It’s loomed over the Mercedes-AMG C63 ever since it was confirmed in early 2021 – around April 1st, no less – that the then forthcoming W206 generation would ditch thumping V8 power for a 2.0-litre turbo four pot with plug-in electric assistance. 

It remained present at the C63 S E Performance model’s international launch almost 14 months ago, where we called its German global debutant “outrageously powerful” yet “perfectly livable”. And the controversy still lingers as we find ourselves in the Apple Isle, early 2024, for the new-school muscle car’s slightly delayed local launch across some of Australia’s finest hot mix.

Why the fuss? Because it bucks a two-decade tradition of V8 power for the C63 nameplate. Within that, the stonking 6.2-litre (not 6.3!) naturally aspirated W204 asserted itself as the alpha mid-sized German muscle car against its 4.2L ‘B8’ Audi RS4 and 4.0L ‘E90’ BMW M3 bent-eight rivals of the time. Subsequently, when new generations of all rivals went turbocharged, the W205 downsized to a 4.0L V8 while nemeses from Audi and BMW opted for even smaller capacity sixes.  

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 driving front close

For C63, bent-eight power was, as much as anything, status. And despite all of the Formula One technical transfer spin, the paradigm shift from any V8 configuration to what’s ostensibly – though not strictly – an electro-augmented A45 hot hatch engine remains a bit of a shocker (pun intended). 

Despite some seriously impressive stats backed by clearly clever tech, the new C63 hasn’t exactly been universally embraced by die-hard enthusiasts, a good many of them potential buyers.          

Fact is, the four-pot PHEV C63 S E Performance is a sign of the times. The writing is on the wall for further engine downsizing and enhanced electrification and, short of a European legislation backflip, further Audi RS and BMW M competitors will follow suit – seven- and four-years old respectively in turbo-six generations. 

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 driving rear

Frankly, someone had to jump first, and it was Mercedes-AMG that took initiative into a bravely different mid-size German muscle car world.

There are certainly brave pills in the C63 stats – importantly, stats Audi and BMW can’t come close to matching. AMG’s so-called “P3” PHEV powertrain concept, in C63 form, boasts 500kW and 1020Nm bringing a 3.4-second 0-100km/h promise…while returning 6.1L/100km combined claimed consumption. It’ll drive as a pure electric on a full charge for 15 kilometres, at speeds of up to 125km/h.   

Could the C63 have remained a V8? Sure. Mercedes-AMG currently has two other P3 PHEV models, the not-for-Oz S63 E Performance and the mighty, recently launched GT63 S E Performance, both with bent-eights. The latter boasts 620kW and “over 1400Nm” from its electrified 4.0L biturbo V8 powertrain and wants for tenner under $400K…

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 driving rear

 

The C63 S E Performance, though, lobs at $187,900 before on-roads. Yes, that’s up on the old biturbo V8 generation by around $20K, but it’s right here where price, the abovementioned performance and stats, together with the below-mentioned features and specifications, really start to coalesce.      

However, deciding whether Mercedes-AMG’s watershed plug-in hybrid C 63 S E Performance is good – or not – is a tricky question. 

If there’s been a critical running theme from its international release thus far, it’s that this new W206 is a vastly quicker, techier, nicer to live with and more economical C63 than its heroic bi-turbo V8 forebear, if one that’s heavy, somewhat excessive and nowhere near as characterful as significant downsides.

And we’re finally able to see how it works, at least as a high-performance tourer, on Australian roads.

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 driving front

What are the C63 S E Performance’s features and options for the price?

At launch, a sole sedan version is available at $187,900 before on-roads and options. 

According to Mercedes Benz Australia, there will sadly be no wagon/estate version offered locally – despite a C63 wagon being available overseas – to counter the likes of the BMW M3 Touring and Audi RS4 Avant

Standard features on the C63 S E Performance include:

  • 20-inch forged wheels
  • Electronically controlled rear LSD
  • Rear-wheel steering
  • Nine-speed automatic transmission
  • Adaptively damped steel spring suspension
  • Bespoke suspension/steering hardware
  • 4MATIC all-wheel drive
  • Drift mode (switchable RWD/AWD)
  • Real Performance Sound synthetic soundtrack
  • AMG Digital Light headlights
  • Nappa leather interior
  • Heated and cooled front sport seats
  • Head-up display
  • 12.3-inch digital instrumentation
  • 11.9-inch portrait-style touchscreen media
  • Augmented reality sat-nav
  • 360-degree camera system
  • Burmeister surround sound
  • Wireless phone charging
  • Anthracite lime wood trim
  • Panoramic glass roof

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 engine

Three options packages are offered. A Performance Ergonomic bundle ($6900) brings AMG Performance seats and wheel, specific leather and stitching and the AMG Track Pack. The racier seats and/or wheel, and Track Pace telemetry feature, can be ordered separately at individual extra costs.   

