What’s it about
This is the latest incarnation of entry level, Affalterbach-tuned four-door performance sedan madness from Mercedes. In terms of strict lineage since the 1990s, the C63’s forebears include a six cylinder (C36), a supercharged V6 (C32) and a few V8s (C43 and C55).
It’s a dynasty of tremendously fast three-pointed star products. Collectively they’ve done much to vanquish Merc’s staid dynamic image amongst younger, performance oriented buyers.
With the C63 though, there is a sense of Mercedes – or perhaps more pointedly, AMG – having gone a touch too far.
The styling is an elaborate departure from the understated AMG C-Class products which have gone before, and performance – admittedly the C63’s raison d' être – is so prodigious as to possibly be beyond the realm of everyday accessibility and purpose…
Beneath the eerily standard four-door sedan configuration lurks an unapologetically manic car.
Styling will polarise opinions, even though it has undeniable right-hand lane clearing road presence.
Proportionally, the AMG bodykit is unbalanced, though. The rear is rendered decidedly bland and irreconcilable compared to the front third of the car, which features all manner of blatant styling cues including a bonnet power dome for each cylinder bank and front apron ventilation cut-outs for the engine oil coolers.
The C-Class chassis and suspension have been significantly upgraded to cope with both consequences of the 6.2-litre AMG-built V8 under the bonnet: tricky weight distribution and traction vaporising power.
Whereas previous C-Class AMGs were stupendously powerful, and at times had the measure of their Munich rivals as high-speed autobahn missiles, they lacked those last reserves of handling finesse and dexterity. With the C63, Affalterbach engineers were determined to redress the situation, it would not be dismissed as simply an overpowered C-Class with ornate body Tupperware…
Suspension changes render a 35mm increase in track up front and 12mm more tracking width at the rear over a standard C-class.
Damping up front is twice as firm as stock C-Class models, ensuring dynamic loads are kept well in check, in turn helped by a larger torsion bar stabiliser, new head bearings and rebound buffer spring topped dampers to enhance stability and the AMG sport steering precision.
Powering the C63 is AMG’s hand built 6.2-litre V8. American in capacity, European in design and German in application, it produces 336kW in the C-Class, compared with 386kW in higher end AMG models.
Allegedly, the C-Class front end is unable to channel enough airflow to run the V8 at full 386kW spec… I favour the face-saving marketing theory, which says at full power the considerably lighter C63 would embarrass its more expensive cousins too easily.
On the inside
From behind the wheel, C63 AMG is garden variety third generation C-Class, featuring intuitive ergonomics, more space in the rear than a 3 Series and trim quality which would have been considered laughable by W202 engineers.
A flat-rimmed AMG steering wheel and bucket seats (with integrated headrests) are key interior distinguishing features of the C63, bringing with them a defensible blend of ergonomic utility and style. AMG embellishments include aluminium-look door sill panels and brushed stainless steel sports pedals.
Equipment levels are as comprehensive as possible with a C-Class specification. Side airbags for rear passengers (R4 000) and an electric rear windscreen roller blind are essentially the only options.
On the road
Last year in April, when the C63 was launched at the Phakisa International Raceway outside Welkom, I was absolutely smitten with it. The AMG-fettled steering and suspension changes heralded real steering feel, and on the inch-perfect Phakisa surface, slides were controllable and all was good in the world.
Nearly a year later, and after spending a test period with the C63 on real-world roads, I have some reservations.
Ride quality is simply brutal. Even on the most supple damper setting it’s only fit for billiard-smooth racetrack work; if you live in a gated estate with those pseudo-cobblestone driveways you’ll be driven to madness.
A consequence of the concrete-filled damper ride quality is epic high-speed poise, and when 600Nm of torque is channeled via a seven ratio gearbox, you’re hardly going to be travelling at sedate speeds.
Performance is startling by the numbers alone (0-100km/h in under five seconds) but it’s the tractability which sets it apart, not to mention the noise - a menacing V8 beat - which scares the wits out of fellow underground parking users each time you fire up the AMG.
Thanks to a perfect partnership between the 7G-tronic transmission (a marvellous piece of throttle blipping engineering itself) and the oversquare V8’s boundless torque reserves, real world performance (overtaking capability) is stupefying.
Three 18-wheelers in convoy delaying your progress on a mountain pass in Mpumalanga? The C63 dispatches them with no drama.
If ever you wanted to justify the boundless, and seemingly nonsensical, performance reserves of a 336kW car to a non-petrolhead, the suicide-cheating overtaking abilities of the C63 is an apt control test.
Much has been said concerning the cars C63’s sideways behaviour. Team up 336kW, 245/45 profile rear tyres and drive it through a standard rear differential, and it’s hardly surprising to find the ESP perpetually taxed with keeping the AMG pointed in the intended direction.
Disengaging ESP completely on public roads is tantamount to suicide, as the rear tyres light up with frightful ease - even in third gear. In mitigation, the ESP sport setting allows plenty of leeway for sane powersliding. Ultimately though, BMW’s M3 four-door, which has an electronically actuated locking rear differential function, is less forbidding at the limit.
I’ll reserve ultimate judgement until I have sampled the C63 AMG with an optional sportpack which includes a rear limited-slip diff.
Driven with dexterity, the V8 engine has so much torque you can slingshot out of corners at frightful speeds. If you’re on the throttle too early though, make sure you have plenty of runoff area or Hennie Groenewald’s reflexes.
The C63 is hugely fast. In terms of tractability and overtaking acceleration – which is what constitutes real world performance – it’s practically peerless.
Opposition fans might point to the oversized V8 engine – hardly an unsophisticated American V8, its internals speed to 7 200r/min - and criticise its specific power output, but if AMG can price such power in line with smaller engines from BMW, good for them.
Aesthetically the AMG styling kit fleshes out those elegant C-Class lines with requisite road presence. I think it’s a better looking car than the slightly anonymous M3 four-door.
Ultimately though, I feel the C63 defeats the purpose of its own existence.
The ride quality is so harsh you’d hardly employ it as a high-speed cruiser with a full complement of passengers onboard. Such ride characteristics might be part of AMG Black Series allure, but in a four-door body shell, it’s self-defeating.
On a perfect German autobahn it might be nearly tolerable. Locally though? Simply masochistic.
It’s appetite for tyres is shocking – our test car’s Conti sport contacts were nearly threadbare – and the demanding handling, with a surfeit of power easily breaking inside rear-wheel traction without a limited slip differential, needs very skilled hands and feet to quell.
This is a very mad Merc. It carries the AMG badge with hooliganesque pride. If you can bear the ride quality and stretch the budget for the performance pack (R55 100), there’s hardly anything faster in the four-door small executive German marketplace.
- Unparalleled V8 urge from 6.2-litre motor
- Looks the part
- Sounds like a German WW2 bomber squadron
- Huge fun on perfect roads
- 7G tronic transmission
- Appalling ride quality
- Tyre bills
- Without LSD on undulating/wet surfaces, scary as the Grim Reaper