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AMG refreshes its archetypal model in anticipation of the next-gen BMW M4

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In 1966, Hans Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher left Mercedes-Benz to begin a new business creating racing engines. Humbly headquartered in a former mill, their departure nevertheless quickly paid off, not least when an AMG-Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 crossed the line an astonishing second at the 1971 Spa 24 Hours, trouncing far nimbler racing cars from BMW and Alfa Romeo.

In the years since, it’s not difficult to imagine Aufrecht and Melcher (the ‘G’ in ‘AMG’ is for Großaspach, the town where Aufrecht was born) witnessing the growth of their tuning outfit with wide-eyed astonishment.

‘Panamericana’ grille is new and replaces the more subtle dual-slatted design of the pre-facelifted C63. It’s a hallmark of all AMG models except the 35-badged four-cylinder examples.

The Mercedes-AMG F1 team has now secured five world championships, but even if your name isn’t Lewis Hamilton, ownership of a Mercedes-AMG road car has never been more achievable thanks to the introduction of more mainstream models such as the four-cylinder Mercedes-AMG A35 hot hatch. In fact, AMG now builds cars in almost every bodystyle, offering 70 models in total, including an entirely bespoke sports car.

AMG has vast commercial clout. Today, most Aston Martin models are AMG-propelled, and Afflaterbach, where AMG has been based since 1976 and where its larger engines are hand-built to the ‘one man, one engine’ philosophy, is now not only crucial to Daimler AG’s bottom line in terms of sale but also a marketing wunderkind for the entire business. One in every 10 Mercedes sold bears those famous initials, making it arguably the most potent ‘halo’ sub-brand in the business.

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AMG has diversified and duly thrived, which only serves to make this week’s road test more pertinent. Touting eight cylinders and rear-wheel drive, the Mercedes-AMG C63 S is an AMG of the old-school, just like the 300 SEL 6.8. Since its introduction in 2015, the W205-generation car has won high praise from this magazine, but with a new BMW M4 on the horizon, AMG has updated the recipe with greater chassis technology and a new digital array.

Has it future-proofed what is perhaps the finest super-coupé of this generation? Let’s find out.

Price £78,023 Power 503bhp Torque 516lb ft 0-60mph 4.3sec 30-70mph in fourth 4.7sec Fuel economy 26.0mpg CO2 251-256g/km (WLTP) 70-0mph 45.2m

The Mercedes C-Class range at a glance

Some £48,738 separates the humble C180 from our C63 S, which goes to show just how much variety there is within the Mercedes C-Class Coupé range.

There’s a choice of petrol and diesel engines – the majority of which are four-cylinder units – while certain models are also offered with four-wheel drive. All non-AMG models make use of a standard nine-speed automatic gearbox, as does the Mercedes-AMG C43.

Below the genuine 43- and 63-badged models, the C-Class trim line-up consists of just one grade: AMG-Line.



Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupé 2019 road test review - hero side

As a mere facelift, the updated C63 S Coupé’s appearance has changed little. Not that this is a criticism.

Of the current crop of coupés and saloons at the more exciting end of the compact executive class, none is more imposing or aggressive in stature than Affalterbach’s mad-dog version of the Mercedes C-Class.

Look closely and from certain angles and you’ll see the four AMG-monogrammed exhaust tips are just superficial, with the true outlets hidden well within the bodywork

The visual cues are familiar: the wheel arches retain greater flare than a pair of Robert Plant’s trousers, while a rear track wider even than this car’s saloon and estate siblings amplifies its assertive stance. Meanwhile, the squared-off quad-exhaust covers provide telling clues to the firepower that lies behind the new ‘Panamericana’ grille.

That firepower comes courtesy of a 4.0-litre V8 that remains unchanged and customarily places its brace of turbochargers between the cylinder banks. In the standard C63 Coupé, it produces as much as 469bhp and 479lb ft; for our C63 S test car, those figures rise to 503bhp between 5500 and 6250rpm, with 516lb ft from only 1750rpm. On output alone, the BMW M4 Competition and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio both appear a touch casual by comparison.

A new nine-speed multi-clutch transmission replaces the original seven-speed gearbox, although as before it delivers the engine’s efforts exclusively to the rear wheels. With this set-up, a wet start-off clutch is employed instead of a torque converter, to both save weight and hone the transmission’s reaction to varying throttle inputs. An electronically controlled limited-slip differential is standard here (non-S models make do with a mechanical differential), and the S also benefits from dynamic engine mounts that are said to help reduce vibration and improve turn-in response.

