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AMG brings bi-turbo V8 power and a hot chassis to the drop-top C-Class

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We didn’t formerly road test the recent Mercedes-AMG C 63 coupé, on account of the fact that we’d already tested the saloon and were hoping that an even more extreme Black Series version might come along at some point, and therefore doing so might prove to be AMG overkill.

However, there’s something quite compelling about AMG at the moment, and the roll Mercedes’ performance division is on makes the C 63 S Cabriolet worthy of your, and our, attention.

The C 63 S’s suspension set-up is very firm, but the pay-off is fine body control and responsive, engaging handling

Besides, we haven’t road tested a current C-Class Cabriolet yet, so this model represents an intersection of what the two separate labels stand for.

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet is a comfortable, confident four-seat convertible, but one not noted at most points within its range for being a sports car.

The C 63, meanwhile, is something else: a confident four-seater, certainly, but one that gives over so much to driving pleasure that comfort drops down the list of its priorities and abilities.

Which makes you wonder: how far can you stretch, in any direction, the C-Class and AMG characters, and do they still meld when you try?

Let’s hope so, because the arrival of the C 63 Cabriolet takes the total number of C-Class derivatives with AMG elements in the mix to 12, across saloon, estate, coupé and convertible body styles, although many of those use the lesser twin-turbo V6 engine and are badged C 43. It’s a car we like a great deal, but it stops some way short of offering the full AMG experience.

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The C 63 Cabriolet ought to be something else again, then, what with it having the segment’s only twin-turbo V8 engine, says AMG, proudly.

A BMW M4 Convertible gets by with a twin-turbo straight six, it’s true, but we’re prepared to squint a bit and forget that the Jaguar F-Type R doesn’t have rear seats – but it does have a V8, albeit supercharged.

The C 63 Cabriolet is alone among the three, however, in having more than 500bhp, at least in S form. Whether that’s enough to make it the most compelling car in the segment is what we’re here to find out.

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Mercedes-AMG C 63 Cabriolet front wind deflector

There are a few trademark things that make an AMG version of a Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and they’re all present and correct on the C 63.

We’re happy to see that AMG is completely wedded to the idea of a V8 engine for the noise and response it offers, and the C 63 is offered in two varieties: with 469bhp in its regular form or making 503bhp in the S guise tested here. The 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged unit has its turbos positioned on top of the engine, between the banks.

Another member of our test team referenced a bassoon to describe the V8’s warbling exhaust note, but he clearly had his orchestra sections mixed up. It’s flugelhorn all the way

The same engine is used in the C-Class saloon and coupé, obviously enough, as well as the AMG GT sports car, although in the latter it has the addition of a dry sump.

In this S model it comes with dynamic engine mounts, which are soft when you’re going in a straight line but firm up quickly when you start pushing on.

It’s a trait, we’re told by engineers (and not just those from AMG), that is particularly useful, given that engines weigh a good few hundred kilos, and to rigidly mount them when you’re exiting a corner, accelerating or braking hugely assists a handling engineer’s job by reducing the loose masses they have to contain.

Power goes to the rear wheels via what Mercedes calls its multi-clutch transmission (MCT), but don’t confuse it with a dual-clutch gearbox. It’s an automatic gearbox where wet clutches are in place of the torque converter; it makes for smoother shifts than a dual-clutch auto, albeit without the whipcrack response of their shift times.

As with nearly all new sports and executive cars, there are a bundle of drive modes for the powertrain and suspension.

Here, the latter is by standard-fit ‘ride control’, which you can consider to be adaptive adjustable dampers, with Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus settings for the dampers on the four-link front, multi-link rear set-up, both with widened tracks over a regular C-Class.

At the back is a limited-slip differential, which is mechanically controlled on the regular C63, or electronically controlled on this S version. The S also gets uprated front brakes over the lower-powered C 63 Cabriolet.


Mercedes-AMG C 63 Cabriolet interior

The leather and Alcantara-clad driver’s seat in the C 63 S Cabriolet is heated as standard and, because it’s motorised, automatically slides itself forwards and downwards when you fold the backrest out of the way in order to get access to the rear seats.

Like a great deal else about this car, it easily satisfies the particular requirements that are likely to be made of it as part of its service in a sporting four-seat convertible.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to push the hood lever down to fold the roof down, and pull it up for the opposite?

