Enjoy the V-8 in a sedan, coupe, or convertible
Decisions, decisions, decisions. You want the 2019 Mercedes C-Class but with some Affalterbach flair, and the C 43 isn’t quite enough. You need the full Mercedes-AMG C63 S treatment. The wagon is out if you live in the U.S., but you’ll still need to choose between the sedan, coupe, and cabriolet, all equipped with gobs of power.
We went to central Germany to the area around Paderborn and the Bilster Berg track to drive the C 63 S and potentially pick a favorite body style. The powerful C 63 is the last of the C-Class lineup to get a refresh, following the C 300 and the entry-level AMG C 43.
While the C 63 is one of the few AMGs to offer non-S as well as S variants, there were only S models available for us to drive. The C-Class is price sensitive enough that both variants are offered, but there’s still an assumption that most buyers of a 63 will go straight for the top model.
Under the hood is the same 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 that has proliferated across the AMG lineup and is closely related to the engine in the Mercedes-AMG GT.
In the C 63 the V-8 generates 469 horsepower at 5,500 to 6,250 rpm and 479 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 to 4,500 rpm. Up your choice to the C 63 S, and horsepower rises to 503 at the same rpm and 516 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 to 4,500 rpm. Unlike the C 43, the C 63 is rear-drive only—you’ll need to step down to the C 43 for all-wheel drive.
While the engine specs remain the same in the refreshed 2019 C 63 (C 300 and C 43 got small performance boosts with their 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6), the seven-speed automatic has been replaced by a new nine-speed wet-clutch transmission that Mercedes developed in-house. It’s both smooth and lightning quick, matching revs and working up and down the gears with a speed and precision a human cannot match with paddles—but feel free to try.
In terms of design, the refreshed C 63 adopts the Panamericana radiator grille that exposes the tech inside and pays homage to Mercedes’ racing history.
At the back is a new chrome quad exhaust and diffuser; S versions have a diffuser board—the last thing you’ll see before the S you’re tailing leaves you in its dust. Even the shape of the bumper was changed with new air intakes for better airflow.
The four body styles were developed simultaneously, and although they share at least 95 percent of their features, they were developed to stand as individual cars with unique characteristics.
The sedan is the volume leader, and although the word sedan often translates to sedate in many people’s minds, that’s not the case here. The first clue that this sedan means business comes when you plant your derriere on the optional performance seats. You can adjust the thickness of the bolsters and rear cushion, and the headrests are integrated for a high-tech look. The sports seats are heated and ventilated but don’t offer massage.
The next clue is the new AMG flat-bottom leather steering wheel with two sets of Touch Control buttons. The set on the right side of the wheel controls the 10.25-inch multimedia screen; the set on the left is for the optional 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The Multimedia Package features the latest generation of Command navigation and voice control, and you can opt for the operating system to display info in a classic, progressive, or sport style. The car also has wireless charging and a Burmester premium sound system as well as a head-up display. There’s no MBUX infotainment system for this refresh; you must wait for the next-gen car, likely in 2022, with a new dash for that.
The matte gray coupes we drove were sinister cool, with yellow accents and neck-snapping acceleration. An optional aero package is available only on the coupe, it being the variant most likely to go to a track. This package tweaks the look with a front splitter, spoiler lip with integrated Gurney flap, broader side skirt inserts, rear bumper flics, and diffuser inserts finished in high-gloss black. It also has a 1.8-inch-wider rear track.
You can get into the back seat, although it isn’t easy or graceful for an adult. And you can sit there, but it will never be anyone’s first choice.
The cabrio has the best soundtrack. There’s nothing like the sound of that 4.0-liter engine to send your heart soaring when you’re driving with the top down. The optional AMG Performance Exhaust System has selectable exhaust flaps, so you can tune the note from discreet to clear-the-road. This two-door, four-passenger convertible is a delight to cruise the rural Germany countryside in on a gorgeous, sunny day. We applauded every snort and pop.
The convertible has a heavier curb weight, which engineers are fine with since this model was designed to be a daily driver that won’t hit the track. The engineering team put extra effort into the acoustics to make it easier to hear when the top is down. There are also elements in place to help control the temperature when you’re out in the elements. With the rear wind deflector and windows up, the wind doesn’t play hairdresser. And the much-loved Airscarf to keep your neck warm is standard.
A cool option on all body styles is AMG Drive Unit, which adds a round controller on the steering wheel that changes drive modes and adjusts the amount of traction control. It highlights how effective traction control is. One criticism: The settings are 0 to 9, and although the assumption would be that 9 would provide the most control, in fact 9 means no control; you must turn counterclockwise down to 0 for the most help, which could catch some drivers off guard. Some on our drive unknowingly set their car to the wrong setting on the track and quickly realized their mistake. AMG Drive Unit is standard, and only offered on the S.
