Mercedes C63 AMG

It was the moment when the rear-end of the car jacked out to an ego-preening angle and the tyres continued to smoke round the hairpin at Paul Ricard that it became clear the C63 AMG is no ordinary Mercedes. In fact it marks a total shift in the company philosophy that should have real drivers heading to Mercedes showrooms in droves. This is because in the not too distant past every Mercedes would have hit a sensible button somewhere deep within its soul and taken over, killing the power and hauling the car back to a straight line with more electrical interference than the perfect storm. Not this time. Here it was purely down to me to put in the requisite amount of opposite lock and power round the bend in a deeply satisfying twist of car control. ‘Sports’ mode allows for a little tail-out fun before this Merc gives a disapproving look and collects it all, but the good news is the electronics can now be turned off, although they will come back in if you hit the brakes hard enough.

There is more than enough mechanical help though, as the car we took on track was fitted with the optional £4000 Performance Pack that includes a Limited Slip Diff with 40% locking, as well as firmed-up suspension, thicker anti-roll bars and a top-end speed of 174mph compared to the standard 155mph limit. With this in place the car pitched into bends far less and understeer was easier to counter with a dose of power. The downside is it makes the Mercedes even stiffer than the M3 and isn’t perfectly suited to the public road. Even without the Performance Pack the C63 is a proper driver’s car that will put the fear of God into the M3 and RS4. Priced to head straight into battle with the pair of them this is the first Mercedes since the legendary Cosworth-engined 190 2.5. The C63 comfortably wins the power war with the BMW and Audi. The M3 has 420bhp, leaving behind the 414bhp RS4, but Mercedes has raised the bar way above them now, with its 6.2-litre, 457bhp V8.

For a Mercedes it revs hard too, topping out at 7200, with peak power railing through the road just 400rpm below that redline. But torque has always been the secret of these big, rumbling engines that sound of an old-school fighter plane on a hard charge. And despite the capacity, it weighs in at 199kg, compared to the 202kg M3’s four-litre. Magnesium intake manifolds, aluminium crank case and other high tech materials help, and the engine also comes with coated cylinders and can regulate its own fuel pressure from 3.8 to 5 bar, which sounds pretty impressive on its own. As does the 443lb/ft of torque, which comes in at 5000rpm.

With the seven-speed box never short of a sweet spot, there’s no break in the linear acceleration but it lacks the urgency of a manual change M3. It’s no less impressive though and has a Sports Auto mode, which lets the engine eat the final revs before shifting faster and smoother than we could ever hope to. The standard mode is the one for the Autobahn, with short shifts and low revs giving it a cruising attitude. In full Manual mode, controlled with a familiar paddle-shift system, it will actually run right into the limiter, refusing to change without the order, and slap the throttle, more than blip it, on the downshift. It doesn’t boast the full adjustability or outright speed of BMW’s SMG, but then that ‘box is fatally flawed by its total lack of a comfort setting. Mercedes’ three available modes each do the job to near perfection.

The C63 still feels nose heavy and the meaty square-bottom steering wheel takes muscle to throw deep into the bends, but the adjustability on the throttle is stunning and the car can be guided through the bend with the right foot. Opposite lock is purely optional, but once pushed into a slide it’s easily held with a deft twist on the wheel and not much else. It’s an easy car to drive beyond the limit and AMG expect owners to take it to a track to find out. Before the trip to the test track we were granted access to the kind of coast road that dreams are made of. Sweeping fast corners and switchback hairpins gave us a chance to explore the limits of the car. It felt like a different animal, rolling into the bends but on the mountain road the pitch and natural, gentle understeer made it an easy machine to lean on. It will give you all the fun you can handle on most roads and despite its kerbweight of 1730kg it’s more than agile enough for the wealthy free spirit who’ll drive them.

AMG borrowed a front axle from the CLK63 AMG Black Series so the front is 35mm wider than standard and is apparently firmed up by no less than 100% as a result. There is a 12mm wider rear, revised multi-link rear suspension, and bigger driveshafts and joints. It doesn’t have quite the razor sharp handling of the M3 but it makes up for that with ride quality and smoothness. It looks the part as well. The mean-looking front grille sits below power bulges on the bonnet that might as well be horns. A new rear apron to accommodate four polished exhausts and a vacuous diffuser joins up with a lip spoiler to sharpen the rear and side skirts. Again it’s more conservative than the M3, but only just, bringing it down on the right side of the class/crass divide. It’s a bit spartan inside for a car that costs more than £52,000. The plastics are too similar to the base C Class, although the aluminium trim does lift the cabin slightly. But the C63 is all about function and form has taken a back seat in the hot seat at least.

