- Available for £32,000 if you're lucky
- 4.0-litre V8 32v petrol twin turbo, rear wheel drive
- Wonderful drivetrain
- Available as saloon, cabrio, coupe…
- …but the estate may be all the car you ever need
- Annoyingly expensive if you're trying to buy
A Jaguar spokesperson has just said that the company has seen the future and it's all electric.
If you're the sort of person who finds that prospect a bit depressing, finding a car that's as non-electric as possible might seem like an entirely natural thing to do. Mercedes AMG cars have traditionally offered plenty of choice in this field. Their C63 C-Class variant has been of particular note for those who worship at the altar of unfeasibly big and grunty engines wedged into a relatively small chassis.
With that in mind, today we're going to be looking at the buying ins and outs of the fourth-generation, 2015-on W205/S205/C205 C63. Also, with big and grunty in mind, its W204 predecessor was a bit like an automotive Ron Jeremy. Externally, it was nothing special. You might easily have taken it for just another C-Class with bigger wheels and a lower ride height. Underneath its plaid trousers however lurked a writhing anaconda of an engine, a normally aspirated M156 6.2 litre V8 lobbing out a bum-puckering 500hp.
The big difference between the gen-three C63 and the gen-four car was the switch to a smaller capacity twin-Borg Warner turbocharged V8, a version of which was used in the AMG GT coupe. In base form, the blown M177 4.0 V8 was 30hp down on the outgoing '507' edition of the 6.2 W204. The S version was 3hp up on the big lad at 503hp thanks to its higher boost pressure, but that model's extra luxury features added 15kg, blunting most of the potential performance gain over the non-S.
For better torque handling purposes, the wet clutch MCT evolution of the 7G-Tronic gearbox was used rather than a dual-clutcher (the 204 having run a regular torque converter unit). The important thing was that both of the new C63s were up on torque and down on weight compared to the 6.2, matching even the fastest 204s like the maddest UK-only DR520 over the 0-62mph run while giving significantly better fuel efficiency. The official figure for the 2015 C63 saloon was 34.5mpg compared to the big bruiser's 23.5mpg. Plus, from a long-term ownership point of view the turbo 4.0s were well distanced from the headbolt issues that blighted some 6.2s. The starting prices of old and new were close though, the base 205 470hp saloon coming in at around £60,500 compared to £57,300 for the non-507 455hp 204 6.2.
If you didn't want a C63 as a saloon you could get it as an estate or coupe, both of which were 70kg heavier than the four-door, or (from 2016) a power-top cabriolet that with its additional body strengthening was a bingo-winging 125kg heavier. The combination of big-bang performance, decent handling and carrying capacity made the estate an obvious choice not only for many powerfully built PH families but also for Formula 1 medics. Here we see an official C63 first response unit in action on public roads. All C63 owners, whatever model they had, revelled in the car's combination of docility when circumstances required it and brutal poke when they didn't.
Midpoint refreshes are normally called facelifts, as you know, but somehow that didn't seem quite the right word for the 2019MY update, whose biggest change wasn't visible until you moved other stuff out of the way. The visual changes that you'd expect from any manufacturer's facelift were subtle. On the outside they amounted to M-B's new 'Panamericana' grille, a new rear diffuser, new tailpipe trims and some different air intakes. Inside you got digital instrumentation, a thinner steering wheel, a dedicated AMG rotary control and some new shortcut keys with miniature LCD status screens.
The big facelift change was to the transmission, the 7G auto giving way to a new 9-speed box (still an MCT and not a double-clutcher). There were also changes to the AMG Ride Control suspension system. Top speed has been at least partially decoupled to over 170mph from the old 155mph limit.
In S estate guise the facelift 9-speeder came in at a few hundred pounds under £75,000, which was tanking on a bit for a C-Class. It wasn't just a C-Class though, was it? It was an AMG C-Class – and that made it special. Indeed, the gen-four C63 has proved itself special enough to keep used entry prices bobbing high today, six years after it arrived on the scene. 204 6.2s are down to £15,000 now, but even the earliest 205s will still rush you more than half of their £60k-plus showroom starter value. The lowest priced C63 4.0 on PH Classifieds at the time of writing was a 2016 470hp saloon at £32,490. Look elsewhere for something cheaper if you've got time to burn but you'll almost certainly be wasting it. All quite interesting really because less than a year ago the W205 C 36 entry price was under £30,000.
What is the 205's appeal? Let's see if we can find out why a used C63 still commands such respect – and such prices.
