Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: July 6, 2020
We’ve been spoiled by high-octane AMGs in recent days. Fresh out of the GLC 63 SUV, we’re now reviewing the C 63 S Coupe. This hot-rodded version of the ubiquitous C-Class has been around for quite some time, brawling with the BMW M4 and Audi RS5, but oddly enough this is our first real week-long test with the car. Our last stunt was a brief whirl around the Pocono Raceway, barely enough to get on a first-name basis. That said, we are more than familiar with the C 63’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine and multi-clutch 9-speed gearbox as they are found in almost every other AMG, as are the interior layout and infotainment unit. The exceptions remain with the coupe’s unique soapbar styling, suspension and chassis tuning, and rear-wheel drive behaviour now that most other AMGs are equipped with all-wheel drive.
Anything over 400 horsepower is pretty much overkill for a street car, but the biturbo V8 here produces an eye-watering 503 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, enough to launch it from 0-100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, one-tenths slower than the GLC 63 S only because of the latter’s AWD system pushing all four tires into the tarmac. And it’s not just the sheer amount of torque that’s staggering, but that it’s found everywhere in the powerband. Even with nine available gears, you really don’t need more than two to get the most out of the C 63 on a twisty back road. There’s enough propulsion here for you and your next lifetime.
Those coming from an all-wheel drive platform may be slightly intimidated by its rear-driven nature, but the C 63 S houses a friendly and inviting chassis that lets you play around the limits. The traction control system works superbly by cutting back power when you’re too eager, though it’s not intrusive enough that you can’t have a bit of fun. For those wishing to remedy this guardian angel, the C 63 now offers a nine-stage traction control system, just like the GT R, except here it’s controlled by that steering wheel dial. AMG also offers four new driving modes to play with: Basic, Advanced, Pro, and Master, all of which tinker with the stability control, engine-mount stiffness, rear-differential, and torque distribution. You would be hard pressed to notice the nuances between them when bounded by street limits but it’s a nice option to have when hitting up the track or for roasting up some rubber. In addition, the electric-powered steering is wonderfully engaging, and though not overflowing with feedback, it relays enough communication to dial in accurate rotation and place the front wheels where you want them.
The ride in the C 63 S is more brittle and unforgiving than the GLC 63 S, likely due to the latter’s additional air suspension. It’s also lightyears away from the boat-like qualities of the standard C 300 Coupe, but just about as punishing as a BMW M3 CS on the road. The C 63 loves to hug every crevice and nook, exploring the depths of each pothole until your spine tingles from vibrations. That’s desirable when you’re driving spiritedly or when the surface is well-paved, but not so great when it's not. Just like a high-displacement muscle car, we noticed some engine vibrations at idle too despite the dynamic engine mounts exclusive to the AMG S-tier models. It’s certainly not as isolated from the road as the GLC, but just about on par with the BMW. I’d say the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and Audi RS5 have the more balanced and better compromised ride setup for casual daily driving.
With so many mechanical parallels, you might expect the AMG variants of the GLC and C to drive quite similarly, but they exhibit vastly different mannerisms on the open road. The GLC is happier to rev and liberally swings around the powerband, whereas the C feels a tad more hesitant and reserved, especially on hard downshifts. That said, the C 63 S doesn’t exhibit any of those low-speed lurches and lunges that the GLC suffers from, and the C’s gearbox is slightly more polished and gentler on rolling stops.
Another thing to note is that the GLC 63 S comes standard with an AMG Sport Exhaust system, with an optional AMG Performance Exhaust. The C 63 comes standard with the latter. But even when equally equipped, the GLC is surprisingly louder, carrying a more high-pitched and assertive tone, with explosive booms on hard upshifts, which the C does also deliver but in a lower timbre and with fewer artificial bangs and pops dialed in. The C 63 really only makes its voice heard once you swing past 3,000 rpm, whereas the GLC sings the moment you hit the throttle. And it doesn’t seem to be the driver’s proximity to the exhaust or the difference in cabin insulation either. We recorded both AMGs from the outside and they do sound very different. Have a listen to our Exhaust Notes videos above. Again, these are tiny nuances that a driver would only realize after a back-to-back drive. Both soundtracks are equally as rewarding, and while these turbocharged V8s aren’t as operatic as their outgoing 6.2-litre naturally aspirated counterparts, they carry with them a distinctively deep snarl. They’ve become more lion than hyena. More bear than wolf. And having a high displacement partner goes a long way to making a more distinguishable noise than the six-cylinders found in the Audi RS5, BMW M4 and Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio.