Entry to the car is via a long door that can be a bit cumbersome in tight parking spaces.

The act of getting into the back seats is much easier with the roof down than it is with it up, and once back seat passengers have successfully boarded they’ll only find sufficient space to get comfortable if they’re below average height.

But in every one of those ways, the Mercedes-AMG is entirely typical of its four-seat cabrio breed; a Rolls-Royce Dawn is a little easier to squeeze into with the roof up, but it’s not night-and-day different.

The car’s dashboard layout is common with that of the C 63 saloon, and so is the driving position. So the primary controls are well placed and the steering column is widely adjustable, while the conventional analogue white-on-black instruments are gently suggestive of enhanced performance and also very easy to read.

The central colour trip computer display gives you digital temperature gauges for oil and transmission and lap-timer functions among many other things, and the tactile quality of the materials in front of you, from the downy suede covering on the steering wheel to the knurled metallic climate control switches on the centre stack, is top-notch.

The car’s cloth hood is fully automated and operated via a chrome-finished lever conveniently placed just ahead of the cabin’s centre armrest.

It takes less than 20 seconds for the roof to be either lowered or raised, and the operation can be carried out while the car is moving at up to 31mph.

It emits only a discreet electrical whirr as it cycles through its action and stows away invisibly in a compartment immediately above the car’s boot.

With the roof in place, the C63’s boot, at 360 litres, is as large as that of an average five-door hatchback, and access to it is reasonable through a wide aperture.

With the roof down, a fold-out storage bag cuts available cargo volume to 285 litres, and that makes sliding bigger loads into and out of the boot tricky.

So the C-Class Cabriolet’s practicality shortcomings are predictable, although they’re easily negotiated provided your requirements of it are realistic.


4.0-litre V8 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Cabriolet engine

You get an unmistakable sense of disdain for compromise from the C 63 S Cabriolet – and you can detect it long before you’ve even reached for the door handle.

Convertibles such as this don’t generally come with 500bhp turbocharged V8 engines and the AMG’s implicit promise, having got that engine, is to give you four-seat usability combined with proper two-seat sports car levels of speed, handling and driver appeal.

Few cars are adjustable enough to invite a gentle slide around the tricky corners. You could almost do it in the C 63 S — but we didn’t risk it

A big ‘0 deg C’ displayed on the C 63 S’s exterior temperature gauge on the day allotted for measuring our performance figures made it tricky to verify some of those implicit promises.

Like its rangemates, the C 63 S does come with electronically governed launch control, but it’s deactivated when the ambient temperature is at or close to freezing. And yet even without launch control and in freezing conditions, the car not only recorded a very impressive two-way 4.6sec 0-60mph average but also matched the Jaguar F-Type V8 S Roadster we figured when sprinting from 30mph to 70mph – both through the gears and when locked in fourth gear.

Its throttle response feels near-perfect even through forced induction, and power is served up in a beautiful balancing act of torquey linearity and building dramatic climax.

All the more proof that where AMG V8 engines are concerned, and even with nearly two tonnes of kerb weight in the mix, you really can believe the hype.

An open-air delivery mechanism only makes Affalterbach’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 sound better. There’s a slightly nautical vibe to the exhausts’ idle, but that’s replaced by a deliciously rich tonality when the engine is under load – and you can choose between sweet and mellow at medium revs, or frantic and hair-raising up high.

Thanks in part to the car’s standard active exhaust, no six-cylinder cabriolet rival is as loud – and none other sounds as rich, as characterful or as enticing.

Power and thrill aren’t everything an often-used sporting convertible needs, of course. When in place, the C 63 S’s cloth hood seals the cabin very well from wind noise, with the relatively loud hum of nearby cars being the only tell-tale sign that the car you’re driving has passed up a fixed or folding metal roof for a canvas one.

With the roof down, the cabin is decently protected from the elements for those in the front seats, but less so for anyone in the back.

Automated pop-up wind deflectors behind the rear head restraints and atop the header rail promise to add a layer of shelter, but, with the side windows up and in the front seats at least, we found they made too small a contribution to be worth their toll on the car’s otherwise svelte styling. 


Mercedes-AMG C 63 Cabriolet cornering

Four-seat drop-tops are comfortable boulevardiers, engineered in acceptance of their structural limitations to do nothing as well as just cruise, right?