An Interior Carbon pack ($2600) adds carbon fibre detailing inside, while a Carbon Aero package ($9900) adds various style augmentation to the exterior.

The C63 S E Performance is available in ten exterior paint colours – including two Manufaktur hues – while the cabin can be had in black with red stitching, Sienna brown/black or Power red/black leather combinations.

How does the C63 S E Performance drive?

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 side

Hang onto your propellerheads because we’re going for a quick, deep dive.

The M139 turbo four cylinder is similar though not identical to the A45 hot hatch engine: lots of detailed differences, but the key one is that it has a 400-volt electric compressor in place of a conventional exhaust-driven turbocharger. 

Why? More torque at lower rpm, according to its maker, as well as offering positive charge even off throttle. The turbo four produces an incredible 350kW and 550Nm alone and sits ahead of the nine-speed multi-plate clutch automatic.

A 150kW and 320Nm two-speed electric motor is located on the rear axle, downstream of the auto in the permanent all-wheel drive system that can, in Drift mode, disconnect the front axles to offer rear-wheel drive exclusively in Race mode, which is one of eight available drive modes (comfort, sport, sport plus, race, slippery, individual, battery hold and electric). 

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 badge 2

The motor produces a continuous 70kW and its 150kW peak for up to 10 seconds in so-called boost mode (requiring the race setting). A neat 50:50 weight balance ensues, mostly because the lithium-ion battery back, the two-speed electric motor, rear-steering hardware and electro-mechanical differential all sit between the rear wheels. 

Now, your reviewer is no mathematician, but while power figures do add up to 500kW shared between the engine and motor, when it comes to torque, 550Nm plus 320Nm does not maketh the claimed 1020Nm total. More like 870Nm, right? 

To understand how and why, Chasing Cars joins a Zoom call with two German Mercedes-AMG engineers, Jochen Schmitz (responsible for the P3 hybrid drivetrain) and Kevin Berger (dynamics), who explain, more or less, that 1020Nm is representative figure had the e-motor’s torque been measure at the point of the engine crankshaft rather than way downstream, post-transmission, on the rear axle. It’s a bit of sophisticated man-maths at play.

Whatever grey theory is at play, the net effect of AMG’s P3 PHEV technology, as applied in four-cylinder guise in C63, is nothing short of remarkable in effect, out on real roads.  

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 front close

In principle, the powertrain leverages electric drive until ICE is required. In practice, it’s a seamless baton-pass of drive between and amongst the engine and motor power units that’s really unlike any other hybrid, plug-in or self-charging, I have ever driven.

At just 6.1kWh in capacity and 89kg in weight, it’s not a large battery pack. But the output of the motor it drives deploys fulsome energy eagerly and, perhaps due to whatever F1-derived smarts are at play, it recharges under regen very, very quickly. 

Here’s the great party trick. The electric motor plies meaty torque at every squeeze of the throttle with zero lag, providing a surly undertow of thrust to compliment the turbo engine, and the battery always has some charge on tap, so it never drops the willing acceleration ball. And it does so even in comfort drive mode at the drop of any and every hat.

The is not a hybrid system that relinquishes engine response in trade for efficiency, even when you put it in its mildest drive setting. Instead, it convinces you very quickly that it’s a performance-oriented system where, in the balance of driving, overall fuel efficiency is a pleasant and convenient byproduct.        

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 badge 3

How efficient? Across 270 kilometres of very enthusiastic grand touring across some of Tasmania’s finest, including various targa competitive stages, our C63 drank an indicated 10.1L/100kms. 

The sobering bit is that this isn’t some lazy hybrid SUV returning mid-sixes. Instead, this is 2166kg of luxury super sedan outputting 500kW and (let’s say) 870Nm regularly on a red-hot punt with little quarter given, including a lot of full-noise acceleration. 

On evidence, the four-mode regeneration – including a one-pedal mode tuned for maximum regen on track – simply recoups electrons at a voracious rate and unlike anything I’ve ever driven. And yet at the end of our enthusiastic 270km tour, the onboard telemetry reveals that over 70 kilometres were traveled using electric drive only.    

Here’s the thing. Yes, it’s a plug-in hybrid, and you can force it to provide about 12km of real-world, around-town EV driving if you like.

