- M156 V8 still one of the best ever
- Well earned muscle car reputation
- Great handling alongside hoon potential
- Handsome look matched by a smart interior
- Used prices start from £17,500...
- ...but running costs fit 6.2-litre billing
We’re all accustomed by now to the omnipresent ‘hot-V’ 4.0-litre V8 used in AMG’s latest and greatest. But the engine that preceded it is arguably held in even greater regard. The naturally aspirated M156 6.2-litre V8 is a certified Affalterbach legend, providing the W204 generation C63 with a USP that anything else in its segment - be it as saloon, coupe or wagon - struggled to match.
The model launched in 2008 with 457hp and 442lb ft, driving the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The C63 sprinted from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds as a saloon or 4.6 seconds as an estate, with an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. This was raised to 174mph with the Performance Pack, which also brought uprated brakes, firmer suspension and a limited-slip differential. For many, it’s now considered a must have on used C63s.
In 2009, the Performance Pack Plus was launched, increasing engine power to 487hp, and adding expensive composite front disc brakes and a carbon rear spoiler. Following that, the 6,208cc V8 was tuned further through several guises up to the limited run and UK-only DR520. Only 20 were made and each had 520hp - clue’s in the name - lowering the 0-62mph time to 4.1 seconds (4.2 seconds for the wagon), while top speed climbed to 187mph.
AMG also produced the slightly less extreme and more widely available Edition 507 as a run-out, but the most memorable W204 was the Black Series. It arrived in mid-2011 with 517hp; engorged arches hid wider tracks and gave the car an attitude like no other. An optional AMG Track Package brought stickier tyres, active rear axle transmission cooling and the AMG Aerodynamics pack. The Black Series was AMG's way of reminding the world of its motorsport roots. Click here to watch our video explaining how.
As the C63 was offered in three bodystyles and several variants, there is a decent amount of choice out there. An early C63 AMG saloon or estate will cost you from around £17,500, but values leap significantly when your search includes low-mile or limited-run versions. The cheapest Black Series listed at the time of writing was £82k, but the priciest cars are up for £50k more than that. Handily for a buyer on a budget, even the ‘regular’ C63s are tremendously exciting machines, although as you might expect from a fairly heavy saloon powered by a 6.2-litre V8, there are several key points to watch out for. To make things simpler, we’re concentrating on the mainstream C63 models as they are most plentiful. They also provide a useful starting point for higher-strung variants.
SPECIFICATION | MERCEDES-AMG C63 (W204) (2008-2015)
Engine: 6,208cc, V8
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 457@6,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 443@5,000rpm
0-62mph: 4.5 secs
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
MPG (official combined): 23.5
Wheels: 18in (optional 19in)
Tyres: 235/40 (f), 255/35 (r)
On sale: 2008 - 2015
Price new: £56,665 (2011)
Price now: from £17,500
Note for reference: car weight and power data are 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 AND GEARBOX
The 6,208cc M156 V8 engine has a bore of 102.2mm and a 94.6mm stroke, with four valves per cylinder. This develops 457hp at 6,800rpm and 442lb ft of torque at 5,000rpm in standard form and, while there are 487, 507 and 520hp variations on the theme, we'll deal with them as a whole as the problems to watch out for are common to all.
Beforehand, it's worth noting the differences between the earlier Performance Pack (PP) and Performance Pack Plus (PPP). The earlier PP did not increase engine power, but the later 2009-on PPP did up power to 487hp by borrowing some internal components from the SLS (for which we have a Buying Guide on here). The 507's engine used the PPP motor but with revised ECU engine management to raise power to 507hp. The Black Series cars have a 517hp version of the engine.
Cylinder head bolts on engines in cars built between 2008 and 2011 can break and cause the cylinder head gasket to fail. This will wreck the engine, though Mercedes has replaced motors under warranty. It's a problem that has been more prevalent in the USA than Europe and is also rare, so it shouldn’t realistically be an issue.