Yet again, AMG didn’t bother to read the script. The C 63 S is every bit as yobbishly damped and unapologetically well connected to the road surface as either the equivalent saloon or coupé, with one tester describing it as “flipping firm” (although he didn’t use the word ‘flipping’).

Transmission bumps bang hard through the rear suspension but don’t jolt the car off line

To some, that may make this car entirely unsuited to the laid-back sunbathing they imagine life in a modern soft-top to be, but to the hardcore enthusiast, starved of big rag-tops done with true sporting commitment, the C 63 S is cause for celebration.

The car isn’t, however, so firmly sprung that it won’t settle to a comfortable cruising gait. The standard adaptive dampers allow for reasonable long-wave compliance in their Comfort mode, but you could count the number of reflectors in the average motorway cat’s eye using just your backside, the seat cushion and the iron-mounted rear suspension.

The car’s body control, meanwhile, is at once taut and progressive, its handling is keen, compelling and yet still intuitive and natural, and its steering is expertly matched for pace to the car’s handling response while, wonderfully, remaining honestly feelsome for an electromechanical set-up.

And its uncorrupted, rear-driven, grunt-over-grip handling adjustability trumps it all. Is that worth the noisy, clunky ride? In our book, it is, without question.

That kind of dynamic set-up simply wouldn’t work, of course, without an equally stiff body structure for the suspension to push against, but there’s little more than the merest suggestion of scuttle shake in the car with the roof down.

At its worst, there’s an occasional shudder from the roof rails over broken roads with the hood in place. An occasional emanating shimmy, too, can be seen in the rear-view mirror making its way back from the windscreen through the cabin, rocking the passenger headrests in turn. By modern convertible standards, neither is really worth criticising.

Let’s not kid ourselves: rear-driven AMG V8s like this are all about the skids. However, perhaps on account of a kerb weight greater than that of the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S saloon, or its altered axle kinematics, the Cabriolet doesn’t slide in quite as benign a fashion and instead takes attitude slightly more suddenly than the four-door – but only with the ESP switched all the way out.

Even so, it’s still anything but spikey or unpredictable on the limit. AMG’s clever electronic rear differential gives you the option to either accelerate the car into oversteer or to ‘back it in’ under trailing throttle.

Either way, the positivity of the steering and consistency of the car’s wheel control make it easy to balance the directional influences of both the front and rear axles and carve your way back to straight again with head-widening smoothness.


Mercedes-AMG C 63 Cabriolet

Our experts predict a strong residual performance from the C 63 S, retaining almost 40 percent of its value after four years, although when we say ‘strong’, obviously we do so advisedly if you’re spending the other side of £70,000 on one now. It’s superior to its close rivals, anyway.

You know how it is with all cars of this ilk: tax is high and insurance is expensive, as are maintenance bills. But treat a C 63 S gently and you should see 27mpg; don’t and you’ll return under 10mpg.

Better residuals should pay C 63 buyers back most of the car’s £7k premium over the M4 in three years

Specifying your car, is the easiest task, as we advise opting for the C 63 S model with its adaptive dampers, active differential all included as standard.

We would also consider plundering a further £1295 on Mercedes’ Premium Pack, but avoiding choosing bigger rims as it corrupts the ride.

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4.5 star Mercedes-AMG C 63 Cabriolet

It won’t have escaped your attention that Mercedes-AMG makes expensive cars, and the C 63 S Cabriolet is in that mould: an equivalent BMW M4 costs £7000 less, and the Audi RS5 Cabriolet was a sub-£70k buy when its production ended.

But when your product is as singular as this – unmatched on power, performance and handling reward and one of the only cars of its kind with a bombastic V8 – people will pay.

Expensive AMG drop-top is a truly special hardcore treat

The C 63 S has the material richness, tactile quality and infotainment sophistication to feel like a true luxury product.

It has the practicality and good manners, too, to be used on a range of occasions. The strings to its bow are many. And yet it’s a dedication to sporting purpose almost unprecedented in a car of this ilk that truly sets the C 63 S apart.

We won’t argue that it’s a typical four-seat drop-top, or that its uncompromising dynamic nature would suit the majority of cabriolet buyers.

They are reservations which, along with the price, cost precisely half a star’s worth of our road test estimation. But for those who’d appreciate the C 63 S Cabriolet, nothing else like it would come close.

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Mercedes-AMG C 63 Cabriolet First drives