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 driving front

But you don’t have to plug it in at all. You can treat it like a self-charging hybrid, which it most certainly does, and drive it as hard as you like, returning around 550kms of indicated range for a (60-litre) tank of premium, or drive potential further if you ease off the loud pedal a bit.   

The synthetic sonics? The augmentation is rich and raspy though not at all V8 like, though get some road speed up and the stick rubber – 265mm front and 275mm rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4 Ss – soon drowns out the fakery coming through the Burmeister speakers. There’s some ‘brapping’ fanfare cutting up through the gears on the boil, but mostly it sounds…fine enough. 

Hugely impressive is how AMG has massaged the chassis to largely hide that 2.1-plus-tonne weighbridge ticket. Some of it is dimensional, such as 76mm wider track and 10mm of added wheelbase; some is beefier hardware, such as specifically developed body shell, steering knuckles and suspension joints; some is just plain clever engineering, such as regulating rear traction control by integrating the electric motor into the limited-slip differential. But you sense much effort was invested in tuning dynamic response and driver interaction. 

The steering is impressively fluid and nicely weighted, the crisp front end no doubt enhanced by the relatively light(er) four-pot over the front axle instead of a hefty V8. Turn in is sharp, mid-corner grip is surly and single-movement changes of direction are downright eager for a vehicle this hefty. 

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 interior dial

The upshot is that you don’t really feel the mass of the car through its controls and you’d swear it’s at least a quarter tonne lighter than it actually is. That is, such sensations remain faithful if you maintain lateral tyres grip, which the C63 does with aplomb even firing across very uneven corner surfaces. 

Dive too hot or too deep, and any semblance of traction loss reveals the lateral interia at play, the C63 taking a good moment or three to grip back up from moments of understeer, which the car tends to (safely) err towards when it reaches its limits. Point to point across a tight and twisty road, it’s ferociously quick, if ultimately a device that doesn’t reward serious manhandling.    

On that, the C63 has lost some of the old car’s playfulness. With older rear-drivers, there was enough mambo that teasing the throttle could gently unhinge the rears, with ample poise offering neat cooperation.

Instead, today’s success is more a grip and go affair, its satisfaction is anchored more in high g-force than it is chassis playfulness. ESC sport now allows some mild power oversteer, but it does feel more like a dollop of fun factor than properly loose shackles and genuine driver-machine synergy. And surely a byproduct of the serious energy this new machine doles out on road.  

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 driving front

On track, who knows? And I’d certainly like a swing at the drift mode frivolity and how the C63 behaves as a rear-wheel drive. But on road? The pace it drums up when it’s still meek and composed is too quick to start letting its tail swing about too wildly for a lark. 

Speaking of composure, the rear axle steering is well sorted and subtly effective, turning 2.5deg contrary to the front up to 100km/h (drive mode dependant) and in parallel with the fronts above, to a scant 0.7deg that’s just enough to promote high-speed stability. It’s very natural, no spookiness whatsoever.  

Brakes? The huge six-piston fronts feel powerful, tireless and surely work for their keep, if prone to slightly inconsistent pedal depending on how hard you jump on them – something that’s perhaps a byproduct of the vehicle’s seemingly rapid regen technology in tangible effect.  

Bar some tyre slap around town at low speed, the ride quality is firm if compliant and well judged. There’s none of the rigid fizz present in the C63s of old. In comfort and in the adaptive Ride Control damping’s most pliant setting, you sense that it’s as soft as the car can reasonably get away with while confidently supporting the vehicle’s weight and supplying adequate body control. 

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 front 3/4

Thus set, it’s very handy in the corners, though sport mode brings shades more muscle to yield a flatter and more confident mid-corner stance, while still being livable enough to maintain this mode during most on road driving. 

Sure, the modes climb further through sport plus and on to race, but the lower two calibrations mostly deliver as their labels promise, though the differences in character are more subtle than Jekkyl and Hyde-like radical. 

As a default, it’s certainly more mild-mannered than the old car, one that wore its character conspicuously on its sleeves to point, at times, of being tiresome. This new one is downright leisurely in comparison, and a much nicer place to spend long hours in the saddle.

The problem is, that ever-present fire in the belly so evident in the old V8 offerings, tiresome or not, was an intrinsic part of the experience so many associate with the C63 badge. And it’s now gone.

What is the C63 S E Performance’s interior and tech like?

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 interior

If the C63 cabin seems familiar, it’s because it’s a dead-ringer for the little brother C43, which in itself isn’t much of an ambient step-up from a C300. So while the flagship C-Class variant comes from nice stock, the interior is, in parts, a bit underwhelming for how it’s priced and positioned. 