Suspension is by way of a multilink arrangement at each axle, with coil springs and AMG’s Ride Control adaptive dampers, which have been subtly retuned. Naturally, there is a comprehensive range of driving modes to alter everything from steering weight and damper firmness to shift ferocity and throttle response.

But perhaps the most meaningful update to the C63 S is that it gains a new AMG Dynamics programme that manipulates the characteristics of the rear differential, with modes ranging from Basic to Master. It operates alongside a nine-stage traction control system similar to that first introduced on the AMG GT R and which promises to tailor the car’s playfulness to the ability of the driver.

Lastly, Mercedes-AMG’s claimed kerb weight of 1745kg is believable enough. On our test scales, the fully fuelled Mercedes weighed in at 1770kg, with the mass split 55% to the front, 45% to the rear.


Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupé 2019 road test review - cabin

Were you to sit blindfolded in the driving seats of both a regular C-Class Coupé and a Mercedes-AMG C63, and then attempt to figure out which was which on touch alone, the microfibre-clad steering wheel and firmer, torso-hugging seats would give the AMG away in an instant.

Past these points of immediate contact, though, the two very different strains of C-Class remain largely identical in terms of their interior topography. Three circular air vents sit just below a dashtop-mounted screen, and the central fascia still houses the controls for the climate controls and shortcut buttons for navigating the infotainment. The rotary control wheel for the infotainment also remains where it was, positioned just behind a large storage compartment on the transmission tunnel.

Digital cockpit has a pair of controls between the steering wheel spokes. The ability to adjust every changeable dynamic parameter on the fly is useful

The C63 S Coupé comes equipped with Mercedes’ older Comand infotainment set-up, only with a new 10.25in display replacing the old 8.4in unit, and a high-resolution 12.3in digital cockpit instead of traditional analogue dials.

Satellite navigation, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are all included as standard, and it uses a layout that has won plaudits before. Ergonomically speaking it works well enough today, although it is beginning to feel in need of a comprehensive update to the overall architecture.

Maps aren’t quite as detailed as they are on newer systems, and there’s a more noticeable amount of lag when switching between menus – particularly on start up. That said, the new 12.3in digital cockpit is clear and easy to read and easily customisable thanks to touch-sensitive thumb pads on the steering wheel.

Our test car came equipped with the £2595 Premium Plus package, which, among features such as a 360-degree surround view parking camera and panoramic glass sunroof, adds an excellent Burmester surround sound system. Not that you’ll tire of the V8 soundtrack, of course.

It’s a cabin impressive for the richness of its materials, if only sporadically. The Alcantara-like covering on the steering wheel immediately transfers a sense of the C63’s performance pedigree to the palms of your hands, but the quality of the plastic switchgear doesn’t always befit that of an upmarket, near-£80,000 car. The Artico false leather on the dashtop and doors was also a particular point of contention for our testers, who felt the C63’s asking price at least warranted genuine leather as standard.

Of course, while the coupé bodystyle comes with considerably more kerb appeal than the saloon or estate, it’s never going to be quite as practical. We measured 800mm of head room and 650mm of leg room in the second row, which will be enough for children if not quite enough for an adult to sit comfortably (or to access, for that matter). Its 355-litre boot is reasonably spacious, but at 455 litres the BMW M4’s is even more accommodating.


Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupé 2019 road test review - engine

The cold, damp surface of MIRA’s horizontal mile straights served to prove two points: that a pair of driven axles is infinitely better than just the one when it comes to deploying immense power to the road in less-than-ideal conditions, and that the C63 S Coupé is a devastatingly quick car once it finds its footing.

Of course, Mercedes’ quoted 503bhp and 516lb ft mean neither of those observations comes as much of a surprise. However, the fact that this most junior member of Mercedes-AMG’s V8 line-up felt as though it would happily continue to accelerate long after it had punched through the Armco that bookends MIRA’s track is telling. With the optional AMG Driver’s Package, top speed is capped at 180mph rather than 155mph, although we’d not bet against the C63 S nudging 200mph if freed from its electronic constraints.

