Mercedes has a great reputation for producing high performance AMG versions of its cars. However while there's no doubting these models are quick in a straight line, they've often struggled to match that performance in the corners. The C63 AMG looks to address that with more focussed handling, a wide track and a sophisticated suspension and chassis set-up. However, as you'd expect, it is still stormingly quick and with a 457bhp V8 engine it can race from 0-62mph in just 4.5 seconds. It's hugely enjoyable to drive and the sheer acceleration it delivers is addictive, but the Mercedes is also easy to live with day to day thanks to a forgiving ride. The AMG's natural environment is fast A-roads where it's poise and agility shine through but it's the all-round ability of the C63 that makes it such a great car.
As its name suggests, the C63 AMG is powered by an immense 6.3-litre engine - the V8 unit is also used in other AMG versions of other models including the E-Class and S-Class. In the C-Class it produces an enormous 457bhp along with huge amounts of pulling power and this translates into a 0-62mph time of just 4.5 seconds (4.6 seconds for the estate version). To put that into context, that makes the C63 as fast as a Porsche 911 Carrera S and fractionally quicker than an Audi R8. It's a hugely flexible engine with power available across the rev range and it sounds sublime too with a deep V8 rumble accompanying even modest acceleration. There's no manual gearbox available - instead the standard transmission is a seven-speed semi-automatic system, called 7G-Tronic. This uses two clutches (in a similar way to the Audi and VW DSG systems) to provide super fast shifts. In standard mode the AMG is easy and almost sedate to drive, while a sports mode quickens the changes by 30 per cent - it also blips the throttle on downshifts. Alternatively there's manual mode which allows the driver to control the changes via the steering wheel mounted paddle shifts. This is the most enjoyable and involving mode to use, especially on more demanding roads and unlike some systems will hold a gear until you change up, even up to the red line on the rev counter.
The C63 AMG is certainly more focussed on the road than previous AMG models and feels poised and agile. The steering is well weighted and incredibly responsive too, although at slower speeds it does require more lock through corners than you'd expect. Despite all that power on tap the C63 does well to translate it onto the road, although a heavy right foot in wet conditions will send the stability control light flashing as the rear tyres try to find some grip. The stability system (ESP) has three settings - standard, sport and off. The sport setting makes it less intrusive, allowing a little more drift before it kicks in. From the driver's seat you are always aware of that immense power under the bonnet but the C63 still feels reassuring and predictable to drive and with minimal body roll in corners and a surprising agility too.
For a high performance car the C63 has a surprisingly supple ride and only really gets unsettled by rough or bumpy surfaces. Buyers can opt for the additional AMG performance pack (a £3120 option) which adds firmer suspension, among other extras, however this makes the AMG incredibly stiff and as a result it is uncomfortable on anything but a smooth surface. The seats are superbly supportive though and those in the front have lumbar and side bolster adjustment but rear passengers in both the saloon and estate will find space quite limited.
The C63 features the same level of practicality as the standard C-Class. The saloon has a decent boot (which is bigger than the BMW M3 and Lexus IS F) that is more than capable of carrying a couple of suitcases, plus a wide opening makes loading easy. The five-door has 485 litres of space which isn't huge for an estate - plus this is only 10 litres larger than the saloon. However fold the seats down and this opens up to a useful 1500 litres plus there are four anchoring rings and two clever pop-out hooks to secure anything in the boot. Inside the cabin, there are a number of storage areas, such as the roomy air-conditioned glovebox, door bins and an armrest that doubles as a cubbyhole.
As you'd imagine, the high performance C63 AMG has an extensive equipment list - no surprise given it's £50,000-plus price tag. It comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, seven airbags, an alarm and immobiliser, AMG styling kit, sports suspension, stability control (ESP), 6CD changer, automatic climate control, xenon lights, Bluetooth connectivity, electric windows, electrically adjustable, folding and heated mirrors, electric sunroof, automatic headlights, metallic paint, tyre pressure sensors and rain sensitive wipers. However there are still some features on the options list that you'd expect to be standard at this price tag including parking sensors (£605), surround sound stereo (£560) and sat nav (£1750). The AMG performance pack includes a high performance braking system, an Alcantara trimmed steering wheel, performance suspension and a rear-axle limited-slip differential but it's not cheap though at £3210.
Behind the wheel
The driving position in the C63 has plenty of adjustment thanks to the electric sports seats, plus there are individual switches for lumbar support and side bolsters. But while the design is clean and unfussy it's not that different from a standard C-Class and aside from the aluminium pedals, AMG dials and sportier steering wheel, very little else has changed. The interior is neat but it doesn't quite have the inviting feel of the BMW 3-Series and some of the materials used, most notably on the dash top, are a little disappointing for a car which costs more than £50,000. That said build quality is superb and everything feels robustly put together.
Mercedes-Benz is a pioneer in this area and the C63 AMG features a number of innovations that are also available on the larger E-Class and S-Class models, including seven airbags as standard plus the PRE-SAFE system. This makes use of the moments before an imminent accident to prepare the vehicle and its occupants for a collision. This involves pulling the seatbelts taut, adjusting the front seats and closing any open windows (including the sunroof). It's no surprise therefore that the C-Class gained a maximum five star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests.
Mercedes-Benz admits that its standards have fallen in recent years and reliability hasn’t lived up to the company’s reputation. This C-Class is designed to address that and the C63 AMG has been in development for three years, testing it in 20 different locations around the world, from the Arctic Circle to Death Valley in California. The engine is well proven in other AMG models and so should prove reliable and durable.
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