First drive: 2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 and C63 S

 

The last C63 was a beautiful but brutal thing. It would just as soon deafen nearby wildlife, orphan your children, and turn the sky black, as it would embarrass a BMW M3 on the local raceway. While it was a mental motoring machine, and downright scary in many situations, it was also captivating.

Though I loved it, I steered people to its competitors, like the Audi RS 4 and the BMW M3, because while not as enlivening, they were much more manageable. Now, though, there’s a new C63. And I am delighted to report it’s just as mental as before … but a whole lot more livable.

Lightness

Of all the remarkable things about new C63, of which there are many, perhaps the standout is the sensation of lightness. So many modern performance cars, from the Jaguar F-TYPE to the ALPINA B6, feel cosmically heavy. They still drive remarkably well, but they feel weighed down.

It seemed there would be no way to escape this sensation of remarkable heft, as cars are literally getting heavier and heavier with each iteration. Amazingly, though, without carving out essentials like airbags, navigation, or sound deadening, AMG has created a high-performance, V8-powered super sedan that feels featherweight.

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And that goes for more than just its cornering capabilities. Every part of the car has a feeling of airy effortlessness. The electronic steering, for example, is lighter than many cars in the category, but far more responsive and nimble.

The driver doesn’t need to mash the brakes or the throttle either, to get an immediate response. Just like Muhammad Ali, the 2015 C63 truly floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. While your passenger is digging grooves into the dashboard with their fingernails as you fling the AMG through the bends, you feel perfectly in control.

This is something that both my driving partner and I experienced. From the passenger seat, it felt like the C63 could go off at any second at full-tilt. From behind the wheel, though, the driver never breaks a sweat while testing the boundaries of friction and grip.

Indeed, though the straight-line speed is awe-inspiring and grin inducing, it’s the cornering where the C63 shines. Thanks to the perfectly rigid chassis, solid suspension, and featherweight feel, the thing just glides through the bends. And when the driver stomps the pedal in a corner, while it will happily drift a bit, the electronics keep the car from spinning off into the trees and the driver to his early grave.

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Delightfully, the C63 does this without simply cutting throttle, as previous cars have, which oft made the driver feel impotent, as he or she fruitlessly hammers the throttle with nothing happening at the wheels. In the new C63, during slippage, the engine still churns out all its torques, but the car keeps grip and plows through the turn. How does this happen? In actuality, most of it is thanks to the new mechanical locking rear differential. But, anecdotally, I suspect much German magic is involved.

Another wonderful thing about the C63 is its exhaust note. AMG has done wonders keeping the cabin free of roadway white noise but also allowing the V8’s crackling barks to permeate the interior. Delightfully, they’ve done this without artificially piping in sound by way of speakers or other auditory tricks. It’s the perfect blend between loud enough to enjoy while stamping the throttle, but not so loud that the driver feels embarrassed driving through their own neighborhood.

The specs

The 2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 comes in two flavors: C63 and C63 S-Model. Both are powered by the new AMG 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 and mated to AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT seven-speed sport transmission, which routes power to the rear wheels through the mechanical locking rear differential.

The “standard” C63 produces 469 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, while the S-Model creates 503 hp and 516 lb-ft. 0 to 60 is conquered in 4.0 and 3.9 seconds respectively. The C63 will top out at 155 mph, while the S will hit 180 mph.

The aforementioned 4.0 is related to – but not exactly — the 4.0 found under the hood of the new Mercedes-AMG GT sports car. Each engine is hand-built by a single worker, and an unusual “inside hot V” design means the turbos are mounted inside the V of the engine, rather than on the outside. This and other innovations mean the C63 and C63 S are both faster and more efficient – consuming 32 percent less fuel — than their predecessors’ 6.3-liter naturally aspirated V8.

S-Model

The C63 is the best-selling model of Mercedes’ performance arm. Accordingly, it is a bit of a legend. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending how you look at it, it is easily outshined by the C63 S.

Yes, the 2015 C63 is mental and tremendous fun. It just isn’t quite as rollicking or riotous as the S. The S is more boisterous thanks to the dynamic exhaust, smoother thanks to the dynamic engine mounts, and all-round more rip-roaring thanks to its extra ponies.

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At same time, while more bonkers than the C63, it’s not as unhinged as the outgoing C63 507 Edition, which is to say, you can drive on the edge while still having the time of your life … without fear of ending it altogether.

And if you’re looking for something that’s not as crazy, and more daily-driver-y, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG 4MATIC is effectively 80 percent of the C63 — for a lot less money.

Conclusion

The comparisons aren’t simply restrained to the AMG family; there are several outside competitors as well. Chief among them is the all-new BMW M3. At the time this review is written, Mercedes hasn’t announced official product pricing. They have hinted, though, that the C63 will start in the low $60,000s and the C63 S will fetch an asking price somewhere in the low $70,000s. Considering that, for my money, I’d have the C63 every day of the week over the Bimmer.

The AMG’s interior is far more plush and premium. The V8 sound is far superior to that of the M3’s industrial fridge-sounding inline six. And the suspension is far more forgiving in the Comfort mode. All-round, though, by comparison, the M3 feels far more like a machine than the C63. The AMG instead is an accessory to your sporting nature; it reaches deep inside and inspires fierce and frothing motoring greatness. The M3 is for lap times, but the C63 is for good times.

That isn’t to say the C63 and the C63 S are perfect. If I have to nitpick, and I do because it’s my job, I’d say the Sport seats are a bit too stiff for long trips, the interior still doesn’t feel as premium as it should for the price, and the COMAND infotainment system is still woefully overly complicated.

Those things aside, the 2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 and C63 S stagger me. They’re youthful, vibrant, and manageably mental. And I can’t wait to spend more time with them both.

Highs

  • Featherweight on-road feel
  • Exuberant and barking V8 exhaust note
  • Rear-wheel drive dynamics
  • Break-neck acceleration

Lows

  • Exceptionally hard sports seats
  • Woefully complicated COMAND infotainment system