The C63 name, perhaps even AMG itself, is synonymous with V8 power. It’s been the flagship engine of hot Cs for nearly two decades, kept alive by trick split turbochargers and modest downsizing. But, as you’re doubtless well aware, AMG has taken a hacksaw to the concept and reduced its cylinder count by half. To say some fans are unhappy would be an understatement.
So while the new model bears the C63 name - which hasn’t been an accurate reflection of its displacement since, well, ever - it’s now completely meaningless given it’s shrunk to 2.0 litres. In place of the missing cylinders is an electric motor and a battery pack which, when combined with the pistons up front, can produce up to 680hp. That’s a monumental figure, blowing even the old C63 S out of the water. Needless to say, it's very much intended as the hook that AMG needs to get people to look past the missing V8.
We’ve already run through all the important on-paper bits of the C63 S E Performance, but this was our first chance to get up close and personal with the actual car. And, to clear this up nice and early: no, that sadly didn’t include firing up the new powertrain. Apparently, the car we filmed had a pre-production exhaust that bore zero resemblance to the final product. Even when we needed to move the thing for a new shot, the car was powered up in electric mode so the only noise we could hear was the sound of screeching rubber on the painted studio floor.
Fortunately, there's plenty more to get excited about. The engine is a reworked version of the four-pot in the A45 S and C43, which has been rotated 90 degrees and now sits longitudinally (hence the M139L codename). It still uses forced induction, only with a new electronically assisted exhaust gas turbocharger that pre-spools the turbine to ensure you’re never without power. AMG says this uses technology developed by its F1 engine squad at Brixworth, proving that the 1.6-litre V6 hybrid units did carry some degree of road relevance after all. It means the combustion engine alone produces 476hp – around 70hp more than the C43.
Of course, there’s also a chuffing big electric motor at the rear producing 204 all by itself. Obviously, the headline output is a combined figure - but it's also temporary. It arrives when you floor the throttle in one of the performance modes, with a bit of F1-derived software that’ll open the taps for ten seconds. AMG hasn’t supplied an exact figure on what the normal output is outside of this boost mode, as it depends on various factors, but it’s in the region of 550hp to 600hp. Still bonkers, then.
This has been made possible by some very clever battery technology that (you guessed it) is credited to Brixworth. The C63 S uses a 6.1kWh pack with 560 cells, each individually cooled with 14 litres of coolant. The trick here is the battery can be rapidly discharged and recharged, with AMG claiming it has double the efficiency of a conventional EV battery. So it means if you’re on a track day and use the ten-second boost mode, you should be able to recover enough battery to activate it again after a few corners of hard braking. Although ultimately once the battery charge is gone, it’s gone. The only way you can power it up again is by either plugging it in or using the combustion engine while on the move, which is thirsty business.
That being said, you can reserve some battery power to use at your leisure through the Battery Hold driving mode. It’s one of eight different settings, with all the usual players such as Comfort and Sport+, along with a Track mode that’ll put everything into its raciest mode and unlock that special 680hp boost setting. Toggling between them can be done using a dial on the lower right-hand side of the wheel, which sits opposite a similar dial that gives you quick access to different settings. Our car was configured for the gearbox and exhaust note, but you could swap one of them out for the dampers if you prefer.
Naturally, you can spend hours configuring the car and digging through all the menus. Track Pace, a returning AMG feature, lets you view telemetry that you can show your friends on the gigantic central display. It’ll also record your lap using front and rear-facing cameras, along with telemetry, and automatically send it to your phone for you to plaster all over social media. The best bit, though, is the new head-up display, which will not only project your racing line ahead of you when on a track day, but it’ll also show your ghost car for you to chase down. Which is a Playstation generation dream come true.
A quick note on the practical stuff. This is an estate, after all, and will likely be used as a daily driver. The problem here is that the batteries are located at the back of the car, creating a sizeable step up in the boot floor. There’s still plenty of space in the back, regardless - just marginally less than you might have expected. Those batteries can be used to travel up to eight miles on electric power alone, and you can configure the car to start in EV mode if you’re lucky enough to have nice neighbours.
There’s a lot to sink your teeth into with the new C63. Despite halving the cylinder count, AMG is hoping to win you back with some impressive technology, from the F1-inspired batteries to the video game-style track features. However, there are still lots of unanswered questions: not least whether or not the novelty of all this cutting-edge kit will wear off in the way the rumble of a V8 never did. After all, sounds and sensations were crucial to the old car, and while straight-line speed certainly matters, its enhancement doesn't automatically make for a better AMG. For its maker, this new C63 S E Performance isn't just a step ahead of its predecessor – it’s a giant leap. Having now met it in the metal, we can't wait to find out if that's true.
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