Mercedes also extended the AMG dynamics by adding a sixth drive mode, Slippery, to the lineup, which also includes Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race, and Individual. The modes were recalibrated to increase the range, creating more of a chasm between Comfort and Race in terms of road performance. Need even more choices? Go into Individual for a full menu of options to customize if, for example, you like comfort steering with a stiff suspension.
We wonder if this complexity is necessary, though. Roland Kreutzer, product management for Mercedes-AMG, says whether or not customers use it all is irrelevant. The point is they want it just in case—and it appeals to younger buyers. The wider spread in suspension tuning also addresses complaints that the outgoing model was too stiff. By changing software algorithms, Mercedes-AMG accomplished the goal of more comfort at one end and more performance at the other.
Also under the umbrella of AMG dynamics are different agility programs—ranging from Basic to Advanced, Pro, and Master—that are automatically selected by the respective drive program. This is essentially artificial intelligence that gives you the right experience for each part of your drive. The car adjusts its engine response and suspension from extremely safety-oriented to ultra exciting. The Master mode in the Race drive program provides higher yaw rates and the quickest responses of the accelerator, gearshift, and electronically controlled rear-axle limited-slip differential.
The C 63 has a retuned AMG steel suspension with a four-link front and multilink rear suspension. Some off-camber points on the track revealed how well the car corners at speed even when one wheel was lifted.
Adaptive damping adjustment is standard. The dampers adjust individually at each wheel and can be set to Comfort, Sport, Sport+, or a customized setting.
The suspension sopped up most of the road conditions easily, though there were a few areas where the chatter was too harsh in Sport and Sport+ drive modes. There’s little compromise with the convertible, but one stretch of pavement elicited a few thumps, reminding us of the structural challenges of losing a roof.
All of the body types have an electronically controlled rear-axle limited-slip differential standard for optimal traction as well as dynamic engine mounts to reduce vibrations from the powertrain. The differential reduces slip on the inside wheel when cornering so you can accelerate out of corners earlier. The car also remains more stable when braking from high speeds or upon launch. The idea is to make it easier to push the car to its limits.
How responsive is the steering? Think it, send the brain waves to your fingertips, and the car is already there. It requires the lightest touch at high speeds. Stopping is effective but not harsh with the optional AMG Ceramic Composite Front Braking System on the S. It was vital and well tested on the narrow stretches and blind corners of the Bilster Berg private track.
AMG Track Pace will log more than 80 sets of track data ten times per second and display lap times with colored graphics to quickly tell you if you were faster.
Remembering this is a luxury car, there’s a lot of carbon-fiber trim—maybe too much for some in the center console, but choices also include silver fiberglass, aluminum, and an assortment of natural woods. Choose Nappa leather seats in black or black with gray, red, or pearl white. Our favorite is the new option: gray and black with yellow trim and stitching. Feeling extra stylish? Step up to the diamond quilting from the designo range in saddle brown and black or black and white.
The car has an optional panoramic sunroof and 64-color ambient lighting and illuminated door sills. On the S, 19-inch light-alloy and aerodynamic wheels are standard.
When you’re packing this much power, safety systems are important, and the C 63 has an abundance of driver assistance systems, similar to those in the E-Class. There’s a hands-off detection system that uses finger pad sensors. The suite also includes Active Distance Assist Distronic adaptive cruise control, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Steering Assist that works even if the road lines cannot be detected, and Active Lane Keeping Assist to prevent unintentional lane departure with braking. Mercedes’ Pre-Safe Plus prevents collisions from behind, and Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function will brake automatically if the driver doesn’t to avoid a collision.
To help prevent racking up the tickets, Speed Limit Assist displays the speed limit, although we know it’s hard to abide in the powerful AMG.
Veering into semi-autonomous territory, Active Lane Change Assist uses radar and cameras to help you switch lanes. When a turn is indicated for at least 2 seconds, the system will help you steer into the adjacent lane if it detects it is empty. And Evasive Steering Assist will add steering torque when needed for an evasive maneuver. Another cool Mercedes feature is Pre-Safe Sound, which releases an interference signal if an imminent collision is detected. This triggers a protective reflex in the ear to reduce hearing loss in the event of an accident.
The C 300 RWD sedan and 4Matic, along with the C 43, will go on sale by the end of the year. However, the C 63s won’t arrive until early 2019. Pricing isn’t available yet, but look for the C 63 S sedan to start about $73,000 USD, the coupe about $75,000 USD, and the convertible about $82,000 USD.
As for which one to pick, it comes down to how you want to use it. Daily driver with no track aspirations? Go sedan or convertible. Impress at your next high school reunion? Coupe or cabrio. Have a track habit? Coupe. Whatever the choice, the C 63 S will not disappoint.
|2019 Mercedes-AMG C63 S|
|BASE PRICE||$73,000-$82,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, RWD, 5-pass, 2-door coupe, convertible or 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||4.0L/503-hp/516-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,950-3,700 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||187.1-187.3 x 72.4-73.9 x 55.2-56.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.7-3.9 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||Not yet rated|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Early 2019|