The now familiar floating design language – where display and control panel surfaces ‘float’ proud of dash fascia and door trims – remains a charmer with the requisite, slick upmarket vibe. It just lacks differentiation from the rest of the C-Class lineup that, in Australia, is all festooned with AMG accoutrement. 

Unsurprisingly, there’s an exhaustive array of displays and feature submenuing throughout the digital window dressing covering core Benz as well as specific AMG and PHEV-associated functionality and, in areas, user adjustability. There’s a lot packed in and the learning curve is steep should you care to engage with most of it.  

Suspension stroke telemetry? Check. Customisable drive mode selection resequencing? Sure thing. Multiple driver’s display skins to scroll through to find something akin to conventional instrumentation? They’re in there to peruse if you’re so inclined.  

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 steering wheel

It’s all impressive, bedazzling and overwrought in areas, razor sharp and saturated with colour. Most of it can be scaled back (the head-up display) or simplified to avoid distraction (instrumentation). It’s just that not much of it is distinguishable against a C43.

It’s a neat, clean execution, and typical of contemporary trends features such as the climate control is accessed via the media screen, albeit thankfully in a permanent digital panel that’s easy to access rather than it being hidden in a submenu.  

Still, it’s a nice place to spend touring or commuting, the default wood grain inlay treatment a solemn departure from the cliche carbon-fibre racer-isms, though the latter is optional if it’s more to your taste.  

The familiar, quad-spoke paddle-shifter wheel remains pride of place – as chunky and fussy as ever – framing a neat floating 12.3-inch driver’s screen, and features colourful and (of course) configurable mode dials just above the rim’s flat bottom. 

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 interior

Both the standard comfort and optional sport-type seats were available to sample at the local launch. Despite their more leisurely lateral support, the comfort seats proved the pick of the pair for spending hours on end punting across Tasmania’s myriad fast-flowing b-road curves.

It’s a great cabin for the brisk touring task at hand, it’s ergonomic clarity and focus ideal for driver control, it’s relaxed nature making it fatigue free when doing so for extended seat time. 

For all of its bright and colourful showboating and strategic placement of nice materials in conspicuous areas, the cabin is a little downmarket in places, specifically the shiny door card plastics that wouldn’t look out of place in a cost-priced hatchback. 

The second row, too, isn’t exactly gushing with opulence. Core comfort is good, though headroom is slim and it lacks an array of appointments befitting a high-grade AMG – there are no USB outlets, for example, the rear passengers having to share the two ports in centre console bin with the front occupants. 

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 boot

 

Possibly the biggest shortcoming of the package is boot space.

With the motor, its battery, the bulky rear differential assembly and four-wheel steering hardware all mounted around and atop the rear axle, it all significantly eats into luggage space, leaving just 280L. Despite split-fold rear seating load-through facility, the clearance between the boot floor and parcel shelf is paltry.

Is the C63 S E Performance a safe car?

While the W206 C-Class was awarded five stars by ANCAP in 2022, the rating specifically excludes the C63 S E Performance variant.

For what it’s worth, that rating covering all other C-Class variants scored well in assessment, with 91 and 90 percent respectively for adult and child occupant safety, 80 percent for vulnerable road user protection and 84 percent for safety assist. 

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 interior back seat

As standard, the C63 S E Performance fit the following features:

  • All-speed autonomous emergency braking
  • Digital headlights with adaptive high-beam
  • Active lane change assist
  • Active lane keeping
  • Lane departure warning
  • Pre-safe ‘impulse side’ side-impact occupant protection
  • Forward collision warning and active distance assist
  • Evasive manoeuvre support
  • Traffic sign assist
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • 360-degree camera

What are the C63 S E Performance’s ownership costs?

The C 63 S E Performance is covered by Mercedes-Benz’ typical five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. The high-voltage battery is covered for six years and 100,000kms.

Servicing intervals are 12 months or 20,000kms, whichever comes first, with the total outlay over five years and 100,000kms costing a total of $7085.

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 badge

As with all PHEVs, pinning down a true real-world consumption figure is a big ‘depends’. During the local launch program, off a single full charge and with around 270km of unsympathetic running, our test car returned 10.1L/100km at launch.

During subsequent testing for our video review – different roads and conditions – we saw a worst of 11.9L/100km. 

It was during that latter where we conducted a closed-circuit (unplugged) hybrid urban loop where the C63 S E performance returned 6.5L/100kms. The claimed combined fuel consumption is 6.1L/100kms for the Australian specification.

In short, these are quite impressive returns for the sort of performance – and convenience – the P3 PHEV format provides. 