SPECIFICATION – MERCEDES-AMG C63 (2015-on)
Engine: 3,982cc V8 32v twin turbocharged
Transmission: 7-speed automatic (9-speed post 2019), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 470@5,500-6,250rpm (S 503hp)
Torque (lb ft): 479@1,750-4,500rpm (S 516hp)
0-62mph (secs): 4.1 (S 4.0)
Top speed (mph): 155
Weight (kg): 1,715 (S 1,730)
MPG (official combined): 34.5
CO2 (g/km): 192
Wheels (in): 8.5 x 18 (f), 9.5 x 18 (r) (S 19in)
Tyres: 245/40 (f), 265/40 (r) (S 35 section)
On sale: 2015 - 2021
Price new: £60,060 (C63 saloon 2015)
Price now: from £32,500
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Redlining a C63 4.0 V8 at 7,000rpm will set any doubters straight about the so- called emotion-robbing characteristics of turbocharging. The immediacy of the response will immediately silence the Luddite mutterings about turbo lag being made by that miseryguts in the corner of the pub. This drivetrain is a masterpiece.
The C63's Dynamic Select system controlled gearshift times, throttle response, and exhaust flow with ECO, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual modes.
Facelift cars brought more differentiation between the modes. The AMG Performance Exhaust that was a £1,000 option on the saloon and (we think) the estate was standard spec on C63 Coupes. Look for a flap-activation button on the centre console for evidence as to whether a car has that.
Although it wasn't a DCT transmission the 205's Speedshift gearbox worked really well. It might occasionally feel a little 'slippy' when reversing first thing on a cold engine. That was normal and went away with warmth. You just needed to be a little cautious on a steep driveway.
Despite an inevitable extra degree of cog-shuffling, the 9-speed gearbox in the 2019 facelift cars was regarded by most as a step up on the 7-speeder, not just in terms of economy and performance where the gains were small but noticeable, but also in terms of prompt gear delivery and smoothness and the way in which it responded to driver inputs. The top two ratios would normally keep a low profile unless it was obvious to the box's brain that you were cruising. In manual mode the new box would hold a gear even if the engine was on the limiter.
Although the 6.2's official fuel consumption was 23.5mpg, the real-world average would be more in the mid to high teens and its relatively small tank made longer trips more of a pain than they ought to have been. A 4.0 by contrast would easily do high 20s in general use and get close to its official average of 34.5mpg on steady 70mph drives, though it would drop into the high teens if you poked it.
For a 2-year service plan with an A and a B service (which includes the diff oil change) you'd be paying around £90 a month. Fluid changes for the diff and gearbox should come to about £300. The auxiliary battery for the stop-start system has been known to fail.
There's a standard joke that C63 owners like to trot out to newbies to the effect that they'll never be late getting to work again. The equally predictable standard response is that no, in fact they probably will be late because they'll be taking the longer, more scenic route, ho ho etc.
Sounds corny but there's some truth to it. Addictive power and noise are great and everything, but only if you can safely unleash it without worrying about adverse handling consequences, and the C63 strongly holds up this end of the contract. Unlike the bigger, part-air sprung cars in AMG's range, the C63 had all-steel suspension with adaptive dampers. AMG Ride Control was adjustable separately to Dynamic Select to provide a decent level of owner flexibility.
No C63 was ever accused of a soft ride, especially a 205 on 19in wheels. Comfort was the softest damping setting, Sport+ the firmest, and you wouldn't have any difficulty telling the difference between them. Discerning between S and Comfort on a bumpy road wasn't quite so easy.
If cossetting was more important to you than practicality, pre-facelift C63 coupes seemed to ride slightly more forgivingly than the other bodystyles, perhaps because, along with the cabriolet, it had a slightly wider track. Any perceived differences in that department were narrowed down on 2019 facelift cars when all the spring rates were softened by around 10 percent and the steps between modes became a little less pronounced. There was more comfort in Comfort mode while at the other end of the spectrum Sport+ and Race delivered a less challenging and sweeter combination of ride and body control. The electronically controlled (not brake controlled) limited slip diff became standard equipment on facelift cars. Dynamic engine mounts became standard on the facelift S.
While it wasn't a class leader in feel, the speed-sensitive steering was beefy and usefully direct. Recalls have been issued to rectify some faults in this area.
Rear-drive Mercs of old could certainly be tricky on snowy roads but the wonder of the gen-four's traction control systems greatly dialled down the fear factor. Even with such a high power output as the C63's you should find it with a set of winter tyres thrown on it to be more than useable. Michelin Pilot Sport 4s are rated, but don't expect any tyre to last much more than 15,000 miles even in moderate use. Use Sport+ or Race mode a lot and it's a simple matter of how much money you want to spend with Blackcircles. Expect to pay around £200 a corner for the rears and £150 for the fronts. Perhaps surprisingly you may run through fronts at least as quickly as the rears.
Carbon brakes were an option but only on the front wheels. A replacement set of steel discs with pads should come in at around £700.
The panoramic roof was a popular box to tick if you hadn't already optioned the Premium pack which included that plus Distronic and 'intelligent' LED lights. Some headroom was lost with the pano roof however so if you're of a lanky persuasion make sure that you're not nutting it when the seat's in the right position for driving.
