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Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe review - first UK drive of AMG's new BMW M4 beater

Jethro Bovingdon
12 Jun 2016
Verdict:

The C 63 S Coupé is as exuberant as you’d expect

Evo Rating: 
For 
Fantastic engine, progressive chassis, sense of excitement
Against 
Steering system lacks feel and consistency
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The Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupé is, rather predictably, a C-Class coupé stuffed with the 4-litre twin turbocharged V8 that we already know (and love) from the C 63 saloon and in dry sump form, from the AMG GT and GT S.

That might be a predictable formula but it’s no less enticing for that. With unique bodywork, a wider track and vaguely ludicrous amount of power it’s an AMG hotrod in the traditional sense, only promising more control, delicacy and a greater ability to exploit that mighty motor.

Engine, transmission and 0-60mph

This is the fastest version of AMG’s C-Class coupé and here the 3982cc V8 with two turbochargers nestling within its V produces 503bhp at 5500-6250rpm and 516lb ft at 1750-4500rpm. The non-S variant makes do with 469bhp and 479lb ft. All that power is transmitted to the rear wheels via the clever 7-speed SPEEDSHIFT MCT gearbox (essentially an automatic ‘box with the torque converter replaced by a wet clutch system) and a limited slip differential. The S gets an electronically controlled lsd for faster response times. With launch control enabled Mercedes-AMG claim it’ll hit 62mph in 3.9-seconds (non-S 4-seconds) and if you spec the ‘Driver’s package’ the top speed is limited to 180mph instead of the usual 155mph.

>Read our BMW M4 review

Machinerynical highlights

To ensure that engine doesn’t just dissolve the rear tyres and twist the C63 S like a Coke can requires plenty of work. The stuff you can see is the spectacularly muscular bodywork that stretches over wider tracks front and rear (73mm and 46mm respectively). Underneath there’s a heavily reinforced four-link suspension set-up and the multilink rear axle is unique to the Coupé (it’s 50mm wider than even the C 63 saloon). It features a new axle carrier, strengthened wheel carriers, stiffer elastokinematics and offers more negative camber as well as much greater rigidity. Damping is adjustable with Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings.  

This level of detail continues through the braking system (featuring 390mm front discs on the S or otional 402mm carbon-ceramics), the standard dynamic engine mounts and the electronically controlled lsd. Even so the relatively modest 255-section front and 285/30 R 19 tyres are definitely in for a serious workout with all that power and torque with which to contend. Our test car had the optional 20-inch rears, with the same 285-section Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres. The gearbox, like the chassis, offers Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes. To make matters simpler the chassis, drivetrain, ESP and switchable sports exhaust can be controlled separately but also come in pre-set programmes – Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race. You can also create an Individual mode, allowing you to have softer dampers but the most aggressive engine mapping and ESP set to ‘Sport Handling’ mode, for example.

What’s it like to drive?

For the most part it’s as spectacular as it looks and sounds. And boy does it sound good. That 4-litre V8 is an absolute monster of an engine and it really is the heart and soul of the car and the experience. It makes you feel good as soon as it explodes into life and whether enjoying the near-instant mid-range thump or holding out for the wild top-end delivery it’s full of character and just incredibly exciting. For sense of occasion it makes the straight-six of the M4 seem utterly joyless.

>Read our C63 review

I suspected that the ‘box might not live up to the promise of the engine but the SPEEDSHIFT MCT is much-improved, delivering clean, precise upshifts and responsive downshifts. It’s maybe a fraction behind the M DCT ‘box of the M4 or Porsche’s PDK system, but it’s close enough that it doesn’t matter 99-percent of the time. The drivetrain is very hard to pick holes in.

The chassis has to support 1725kg and deploy 503bhp, which is no easy task. However, the C 63 S Coupé manages to feel more fluid and progressive than an M4 and much, much friendlier, too. The ride – which we suspected might be a bit tough in the UK – is actually absolutely fine. In fact in Comfort mode the body control feels a bit too lazy and I found myself using Sport or even Sport+ even on quite narrow, craggy roads. Do that and the C 63 S feels lighter than the actual figures and also very well controlled.

More importantly it’s also a multi-faceted car. Drive it at a relaxed pace but deliberately provoke the chassis and it’s heroically adjustable on the throttle. Up your commitment levels and the C 63 S finds composure and so long as you don’t shock the rear tyres with greedy stabs of power it’s hooked-up, well-balanced and finds a way to use all that power and torque pretty effectively. The more relaxed ESP setting is a real help here, subtly trimming away your excesses but allowing the car to still drive out of turns hard and poised on the cusp of oversteer. The thrill of getting the car to this point, that illicit soundtrack and the sheer acceleration of the thing makes for a pretty intoxicating combination.

The weak point dynamically is the steering. It’s very light initially and has zero feel for the first 30-degrees or so. It’s very disconcerting at first and you never truly get used to the way it feels vague and then suddenly weights up with more lock. The old C63 had lovely steering, so it’s a shame to find this system feels so much less natural.

Prices, specs and rivals

The C 63 S Coupé costs from £68,080 (the non-S is £61,160) – which is a chunk more than the M4, which even with DCT and the new Competition Package is £62,560. Likewise, the Lexus RC F is priced well below the Merc at £59,995. Having said that the C 63 S Coupé murders them both for power and performance.

In terms of the driving experience I much prefer the AMG to the BMW M4 – it’s so much more dramatic and characterful and it’s also an easier car to enjoy on the road either just trickling along or out on a deserted B road. I expect the BMW is a shade faster on a track and sharper on a very smooth road, but for most of the time the Mercedes is the more enjoyable car. However, I’ve yet to drive the Competition Package model, which may turn the tables. Stay tuned for that one…

Verdict

The C 63 S Coupé is as exuberant as you’d expect but backs up the charm with a steely control and fine balance. Huge fun.

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