ZWARTKOPS, Pretoria - Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are commonly referred to as two of the best soccer players but spare a thought for their offspring: both have young sons and if they play soccer one day they’ll undoubtedly be compared to their fathers.
Which brings me to the 2015 Mercedes AMG C63. Yes, Stuttgart has moved around the badging and now the AMG moniker has taken pride of place like a happy bride at her wedding day. The car follows the footsteps of the SLS AMG and the forthcoming AMG GT as performance cars built by Affalterbach.
FILLING BIG BOOTS
Enough history and back to the car: the AMG C63 and C63 S are very important to Mercedes. The previous generation C63 was the best-selling AMG yet: 40 000 were sold globally during its life; the new C-Class was 2015 World Car of the Year.
The new car has big boots to fill so let’s talk figures because that’s usually a starting point for most petrol-head discussions. The standard 63 produces 350kW/650Nm, the ‘S’ adds 25kW to spit out figures of 375kW/700Nm!!
Each car is limited to 250km/h; sprint times for the standard model is 0-100 at 4.1 sec and the ‘S’ a blistering four, making it the cheapest car to claim that rapid sprint time.
Comparisons will be made to the BMW M3 and Audi RS4, which you can read about.
IMAGE GALLERY:2015 Mercedes AMG C 63 S
VIDEO: Mercedes-Benz C63 driven at Zwartkops
The previous C63 had one of Affalterbach’s best engines, a 6.2 V8, but Mercedes has moved with the times and the new car has a four-litre bi-turbo (it says so on the flanks of the car) V8.
It’s a cousin to the unit in the upcoming AMG GT.
Power is up and fuel consumption down by a claimed 32%. I wasn’t worrying about that as I opened up the two models on the fast but short track at Zwartkops raceway just west of Pretoria. I first took the standard car on the lekker slippery pan and, with 650Nm available from 1700rpm under my right foot, it didn’t take long to get rear of the car sliding like Sepp Blatter in an ethics committee meeting.
BOOST FOR THE EGO
The exercise was meant to illustrate efficacy of the electronic stability program - on of and off. Basically, with ESP on, the system will look after you like a boss on take-a-girl-child-to-work day. I was impressed by the car's stability despite driving around the soaked pan at around 70km/h.
But when the ESP was off, the girl-child was running the show: those 650Nm turned into absolute hooliganism while I managed to perk up my ego by holding a few drifts. Point is: the system is effective and, despite the gargantuan figures, was manageable in extreme conditions with ESP ON!
The C 63 has four driving modes: Comfort, Sport, Sport + and Race (only on the ‘S’) and Individual. The latter option allows the driver to alter the shock-absorbers, engine, gearshift ferocity and exhaust noise. (more on that later).
I think most buyers will tailor their set-up or use Comfort mode, which has the shocks set to the gentlest setting. These different modes are selected with a button to the left of the centre console. (Handier, of course, in Europe).
I used the Sport + mode on the track and on our short drive to and around the Cradle of Humankind. What struck me most was the relentless speed, that four-litre biturbo really suits the "aggression"of the car.
It turns it into an even faster-shifting, road-eating, maniac with the sound to match.
Thank goodness Mercedes has not gone the way of some manufacturers; the boom and bark from the V8 is as real as Jacob Zuma cackling about Nkandla. No sound symposers here. In Sport+ the exhaust blips the throttle and that brought a gleeful smile to my face.
VIDEO: Mercedes AMG C 63 S on track
The wider rear track and dynamic engine mounts are an integral part to how well the C63 shows composure in most situations.
The mounts are softer for a relaxed driver but stiffen up when enthusiastic driving is needed: like my laps around the track. I could feel the steering tighten and the suspension set-up allow faster cornering. Dialling it into the sweeping bend after a straight at Zwartkops the steering felt direct and ‘alive’ and incremental adjustments were needed to place the car where it needed to be.
A race track is also a good place to test brakes and after building up to 175km/h and needing to brake well is paramount in scrubbing off enough momentum while still keeping control of the car.