The C63 may not quite have the handling to slay the M3 or the RS4 but it’s close enough and as an all-round package the Mercedes is a much better bet. The brute force of that V8 engine and rear-wheel drive that can be finally controlled with the right foot rather than by computer is enough to swing my vote. This is the best real driver’s car from Mercedes since the 190 Cosworth and overall AMG has shown the competition a fading trail of tyre smoke. Who knows where the power war will head next, but right now this is just about as extreme as a daily driver needs to be.


Comments (90) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Palmball 19 Jul 2010

    Lol, I've never seen this thread before and it does make me laugh when there are so many opinions from the experts who have never driven any of the cars mentioned!! And you see it so often on other topics when expert opinion is formed by watching Top Gear.

    I could be deemed as being a little biased given I am on my 2nd C63 but in all honesty, I have no brand loyalty and most of my previous 'premium' cars were BMWs including an e92 M3. I also have experience, if rather brief, in driving an RS4 like it was stolen.

    Given I've never driven a C63 without a LSD (why they ever make one without I do not know) I can't comment from personal experience on what a standard one is like but what I can say is that even with a diff, a C63 still doesn't go round corners as well as an M3. It has more weight, a slightly less perfect weight distribution (although still acceptable at 54/46 biased to the front) and as such it just doesn't turn into corners with as much apex-nailing precision. In my experience, an LSD equipped C63 will hold onto an M3 but only by virtue of the extra power. I have to admit to never finding a situation where I've needed to nail an apple on the apex or indeed anything vaguely similar and as such this was not a pre-requisit when I was looking to buy one!

    So, despite the C63 not being able to nail an apex like an M3, it's still an awesome machine and for all the benefits you get in other areas where it trounces and M3 such as build quality (no squeaks or rattles in either C63...unlike both of my previous e92's!), power, steering feel, brakes, noise, seats, exclusivity and residual value, it really does make it a much more satisfying machine to own as a road car.

    As for my limited time in an RS4 in comparison? From memory it seemed slower than the M3 and indeed not really any faster than another of my previous BMW's, a 335i. It definitely could go round corners well enough but just wasn't as much has been said before, it's the on-demand tail-out sliding ability that makes some of these cars such fun if thats your thing and the RS4 could not do this. I would deem an RS4 more of a car for someone who wants the security of traction more than the ability to go sideways at will!

  • amar7274 19 Jul 2010

    chiefski26 said:
    Hi amar is it you who bought palmballs black one ?
    Yes Chiefski it was me who bought Palmball's black C63, why do you ask?

  • TotalControl 19 Jul 2010

    chiefski26 said:
    Read above i have just purchased another one.
    Aw st. Sorry bud, misread. getmecoat

  • chiefski26 18 Jul 2010

    well said lost soul i agree they are indeed all quality cars.

  • Lost soul 18 Jul 2010

    Jimbeaux said:
    Beemer-5 said:
    Jimbeaux said:
    itr786 said:
    A monster thats st around bends, if i didn't know any better id think it was made over the pond by the fat yanks, for the fat yanks.

    Don't think people realise how much quicker the M3 is compared to this 'thing', around the lap on top gear this week in was 5 SECONDS A LAP QUICKER!, and this wasn't the nurbergring (spell check), it was a 2.45mins circuit.
    I find it funny when the "Yank cars are st around bends" idiots stick their head up over and just takes some folks so long to get around a stereotype. hehe.....but I digress, back to the Merc. smile
    Aye, eg, the Corvette Z06 is one of the most entertaining drives you could wish for, brilliant car.
    Agreed, but that is not enough for some of these types. They will then go into it being "ancient tech" if evolution of said tech has not occured over the years. Why do people want to complicate something in a way that will not improve it, only...well...complicate it??
    Because Jim they are driving Gods hehe M3 , C63 RS4 are all great cars why people get all emotional over which is the best is beyond me

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