2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe: Coming to grips
By Dan Heyman
Nov. 10, 2017
While AMG have always been three important letters in any gearhead’s lexicon, preceding them with a hyphen and the word Mercedes speaks even more loudly. You see, AMG is now part of a sub-brand at Mercedes, which has led to a little bit of confusion. Once you understand it, however, it makes perfect sense.
The C63 S you see here is part of what we’ll call “premium AMG.” That is to say, it has an engine built by a single man from bespoke parts. The C63’s little brother, the C43, gets some AMG parts, but is built on a line like the rest of the manufacturer’s engines.
So the C63 S is a purebred; what does that mean on the road?
Pros & Cons
- + Acceleration
- + Attention-getting styling
- + Interior ambiance
- - Price
- - Ride comfort
- - Auto start/stop system
First of all, just look at it. If it wasn’t for the oh-so-pretty Infiniti Q60, the C-Class would be the hands-down style leader in the class. The AMG version, meanwhile, adds a little toughness, a little chunkiness to the package. Its shoulders get squared off, the fenders get flared and the tailpipes get quadrupled. Even the dark wheels on our tester (a $2,000 option) and the red brake calipers peeking out from behind them leave little to the imagination. It’s as if the basic C-Class coupe has found itself in a dark alley surrounded by Dodge Hellcats and Cadillac CTS-Vs, and it’s puffing out its chest and ruffling its feathers to get ready for the fight.
Either way, there’s little questioning the beast within. This is what happens to the vanilla C-Class when it gets its Hulk on.
Not much left to the imagination here, either: black seats with red contrast stitching? OK, we’ve seen that before, on everything from Nissan Sentras to Corvettes. But what about black seats with bright red inserts, and door inserts to match? Not so much.
Believe it or not, that colour combo can be had as standard. Our particular car, however, had the $1,500 carbon-fibre trim package, which adds even more purpose to the cabin by carbonizing the centre stack and transmission tunnel. It matches the scrumptious carbon detailing on the gauge faces.
That stuff’s all good, but the real kicker for me actually isn’t anything particular to the AMG model: the treatment given to the Burmester sound system. The real metal speaker grilles are a sight for sore eyes and, even though this is a slightly more “racy” cabin, they just fit so well. Ditto the aluminum that surrounds them on the upper doors. It’s lovely, almost jewel-like in its application.
Speaking of the speakers, there are 13 of them in here, with Dolby Digital 5.1 support and 590 watts of power. Even poorly-compressed MP3s through your Bluetooth device, as we had, sound pretty good. It’s all controlled through an 8.4-inch display atop the dash. It’s clear enough, but looks a little too tacked-on for my liking, almost as if they forgot to include it when they designed the interior. I’m also not a huge fan of the colours used—they’re a little too monochromatic, sometimes making it hard to see what you’ve highlighted. That can be done via either a scroll wheel or touchpad; both are good, so it’s up to the user to decide which they prefer.
Of course the C63 has all the electronic doodads a luxury coupe should: 360-degree camera, cross-traffic alert, active lane-keep assist (which is bolstered by a crosswind assist that automatically adds steering lock during strong winds to keep you on the straight and narrow), and adaptive cruise. There’s also an optional heads-up display that projects modifiable vital info (speed, navi instructions, revs, and more) on an 8.2-inch screen just below your line of sight, so it doesn’t distract from the road ahead. We were actually able to easily read the display with polarized sunglasses on, which isn’t always the case with HUDs from other manufacturers. This being the model’s top trip, all that stuff is standard. Be careful, however: if you want to silence the radio, don’t hit the power off button like you would in most cars, as that shuts the whole display down, including the back-up cam. There’s a mute button on the steering wheel: use it.
The C63 S’ real party trick, however, is the ability to switch between a vast array of settings for the chassis, electronic driver aids, and powertrain. The suspension and engine get three settings (comfort, sport, and sport plus), while exhaust, transmission, and ESP get two each. You can choose between pre-loaded settings, or develop your own profile. Either way, the difference in feel throughout the settings is a marked one, as we’ll see in the next section.