Of course, nobody buys an AMG to save fuel, but if you really want to know how thirsty this C 63 S is compared to its smaller-displacement competitors, we averaged 14.0 L/100km in the city when driving lightly and never cresting over the 5,000 rpm mark. Not bad right? That’s because when in Comfort Mode, that 9-speed hunts for the top gear like its life depends on it. We’ve seen ninth gear before we even hit 60 km/h. Our highway excursions averaged 11.1 L/100km.
The C-Class is available in many body styles and with many engines, but the four-door sedan has always been my personal favourite, carrying beautifully balanced proportions while appearing aggressive in AMG trim. The Coupe with its soap bar silhouette is an acquired taste for me. Those rear-end North American-specific bumperettes sticking out beside the license plate ruin it for me, but I hear from a little birdie that they’re easy to remove. The lip spoiler I can do without, and in its place a larger fixed spoiler, Black Series style, which would better square off the rear portrait.
But the front end, shared in both Sedan and Coupe form, carries undeniable road presence that is hardly found in sports cars under $100,000. With the new vertical-slat Panamericana front grill launched in 2019, our C 63 commanded an obnoxious amount of attention. That could be partially attributed to the Batmobile spec too with the matte black paint and matching wheels. Absolutely gorgeous. Who would have thought that a simple grill design change would elevate the looks this much. Now that the C 43 gets the ‘old’ double-slat horizontal grill, it makes it easier to tell them apart. This hierarchy for differentiation doesn’t hold true with Mercedes SUV models, though.
We are more than familiar with the C-Class interior but there are a few noteworthy mentions. 2020 models still use the rotary dial instead of the new trackpad found in the GLC, much to my preference, as I never liked the trackpad. It doesn’t feel well suited to the way the infotainment menus are set up. Lexus couldn’t make it work, and Mercedes barely makes it passable. There are cons to the rotary dial though, like how it blocks the buttons beside it, and the redundant touchpad on top that was better off as a resting pad for your wrist. Unlike the GLC, the C 63 comes with an IWC clock mounted in the center stack that lights up at night to please the watch aficionados. Analog dials still come standard with a tall digital screen mounted in between, but opt for the Technology Package ($1,900) and you’ll receive a wide 12.3-inch digital screen instead, and while we normally prefer classic dials, it’s hard to deny the effectiveness, customizability, and crisp graphics of this unit. Of note, the C-Class still makes do with regular USB-A outlets, whereas the GLC has moved onto USB-C units.
I know many enthusiasts have a thing for suede on their steering wheels, but I’ve grown weary of the rough texture and fear of damaging it with my sweaty hands. Suede, or DINAMICA in Mercedes lingo, requires upkeep, and I’m just not up for it. Leather for my own C 63 please, or better yet, the optional carbon fibre ($950). It’s still a beautifully designed steering wheel ripped straight off the AMG GT 4-Door, and there are two customizable dials budding out the center cap, both with small screens. The right dial controls the driving mode whereas the left can be adjusted to toggle the exhaust mode, traction control, suspension settings, and start stop feature.
The optional AMG Performance seats ($2,300) look amazing and are a good fit for my slender six-foot frame. Though, if you’re of the larger sort or have a tough time easing your arthritic-prone skeleton into low-slung coupes like this, best to stick with the plusher, wider, standard seats. Your back will thank me. Which brings me to another point I despise about coupes aside from the tight rear seats and chunky B-pillars that restrict it from having a lowerable rear window, and that’s the absurdly heavy doors. Swinging it open is easy but make sure it's found its latch position, or it will quickly slam back into your kneecap while you’re busy navigating your way in. Slam time is increased when parked on a slope. Furthermore, the lack of an exterior trunk release button on the Coupe did strike me as an odd omission, though kicking your foot under the rear bumper will trigger the hands-free trunk release.
The Mercedes-AMG C 63 S is equal parts handsome and fearsome. The interior brings a welcome mix of connectivity and comfort, while the V8 fires with all the richness and deep-timbred tonality that you would expect from an AMG. The two additional cylinders bring a depth to the car’s voice that you just won’t find in the rivaling BMW, Alfa, or Audi. That point alone should drive the jury towards the C 63, but the exceptional road stability and how you can lean on the car and trust its instincts and movements only makes its case stronger. Calling us a fan is an understatement. The C 63 S is one of the most well-rounded sports cars of 2020.
Model: 2020 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe
Paint Type: designo Graphite Grey MAGNO ($2,500)
Base Price: $86,200
Price as Tested: $110,450
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,751 / 2,016 (with mirrors) / 1,401
Curb weight (kg): 1,875
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
Horsepower: 503 hp @ 5,500 - 6,250 rpm
Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 2,000 - 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed multi-clutch automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 13.9 / 9.2
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 14.0
Tires: Michelin Pilot Super Sport