Fans of high-performance saloons rejoice, as there's a fresh madcap option in town. The latest AMG-fettled C-Class may carry the new Mercedes-AMG badge, but we're glad to report that the C 63's bonkers formula is very much intact. Still want that BMW M3?
In the Metal:
We've found that the S-Class aping Mercedes-Benz C-Class saloon divides opinion with its styling, but for the record, we're fans. The AMG model enhances it no end and the number of new body panels is extensive. Up front, the new bonnet features twin 'power domes', while there's also a unique radiator grille and bumper. Even the front wings are wider than standard, to accommodate the wider track. Side sills beef up the profile, though the rear spoiler is quite subtle. Less so the characteristic quad exhaust system, necessitating a new rear bumper, but the darker lower section does hide the extra exhaust outlets somewhat.
We particularly love the look of the estate version, as the wider rear lights enhance the appearance and the rear wings are more muscular. Opt for the C 63 S (as pictured) and it's a whole lot less demure. Ten-spoke 19-inch alloys set the tone, behind which sit red brake calipers (unless you go for the optional brake upgrade), while there's a silver finish applied to the front splitter, side skirts and rear diffuser and plenty of carbon fibre add-ons.
The interior of the S model is considerably more special too, thanks mainly to the gorgeous AMG Performance Seats. The test cars also featured lacquered carbon fibre trim panels where the regular model has piano black detailing. A chunky, flat-bottomed leather steering wheel is standard, but there's an item with Alcantara sections too that feels even better to hold. Extra buttons specific to the C 63 surround the Comand controller on the centre console and the instruments are new as well, but otherwise the cabin is familiar - and very high quality - C-Class.
Our first drive of the event was in a non-S C 63 saloon and from the initial turn of the ignition key it was clear that we were in for a treat. The exhaust crackles on start-up and then settles into a purposeful rumble. Even at low speeds it sounds promising and it's clear that the biturbo V8 engine under the bonnet plays a key role in the appeal of this car. It's a development of that found in the Mercedes-AMG GT sports car, but without that model's dry sump design - the engine doesn't need to sit so low down in the C-Class body. Even the standard model, with 476hp and 650Nm of torque, eclipses its rivals and by any measure it's incredibly fast. What's more, thanks to the fabulous noise it makes, and its keenness to rev, you never wonder what it'd be like with a naturally aspirated engine under the bonnet.
In fairness, the standard car is quick enough for anyone; the S model ramps things up to 510hp and 700Nm of torque, plus it gets bigger brakes and an electronically controlled limited slip rear differential. The regular version makes do with a mechanical limited slip differential. Both cars are simply ballistic on the road. Despite their high limits, they're still huge fun to drive at semi-normal speeds, with super-quick steering and rock solid body control. Quick direction changes are shrugged off and the brakes in both versions were unflappable - even on track. In that environment a gratuitous power slide is only a flex of your right ankle away, though it takes commitment to keep a drift going, as the car feels like it wants to straighten up. Drive a little smoother and it's a highly rewarding experience on the circuit.
The stability control system can be switched from default on to Sport to fully off and the mid setting is very well judged, allowing a little slip and fun before reining things in quickly and unobtrusively. It's ideal for fast road driving. While the C 63 impressed on track, its performance on a real road was even more extraordinary. And for once, the test routes chosen by Mercedes-AMG were not glass-smooth. On bumpy back roads the C 63 was a revelation. Sure, the damping is firm, but it's never uncomfortable and the body and wheel control are exceptional. Even mid-corner bumps taken at speed do little to upset the car's composure and the suspension quickly deals with anything you throw at it. This means you can revel in the full performance of the engine and play with the various driving and transmission modes.
While we're mildly disappointed that the C 63 retains the standard car's steering column mounted transmission lever, there's nothing to complain about the gearbox itself. It's a seven-speed dual-clutch unit that works brilliantly whether you're cruising on the motorway or attacking a sequence of interesting corners. In Sport + mode it aggressively changes down and blips the throttle every time you apply the brakes, which is fun, though it's even more rewarding to press the manual mode button and take over the changes via tactile paddles behind the steering wheel.
In Sport mode (one below Sport +), the C 63 is super-fast, yet not at all intimidating. It's far more neutral in the corners than say the BMW M3, making for a less frenzied drive and, crucially for the less experienced, the Merc is never twitchy. Sport + and Race modes make it feel more lively, but this car has a very forgiving chassis. About the only negative thing we could say about it is that there was a pronounced amount of tyre noise (and wind noise around the doors) at motorway speeds. By any measure the Mercedes-AMG C 63 is a sensational car to drive and it's even better at playing multiple roles than the aforementioned M3.
What you get for your Money:
I know it seems faintly ridiculous to award a car that starts at €96,000 the full five stars, but it needs to be taken into context of its rivals. Until we get a new Audi RS 4 and Jaguar XE RS, that means the BMW M3 Saloon, which starts at €4,000 more - with a manual gearbox. The Mercedes can't be had with a manual transmission, but even in base specification it has much more power and torque than the M3. The even higher performing C 63 S costs from €108,565 and buyers can choose standard or S versions in a practical C-Class Estate body style too, costing €98,225 and €110,790 respectively.
Going on what other markets get we'd expect a standard specification in Ireland to include 18-inch five-spoke alloys, AMG Ride Control suspension, Comand online navigation and the AMG-specific interior with leather upholstered sports seats.
Mercedes-AMG will be more than happy to take more money from buyers that want even higher performance and ability in their C 63. Choice options include a full ceramic composite braking system, head-up display and an adjustable exhaust with two different levels of loudness. It's expected that an even higher performing Black Series edition will be launched in a couple of years, though that may be exclusive to the forthcoming new C-Class Coupe body style.
We expected the C 63 to be good; how could it not be? But we didn't quite expect it to be as epic as it has turned out. Our favourite sports saloon, the BMW M3, has a very serious rival on its hands. The new Mercedes-AMG has a higher level of performance yet it's more accessible to more drivers. Yet, somehow, that doesn't dilute its appeal to those that really love driving. The C 63 is now the benchmark in this class. We'll have ours in Estate guise please, with that little S badge on the boot.