It starts with the noise. Actually, check that: more so than any car in this segment, it starts with the noise. A glorious, snorty, slightly off-kilter mix of muscle car and smooth European luxury greets your ears as you lay a firm grip on the chunky sueded steering wheel. And it only gets gruffer.
You have to think that a car like this, from one of the industry’s premier luxury automotive brands, shouldn’t be so ornery, so diabolical, but that’s kind of always been the way over at Benz. They are the kings of the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” adage, this side of perhaps Audi. But even performance models like the RS 5 don’t deliver quite the same gut-punch as the baritone exhaust notes from an AMG Mercedes, especially one with V8 power.
V8 twin-turbo power, to be precise, good for 503 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, available all the way from a miniscule 1,760 rpm. It does have to pull a none-too-svelte 4,096 kilos of weight but, needless to say, the power from throttle tip-in is breathtaking.
There’s AWD as standard—of course there is—meaning not only do you have the power, but the means to easily change it to forward momentum. It’s a rear-biased set-up, but when it’s time to accelerate from stop, power is dispersed accordingly to help you do so as quickly as possible, pressing you firmly into those great AMG sports seats and having you hold on for dear life, all the while trying not to focus on that great noise behind you, but on the road ahead instead.
We mentioned the drive modes, and when you stick it in the most extreme of what’s on offer (Race) you really do get the sensation that you’re bashing though the air and down the road, on the edge of control. As its name suggests, this setting really should be reserved for the racetrack.
Relax things a little for the open road, and you’ll still be treated to one of the great performance rides of the year. Even with a slightly deadened throttle, there’s still plenty of immediate power on tap to keep the giddy vibes flowing.
Of course, we knew there would be power. The various AMG C-Class models throughout the years have never been short on that when stacked up against their perennial BMW M3/M5 foes. The Bimmers tended to always have the edge in the handling department, however, and it seems Mercedes-AMG has taken that to heart for this generation.
Not only does the C63 S blast you down the road, it’s there for you as you begin to put the chassis through its paces as well. The front and rear tracks have been widened—you can tell by those flared fenders—and electronically controlled dampers at all four corners monitor the tarmac below and realign themselves to make sure they’re providing the best handling possible. You can even spec carbon-ceramic brakes, if you’re inclined to regularly take to the track. All the while, the super-sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires keep everything in check. We were originally scheduled to test the C63 S in March on winter rubber; we’re glad we didn’t.
I guess the one detraction I’d have is that when it comes time to slow things down, no amount of chassis adjustments can counter the fact that this is a performance coupe first and foremost. That means it’s a “firm” cruiser, to put it mildly, a situation not helped by the big wheels and stiff-walled tires. It also has an auto start/stop feature, which makes itself known every time it engages with a bark from the engine and slight shudder through the body. You’ll likely be more comfortable in a lesser-lite such as the C300 or C43, but…really?
At this level, there’s nothing that really beats the ATS-V when it comes to value. It starts at less than 70 grand, undercutting the BMW M4 by almost nine grand, and the C63 S by over seventeen grand. That’s at base; the only bigger whopper than the C63 S’ V8 blast is the price of our tester: $95,700.
Here’s the thing, though. Neither of those other vehicles are equipped with a V8, and the C63 S for all its rudeness around town beats them both in the luxury department when it comes to fit and finish and detailing. Add that great styling, and you get a bigger sense of occasion here than anywhere else. You have to pay for that, and many have no problem doing so.
Why? Because this particular C-Class really has gone where none have before it. We’ve seen the V8 before, but thanks to all the added tech and chassis adjustments for ’17, the C63 now has the handling to better keep up with the competition as the road (or track) begins to wind. Plus, the power delivery—and the sound—of that V8 is nothing short of addictive.