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 rear  

Recharging the 6.1kWh battery takes 1hr39min for the zero-to-100-percent charge, or 1hr09min from 10 to 80 percent when plugged in, using the 3.7kW onboard AC charger. 

A full charge offers up to 15 kilometres of claimed pure electric driving. Our testing returned a maximum EV range of 12 kilometres at a thirsty 50.8kWh/100km. 

The honest verdict on the C63 S E Performance

Controversy. The C63 S E Performance hasn’t managed to outrun or outsmart controversy to date, and so it remains now that we’ve driven it on Aussie roads. Twice.  

There are possibly two verdicts for verdicts at play: one critical and one emotional.

Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance 2024 driving front

Viewed critically, the C63 S E Performance is super-impressive. It’s wickedly quick, taps newfound comfort for its lineage, and returns fantastic efficiency. But the real achievements here are its natural driving manner despite the technical complexity, the thoroughly honed and polished execution, and that – finally – there’s proof that hybrid drive can make for uncompromised, performance-oriented drivability even in its milder ‘mode’ states.  

This car is no mean feat, be it as a technical concept or in real-world execution. It proves that, for relatively eco-friendly high-performance, you can have your cake and eat it, especially against convention and when compared with its opposition. It’s something of a game-changer. 

Further, this petrol-electric approach, scaled down and shoehorned into an A-Class hatchback, say, would undoubtedly be thrilling.        

But, emotionally: the C63 S E Performance isn’t quite so irresistible. 

 

The barrier to entry for many will be branding, specifically the heftily heritage-laden baggage a C63 badge drags along with a V8 throb.

In new guise, that badge, that price point and a turbo four-cylinder plug-in heartbeat might be a difficult pill to voluntarily swallow with glee.

This is a pragmatic response, in a midsize performance car format, to increasingly stringent European legislation and the punishing tariffs some markets’ owners now face. Fair enough.

But, here in Oz, has the C63 ever won anyone over via pragmatism in times past? No. It’s long been an emotional purchase. 

If the regs changed overnight, banning V8s and turbo sixes Down Under, then Mercedes-AMG in the box seat. 

But right now there’s little disincentive to deter petrolheads away from thumping V8s such as Ford’s Mustang. Or, more to the point here, to sway buyers away from the likes of the more affordable (from $161,300) turbocharged six-pot BMW M3. And then there’s the more practical Audi RS5 Sportback (from $170,600). Or the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (from $153,700).

All are perpetual indulgences in Oz without significant penalty – including overall, real-world fuel economy. And, unlike its AMG nemesis, the Audi and Bimmer options can be had as wagons. 

Perhaps the C63 S E Performance is the right car, if one that’s too ahead of its time. At least for Oz. 

And perhaps this is also very much a case of a great car that’s simply wearing a badge that, perception wise, is more of a detriment than a benefit.

Overall rating
Overall rating
7.5
Overall rating
7.5

About Chasing cars

Chasing Cars reviews are 100% independent.

Because we are powered by Budget Direct Insurance, we don’t receive advertising or sales revenue from car manufacturers.

We’re truly independent – giving you Australia’s best car reviews.

Terms and conditions

The estimate provided does not take into account your personal circumstances but is intended to give a general indication of the cost of insurance, in order to obtain a complete quote, please visit www.budgetdirect.com.au. Estimate includes 15%^ online discount.
^Conditions Apply

Budget Direct Insurance arranged by Auto & General Services Pty Ltd ACN 003 617 909(AGS) AFSL 241 411, for and on behalf of the insurer, Auto & General Insurance Company Limited(ABN 42 111 586 353, AFSL 285 571).Because we don’t know your financial needs, we can’t advise you if this insurance will suit you. You should consider your needs and the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision to buy insurance. Terms and conditions apply.

Indicative quote based on assumptions including postcode , 40 year old male with no offences, licence suspensions or claims in the last 5 years, a NCD Rating 1 and no younger drivers listed. White car, driven up to 10,000kms a year, unfinanced, with no modifications, factory options and/or non-standard accessories, private use only and garaged at night.

^Online Discounts Terms & Conditions
1. Discounts apply to the premium paid for a new Budget Direct Gold Comprehensive Car Insurance, Third Party Property Only or Third Party Property, Fire & Theft Insurance policy initiated online on or after 29 March 2017. Discounts do not apply to optional Roadside Assistance.
2. Discounts do not apply to any renewal offer of insurance.
3. Discounts only apply to the insurance portion of the premium. Discounts are applied before government charges, taxes, levies and fees, including instalment processing fees (as applicable). The full extent of discounts may therefore be impacted.
4. We reserve the right to change the offer without notice.