The brakes are 360mm discs all-round; on the ‘S’ 390mm. There are optional 402mm ceramic discs for the ‘S’ , lettered with AMG Carbon Ceramic to show off to your envious friends. They are also 50% lighter than the normal discs.
The standard car’s wheel option is 18" tyres 245/50 at the front and 265/40 at the rear. The ‘S’ rides on 19" rims with 245/35 rubber up front and 265/35 behind.
I drove both cars on the track and found the standard car demonstrated better traction, possibly because of its smaller tyre footprints, but that was only off the line.
The ‘S’ felt assertive on the track and clutching the thick-rimmed sports leather steering wheel I started to lap Zwartkops with more confidence and build up more speed which the V8 was all too happy to deliver.
The gearbox, a multi-clutch technology (MCT) seven-speed auto, does a good job of really punching through the gears and marries beautifully with the engine to create fast shifts. On the track the ‘box was better left in auto (so I could concentrate on placing the car). But on the road I used the paddles and found the upshifts adequately fast when I pulled the big silver paddles behind the steering-wheel.
The ‘S’ model's carbon ceramics were really working as I made my way through the esses before the last corner on the track. If you plan to do track days in your C63, do yourself a favour - pick the ceramic brakes.
BRAWLER IN A BUSINESS SUIT
The C63 conveys a real mobster-in-a-business suit feel and at 4.7m long and 1.8m wide has a stocky appearance that would frighten a rogue rabbit caught in its adaptive LED headlights. I particularly liked the blue hue.
Four AMG-tipped exhausts are integrated with the rear diffuser while haunches bigger than Kim Kardashian make the rear of the C63 appetisingly sumptuous. The AMG boot-lid badge now sits on the left, the C63 moves right.
The cabin greets with form-huggingly comfortable leather sports seats; performance seats are an option which will allow an even lower driving position and provide better lateral support. Electric adjustment let me find a perfect driving position - I’m pedantic like that.
The steering-wheel is electrically height-adjustable, AMG badges festoon the wheel and seats.
All in all, the C-Class interior is one of the best in the business. Well–made, expensive-looking; the myriad buttons somehow still manage to be ergonomically friendly. There is one button that I loved pushing: the exhaust switch which looks like a double-barrelled shotgun. It opens the flaps and allows the AMG car to bark like no other.
EDITION 1 AVAILABLE
Like the A 45 and GLA 45, Mercedes has made a silly decision (in my opinion) to offer an Edition 1 version of the C 63.
Edition 1 models are distinguished by mostly garish visual bits that give no mechanical advantage over the standard and ‘S’ models. They include:
• Spoiler lip in gloss black
• Night package
• Red highlights for radiator grille and exterior mirrors
• Matte-black wheel rims of a cross-spoked design, with red rim flange, tyre size 245/35 R 19 (front) and 265/35 R 19 (rear)
• Side sports stripes in matte graphite grey above the sills
The cabin also features red accents:
• Red seat belts
• Black floor mats with "AMG" lettering and red piping
• Flat-bottomed steering-wheel with red 12 o'clock marking
• Red contrasting top stitching
• Steering-wheel in chrome with "Edition 1" emblazoned
• Performance seats and door panels with red stitching.
I came away from the launch, asking myself: "Has Mercedes stayed true to the AMG anarchy? To the madness of the previous generations that made them cult cars? Well, yes, they have.
The four-litre biturbo V8 is as strong as a Cuban mojito and the steering (when in the correct mode) provides feedback in a well-sorted package. I liked the authentic sound of the engine and I liked the fact that it will look cool in Bedfordview.
So, I came away from driving the new C 63 fully appreciative of how Mercedes has maintained the lunacy and this new model will definitely be as popular as the last.
Mercedes-AMG C 63 S - R1 163 800
Edition 1 +R175 000
Mercedes-AMG C 63 - R1 004 700
Edition 1 +R212 000