An issue to consider is camshaft lobe wear, something that is caused by the cam lifters failing and putting too much stress on the lobes. If this happens, you'll be looking at a top end rebuild of the engine, though a good independent specialist should be able to carry out this work for much less than a franchised Mercedes dealer. Also, a specialist will be able to spot potential trouble in this area and steer you away from a car with impending problems. On that note, listen for a rough running engine at idle as it could be a leaking intake manifold.
The C63 is sensitive to the fuel it uses, so best to use a premium unleaded. Most owners prefer Shell V-Power and they also report you'll be lucky to see 300 miles from a tank – this is an enormous V8 engine, after all. Expect around 20mpg in mixed driving, and keep an eye on the oil level and top it up as needed. A healthy M156 shouldn’t use excessive amounts if maintained correctly.
The AMG Speedshift Plus 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox is generally considered up to the job of dealing with the engine's grunt. Pre-facelift cars feature a conventional torque convertor and three shift modes – Comfort, Sport and Manual – and automatic downshift blipping. Post facelift, the C63 got AMG's Speedshift MCT transmission, the torque convertor being replaced by an automatic lock-up clutch for faster shifts and an additional S+ automatic mode.
However, the gearbox in facelifted cars is more prone to overheating during hard driving due to the revised front bumper design, which doesn’t allow as much cold air onto the radiators. This can be cured by fitting the Black Series cooling upgrade, though this is not cheap as you'll also need a Black Series front bumper with its additional intake apertures to make this conversion work properly. Using all new parts from Mercedes, this could set you back more than £5,000.
Along with quick ECU upgrades that can lift output by as much as 70hp, supercharging is a surprisingly popular route to more power. Kits deliver from about 640 to 770hp for prices between £9,000 and £11,000, though you will also have to factor in the cost of having these kits professionally fitted – and consider more than just the aforementioned cooling upgrades to ensure the M156, which runs relatively hot as standard, is kept to temperature.
The W204 C63 AMG weighs 1,730kg as a saloon, with all bodystyles having a MacPherson strut-type three-link front suspension up front with coilover dampers and an anti-roll bar. At the back is a multi-link set-up similar to the standard versions of the C-Class, but for the AMG model the rear end was widened by 12mm. The front is some 35mm wider and AMG's engineers moved the entire front axle forwards to improve high speed stability. These changes also increased body rigidity of the steel monocoque. AMG Performance Suspension was an option to further sharpen up the C63’s base.
Rack and pinion steering with speed sensitive hydraulic assistance is upgraded in the C63 from the standard C-Class to provide better feel and more weight. A steering wobble at speed is most likely due to the steering rack bolts needing to be tightened.
As standard, the C63 came with 235/40 R18 front and 255/35 R18 rear tyres. Original equipment tyres were Bridgestones, which owners report last well and offer good all-round grip for road driving. With gentle driving, a set of rear tyres will last up to 10,000 miles, but keener drivers can expect to get through rears in around half the distance. Check the alloy wheels as they buckle easily over potholes and are also prone to kerb damage. The optional 19-inch alloys give a firmer ride.
The C63 has 360mm front discs and 330mm rears. Front brake pads should last around 25,000 miles and cost about £450 for original equipment ones from Mercedes. A full set of brake discs and pads all round from Mercedes will set you back £2,200, so finding a good independent supplier makes a lot of sense to reduce running costs.
A big topic of discussion among C63 owners is the limited-slip differential. It was a standalone option when the car was new, or a feature of the Performance Pack. With the later Performance Pack Plus, the differential was deleted from the kit, but could still be added as a separate option. Many owners reckon this is a no brainer thanks to the on-throttle precision it provides.
Excluding the most steroidal special edition models like the Black Series, which got even more features, the main differences between the C63 and lesser C-Class models are limited largely to the broader wheelarches, different front bumper and the more prominent rear diffuser, where four exhaust tailpipes poke out.
