The Mercedes-AMG C63S has become an absolute icon for Mercedes – instantly recognisable by its signature V8 bark. The 2019 update knocks off a few rough edges but stays true to its roots.
I have a confession to make – I had never driven a C63S before this year. I had always wanted to, especially the legendary 6.3-litre original. My first run was at the Bathurst 12 Hour on the car’s local launch. But I wanted more. So Mercedes let me have it again for a week to get better acquainted.
But first, some things you probably didn’t know. The C63S is the only one we get in Australia – Benz reckons local buyers will screw up their nose at the lower version and go straight to the fastest one. It’s the fastest-selling AMG in the country, faster even than the much cheaper farty-pants A45 or even the SUV-based GLC63.
So this is a very important car. The very mildly facelifted W205 AMG C63S can’t just be good, it has to be better.
Words: Peter Anderson
Look and Feel
The facelift is pretty easy to spot if you’re a Mercedes person but is otherwise very calm. One of an alleged 6500 parts, there’s a new grille called the Panamericana. The heavily-slatted piece first appeared on the GT, then the GLC63 and now the C. It looks pretty good and it’s nice that it’s finding its way on to the 63 cars.
The car is largely unchanged, with the panels all staying the same because there’s no point in changing, I guess. I really like the way the rear lights fit flush in the curvy panel work but it’s otherwise a very conservative design. The standard 19s look good, with red brake callipers peeking out from behind and if you go for the hugely expensive carbon ceramic brakes, you get a golden caliper effect.
The cabin is same-old C-Class. I don’t like this era of design to look at but the detailing is mostly nice. I like the open-pore wood (hello the to the YouTube commenter who says that this isn’t a thing – it is) and the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel is superb, especially with the new selector dials like a manettino on a Ferrari 488. Less superb is the satin finish on the metal-look bits, it just doesn’t look good.
The seats are spectacular – they feel underpadded at first but then as you get going, it all falls into place. Less spectacular are the horrible silver perforated speaker covers and the silly IWC-branded analogue clock in the dash.
The 10.25-inch screen screwed in above the vents runs the latest version of Mercedes’ COMAND system, which is getting better over time and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You also get a wireless charging pad, sat nav, leather everything, power everything and plenty of other toys.
You can get the C63S in four body styles – the sedan I drove, a cabriolet, wagon (oh, yes please) or the coupe.
AMG’s amazing 4.0-litre twin-turbo provides the thrust, with 375kW (510PS) and 700Nm. It’s a belter of an engine and it’s in almost two dozen scary-fast Mercedes cars.
In the C63 S, max power is available between 5500 and 6250rpm and torque from 2000 to 4500rpm.
New for the 2019 model is the nine-speed MCT transmission. While MCT stands for multi-clutch transmission, it’s not a twin clutch like…er…just about everybody else. Like a motorbike’s gearbox, the clutches sit in an oil bath. The new transmission, Mercedes says, provides faster response and is also lighter than the old seven-speed unit. While BMW M and Audi RS are moving to the eight-speed ZF in their V8s, Mercedes is sticking with this clever-clogs transmission.
The sedan will smack 100km/h in four seconds, the cabriolet and wagon a tenth slower and the coupe slightly quicker. All will charge on to a top speed of 300km/h which is hilarious (and a claim I didn’t test, if you’re wondering) and mildly scary.
Between the rear wheels you will find a tricky electronic diff that ensures plenty of smiles in RACE mode. You can dial up a set amount of slip in the C63S via the steering wheel dial, which is hugely entertaining and new for the facelift.
One of the big complaints about the old car was the ride. When I drove this car back in January for Carsguide, the usual mouth-breathers pitched in to tell me the ride was fine. It was not. Most owners put up with it because they had bought a sports car. But even with adaptive damping, it was hard work. As competitors got their ride in order, AMG came to the party to smooth things out a bit. In Comfort mode, at least.
AMG has softened both springs and dampers to knock the edges and harshness off the C63’s ride. It certainly isn’t soft, but sometimes dialling things back a bit might drop a tenth off a lap time, but you’ll get it back in confidence.
The C63 S rolls on a gorgeous alloys and a lovely set of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, with 255/35s on the 19-inch front hoops and 285/30s wrapped around 20s on the rear.
The standard brakes are what AMG confusingly calls “composite”, which means a steel disc and aluminium centre, the latter helping to reduce unsprung weight. The front discs are a whopping 390mm. You can spot when someone has spent the cash on carbon ceramics – the standard red callipers are replaced with golden ones. They actually look alright…
The rear diff features electronic locking, which as we discovered on the Giulia, doesn’t always guarantee predictability. The 2019 changes include a new Dynamics menu that brings a whole heap of new options to play with, but to boil it down, it really just means you can dial up how far sideways you go. Let’s be honest, it’s an AMG.
As you might expect – and as is already well-established – AMG engines dominate the driving experience. The 4.0-litre twin-turbo is already legendary and even those who hanker for the old 6.3 are only doing it to be perverse.
The power and torque seem permanently available. Any flex of the right foot delivers a commensurate delivery of power, like a volume knob. Not many twin turbo engines can manage the kind of response you get from this unit.
Little twitch – little shove.
Floor it – everything goes blurry. The BMW straight-six and the Audi V6s are brilliant, but they’re finer, sharper tools. The AMG V8 is an absolute brute and the sound is colossal. Just, please, if you get one, turn down the exhaust at night – it’s window-rattlingly loud.
I’d always viewed the C63 as more of a dragster than the M3 or RS4/RS5, but that’s unfair. The Merc is terrific fun to throw around and in a few ways betters both of those other cars (the new M3 is a long way away, so we’re talking F10 here).
The AMG feels permanently planted but you can, at any time, decide to transfer some rubber to the road with the twist of a dial. Dialling up RACE rolls back the electro-nannies and the C63S transforms from a tied-down – albeit characterfully obnoxious – sports sedan into a proper muscle car.
You need to be awake, too. While the front end grip is truly excellent, too much throttle and you’ll get a pretty decent angle. It’s all completely catchable – and hugely fun – but that’s where you remember what the C63 is famous for – being utterly lairy. It’s a proper thug.
You pummel corners into submission with the C63 and the brakes are phenomenal. A good afternoon’s hammering failed to overwhelm them. Similarly, there’s just enough compliance to help keep you going where you want to go on the bumpy stuff without unsettling you or the car.
It’s worth remember that Australia only has the C63 S – we don’t get the lesser spec because Mercedes figures nobody will buy it and there’s mountains of evidence that’s correct.
The C63S sedan starts at $159,900, rising to $162,400 for the wagon, $164,900 for the coupe and $182,900 for the cabriolet.
It comes stacked with gear, including fully digital dash with telemetry pack, 13-speaker stereo system, auto LED headlights with active high beam control, active cruise control, auto wipers, head up display and Nappa leather.
Safety – 5 Star ANCAP
The five star ANCAP safety rating comes from nine airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reverse cross traffic alert, slippery surface mode, driver attention detection, blind spot warning, brake assist, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, around-view camera and traffic sign recognition. You also get two ISOFIX and three top-tether anchor points.
Oh, it’s a belter, this car. While it’s not my personal choice, it’s very, very tempting. That bellowing V8, the hilarious RACE mode and the improved every day usability makes it super-compelling. Get the sedan or wagon though, the coupe is a waste and the cabriolet ridiculous.
It’s hugely fast and on track would be sideways, tyre-melting hoot. So is it better? Oh, yes.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.