The Night Package added black trim pieces (grille, front apron, side skirts, mirror caps and modified rear diffuser). Some owners found that these black parts did have a tendency to work loose.
Generically speaking 205s had issues with creaking sunroofs and door seals. The C63 cabriolet's fabric roof could be deployed at speeds of up to 30mph and with an engine sounding this good you really needed to be dropping it at all times. Then, the weighty cab's inferior performance and fuel economy really meant nothing. It was still ridiculously fast and gave you unfettered access to one of the best noises in motoring.
As per normal with an AMG there's a wonderful sense of class in the C63. The IWC Schaffhausen analogue clock that appeared in all C63s bar those with the piano black interior might have only been a badged-up quartz thing but it really did help to create a special ambience. AMG's sport seats for the C63 aren't always comfortable for every passenger however so try to compare these with the standard seats before you buy.
With your common sense head on you have to remember that even the estate is still only a C-Class, so if your family cohort has tall types in it you might be better off looking at an E 63. On the other hand, if your children are still small you might not necessarily need the C63 estate as a couple of kids' bikes will fit in the 360-litre boot of the saloon. The coupe's is 300 litres, while the cabriolet's is just 260 litres with the roof down.
A lot of information is thrown at the C63 driver. Some find it too much, even with the aforementioned 205 cabin squeaks to take your mind off it. A total freeze-up of the Comand infotainment system was a good distraction though, and that could happen. It's rumoured that sound insulation was cut down on the 205s, and a disconcerting reverberation in the estate was noted by a few owners. Black interior trim pieces are very prone to scratching.
The Premium pack mentioned in the Body section also included a Burmester sound system which didn't always live up to the brand's high expectations, although things improved on facelift cars where the amplifier was beefed up. Other facelift changes included a new flat-bottomed steering wheel with the option of AMG Drive Unit quick-access buttons to control the drivetrain and chassis settings. There were enhanced gearshift paddles and a new 12.3in screen digital instrument cluster with three AMG-bespoke display styles – Classic, Sporty (hmm) or Supersport, plus a Track Pace option to let you store performance data. Also on the facelift options sheet were 'open-pore' oak and aluminium trims. An AMG Track Pace data-logger added new lap functions like Formula 1-style coloured sector times.
Problems? Not many. The Blind Spot Assist might not work on both sides of the car if a sensor is playing up. Once you're up over 30mph on a test drive, check that the red arrow in the mirror is illuminating when another car comes alongside. Then check your sanity for going slowly enough to let someone come alongside.
The head-up display was arguably a smarter option than the perfume dispenser. There have been airbag recalls.
It should be pretty clear by now that the 4.0 C63 is a superb tool. The 6.2 that went before it was special too, but the 4.0 was easier to drive across a wider range of situations than its uncompromising predecessor.
If you set the big 'un aside and looked at the 4.0 in isolation you'd soon realise that it offered the same throbbing sonic pulse of a big-inch V8 and the same 500hp straightline performance, but with somewhat smaller running costs. In the wagon you got the versatility and all-round ability of an SUV without any of the handling compromises. It really was (and still is) quite the mixture. You could say that the only things the C63 needed to make it absolutely perfect as a year-round daily would be a bit less weight and all-wheel drive, but the 4Matic system was never made available for it.
Even so, go on C63 owners' forums and you'll have no trouble finding folk who rate the S205 estate as the best car they've ever owned. No wonder these cars figure so high on the list of daily runarounds for those of us dreaming of a lottery win (based on a PH office straw poll). BMW's M3 was arguably a sharper scalpel on the track, and it had a faster gearbox, but you needed to work it harder than the Mercedes to get the best out of it.
Your biggest problem as a C63 buyer is going to be facing up to the high prices dictated by glacial depreciation. You'd think that age and mileage will at some point bring back the days of the 'cheap' (ie sub-£30k) gen-four C63 but they're simply not out there at the moment.
What is out there then? Well, at the time of writing a 'Price low to high' search on PH Classifieds revealed this 56,000-mile estate as the cheapest 205 at £27k but it is a Cat N vehicle. The lowest-priced 'normal' car was this pano-roofed 56,000 mile Premium pack saloon in metallic grey at £32,490. If it's a 500hp S you must have you'll be looking at something like this blue 2016 37,000 mile saloon for £36,295. Coupe, you say? Here's a carboned-up one with 40k miles for 38k pounds. Or for exactly the same money you can have this 33,000 mile Cabriolet.
You may have noticed we haven't mentioned any estates yet. Barring that Cat N car they don't get out of bed for less than £38,490, which is what this white 26,000-mile 2017 car in white is going for. Prices for S estates begin with a 4. Early (ie late 2018) facelift C63s with the digital dash start at around £46k. Impressive value retention ye might say.
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