At the start of 2011, the C63 was revised with a new front bumper (with fewer intakes, which some reckon restricts the options for engine enhancement as the cooling capacity is limited), a wider grille and wing-style front louvre. There was also a new front apron and lower crossmember painted in gloss black. Daytime running lights were added, along with aluminium powerdomes for the bonnet and clear headlamp lenses.
The only common fault with the bodywork of the C63 highlighted by owners is the front bumper of all models is prone to stone chips and the paint on the bonnet seems less resistant to this type of damage than its rivals. If you find a car with a chipped front bumper or bonnet, budget for a respray in the price you pay.
The C63 Estate's boot offer useful additional luggage space and many owners use this as their only family car. They immediately receive hero status. Choose the Coupe, though, and while you sacrifice some cabin space and practicality, you get a great looking AMG two-door. Mind you, the saloon isn’t too shabby, either.
While some might feel the C63's interior is not that much different from a standard C-Class cabin, it does have unique seats, instruments and steering wheel. Buyers could also choose from a wealth of options including Luxury Climate Control, Comand Media, phone pre-wiring, digital radio, reversing camera and various safety systems.
Not all of the safety systems are liked by owners, who feel they can interfere with the driving experience and detract from their enjoyment of the C63 until switched off. However, it's worth looking for a car with the reversing camera as the high boot line can make parking in tighter spaces a hassle.
Leather upholstery is standard in all C63s and generally wears well. The only bit that doesn't is the driver's outer seat bolster that gets rubbed as the driver climbs in and out of the car. It's easy to repair and you should budget for this. Also check the electric seat adjustment works as it should, as it's known to fail. Additionally, some owners report that certain interior panels can rattle over certain surfaces.
Listen out for any cracks or pops from the body of the car as you drive along. This may happen in cars fitted with a panoramic sunroof and seems to be a trait rather than a real worry that is due to flex in the rear panels around the boot. It can also be alleviated by lubricating the seals around the panoramic sunroof.
The W204 C63 is a comparatively rare case of a big capacity, high performance car which isn't a guaranteed money pit. Thanks tough engineering out of the gate, and Affalterbach’s seal of quality on a homegrown V8, there's not much - predictably expensive consumables aside - that stands out as a real danger area for used buyers. The C63 will benefit from diligent maintenance, of course, but that’s as true for the AMG as it is any other V8 performance car. Ensure the schedule has been stuck to, and that receipts are there to back it up.
This is especially true for the cheapest C63s, which in recent years have occasionally dipped below the £15k mark, allowing buyers on tight budgets to access them – and potentially fail to keep up with proper servicing and care. Additionally, the menacing character of the W204 has made it an appealing base - the saloon and coupe in particular - for those wanting to modify a car. There is certainly no shortage of tastelessly altered and wrapped cars out there, something that makes those in largely standard tune all the more desirable. And almost certainly lower in risk.
Find a car that’s well-kept and healthy, and the W204 C63 is easily one of the most beloved (and capable) AMGs ever made. This was the car that finally proved AMG could take it to BMW M across the board, and alongside the SLS was the catalyst for a new era, combining traditionally loutish AMG appeal with a level of chassis sophistication hitherto unknown to the brand.
With AMG’s current C63 using the turbocharged 4.0-litre unit, and its replacement rumoured to receive a more humble four-pot, the W204 and its atmospheric V8 remains a real end-of-an-era prospect. It would not be a surprise if prices start to ascend over time. However, for now thevolume of available cars is keeping the value of higher-mileage variants under £20,000. Doubling that figure gets the very best, end-of-the-line 507s and other specials, but there’s absolutely no shame in limiting your search to ‘vanilla’ C63s. All are worthy legends of Affalterbach, and a terrific way to frivilously burn hydrocarbons while you still can.
[This is a comprehensively updated version of an article that was first published in 2015]
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