There may be no ‘i’ in team, but more surprisingly, there’s also no Benz in the new Mercedes-AMG C 63. This latest C-Class super sport sedan introduces to mainstream models Mercedes’ new AMG naming hierarchy that debuted on its Porsche 911-fighting Mercedes-AMG GT: the sportiest models are now Mercedes-AMG products, and the most track-ready of this new line are now the S models. After spending a day driving the C 63 S on both twisty roads of southern Portugal and the Portimao race track, here’s how it stacks up from behind the wheel.
Using the same beastly 4.0L V8 found under the hood of the much pricier Mercedes-AMG GT two-seat sports car, the C 63 S pumps out 503 hp – the exact same rating as that all-new AMG GT, though the C 63 S clocks in at an even more monstrous 516 lb-ft of torque. The regular C 63 uses the same engine but slightly detuned, but still demolishes everything in its class with 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. Especially when you consider that the C 63 is one of the few in this segment to not downsize to a six-cylinder engine for its top compact sport sedan, at the likely penalty of fuel consumption, it’s clear Mercedes has cemented its alpha dog status amongst this sport sedan group when it comes to power.
With great power comes great acceleration. The zero to 100 km/h dash is over in a blistering 3.9 seconds for the C 63 S, which is only a tenth of a second slower than that $150k AMG GT, and a tenth quicker than the non-S C 63, according to Mercedes-Benz’s figures. Effectively, both C 63 models launch identically – with just a split second of softness at first stomp from rest – but bellowing thrust that plants you in your seat otherwise, with no noticeable lag from the two turbochargers, especially if you’re willing to work the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h in the C 63, and upped to 290 km/h in the C 63 S.
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Sound and feel
The exhaust bellow at full throttle is not quite as loud or commanding as the outgoing naturally aspirated V8, but it’s still loud enough to tempt you to dip into that power for fun.
Granted, even the most enthusiastic driver won’t be flooring this car continually, because speed limits and enforcement suggest this car’s awesome dynamic capabilities will demand some prudence from the driver. In daily cruise mode, the C 63 can be surprisingly quiet, with Start/Stop system not only saving some fuel at red lights, but helping preserve an overall calm general demeanour.
Ride and Handling
The C 63’s dual personality can be seen on the handling front too. In Comfort mode, though it is definitely sprung tighter than a regular C-Class, it’s still a nicely refined ride. There is still a tiny amount of body roll in Comfort compared to Sport or Sport+, which increasingly firms up the suspension, raises the transmission’s shift points, and allows for more slip from the electronic stability control system. The S also includes a Race mode good for track days and even more rear-drive tail-out latitude, though it will jump in to save you from over-exuberance on track.
Outside the powertrain, advanced technologies include a number of new safety-related systems that come standard on the C 63, such as autonomous partial braking in emergency situations that come on after visual and sound warnings (which occasionally came in error on those rapid twisty roads); blind spot warnings, and crosswind assist, which brakes one side of the car automatically when it detects heavy crosswinds to help improve highway stability. Optional niceties include more active full autonomous assists on: emergency braking, lane-keeping, pedestrian detection and even parking, the latter by turning the steering wheel and hitting the brakes for you when either parallel parking or reversing into a mall spot.
With its mix of comfort and huge power, the C 63 doesn’t constantly beg you to drive hard, but politely offers up thrills when desired. The BMW M3 is now its closest rival, to be followed soon after the C 63’s spring launch by the Cadillac ATS-V, both of whom offer 400+ hp turbocharged V6 engines, but less than even the base C 63, never mind the 503 hp S. Audi’s S4 and Volvo’s S60 Polestar also play in this area, but are well down the power and performance food chain in this group.Less Benz, more AMG V8 power 3/16/2015 6:30:00 AM 3/16/2015 6:30:00 AM