The C63 S can unsurprisingly struggle for traction in inclement weather, but let it off the leash and its electronic diff enables a confidence-instilling tail-happy playfulness

More objectively, with two testers aboard the C63 S recorded a two-way average 0-60mph time of 4.3sec – 0.4sec shy of Mercedes-AMG’s claimed time. In these conditions, however, traction in the lower gears was a precious commodity, and a dry surface would undoubtedly see that time tumble. Indeed, even in the damp, the 100mph marker was surpassed at 9.2sec, putting the C63 S on a par with the identically powerful Giulia Quadrifoglio, and a mere BMW 0.4sec behind the M4. Given that both of those rivals were tested on a bone-dry day, AMG can hold its head up high.

The talent of the 4.0-litre V8 isn’t limited to immense through-the-gears performance; huge tractability means it’s just as willing to deliver a tidal surge of in-gear acceleration. Locked in fourth, our test car accelerated from 30mph to 70mph in 4.9sec. The Alfa and BMW, on the other hand, both took 5.4sec to complete the same feat, which is testament to raw cylinder-count.

On the fly, the nine-speed multi-clutch transmission is capable of swapping ratios in an impressively dexterous manner. However, its more aggressive calibration meant some of that civility was diminished at lower speeds. Step-off in particular can be clunky and lacking in fluidity, which would be more acceptable were the full-bore, redline upshifts more clinical than they are.


Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupé 2019 road test review - cornering front

Straight-line speed is hardly in short supply for this AMG, although for decades the brand’s road cars have lacked the same level of turn-in precision and cornering composure offered by rivals from BMW M and, in some cases, Audi’s quattro GmbH.

Any deficit is far smaller than it once was, and perhaps even nonexistent as far as steering feel and chassis balance are concerned. Make no mistake: the reputation of the C63 S trades on its distended wheel arches and the promise of a pulverising V8, but this is, in fact, a surprisingly intuitive, predictable and often delicate car to drive quickly.

Disable the ESP then keep the new nine-stage traction-control system somewhere between six and eight. No, this still isn’t quite the 500bhp Subaru BRZ you’ve been dreaming of, but it’s pretty damn close

Grip and poise dominate the initial exchanges and, aided by its dynamic engine mounts, the C63 S offers perhaps the most clinical change of direction of any AMG model thus far, AMG GT notwithstanding. Driven calculatedly, it’ll cover ground with the sort of spellbinding pace and composure that has one checking the speedometer every few seconds. The steering is particularly communicative by the standards of the class, although still not quite as linear in its action as we’d like.

But there’s another side to this car beyond raw pace. On most British roads, our advice would be to set the dampers to Comfort, or possibly Sport, and flick the new torque-vectoring AMG Dynamics programme into its most aggressive setting, Master. Even with the ESP switched off and the nine-stage traction control skewed towards leniency, the C63 S rarely comes across as anything other than a car that wants to entertain its driver rather than scare them.

Taken up a notch, its electronic differential further bolsters the silky rear-driven balance, and tight but newly fluid vertical control sets the stage for you to tease and experiment with the tail. This is a wickedly fast and playful car that underpins its ability with a wellspring of confidence at all stages of a corner, which is a trick the outgoing BMW M4 never quite managed.

A high-powered AMG coupé of old might have fallen to pieces against the stopwatch, but while the automatic gearbox in the C63 S remains a touch ponderous for circuit driving, the car impresses overall. Mercedes’ carbon-ceramic brakes resist wilting lap after lap and inspire confidence with their consistency and power. Michelin’s road-biased Pilot Super Sport tyres also bite keenly, although they were past their best after five or six laps.

The aggressive electronic diff helps create massive traction – so much so that short of violently prodding the throttle, good mid-corner balance eventually gives way to numbing understeer. The system is also hugely effective though slow, tight corners, allowing for slingshot acceleration in the dry.

And while the car’s raised centre of gravity is detectable compared with sports cars such as the Porsche 911, body movements are generally neatly controlled, resulting in a very competitive lap time.


Historically, luxury and refinement have always been pivotal, if somewhat ancillary, elements of AMG experience. Today’s C63 S might not tout such liberal levels of wooden trim, or such pillowy suspension, but owners will expect their car to make a neat stand-in for out-and-out GT duties in the event of longer, possibly continental drives.

It’s an area in which AMG has made subtle improvements for this facelifted model, even if the W205 C-Class AMG remains a fundamentally stiff car. Long-range comfort is more than acceptable, and although the physical pitter-patter of rougher surfaces is largely inescapable, in Comfort mode it reduces to a reasonable level thanks to the inherent ‘togetherness’ this chassis conjures at speed.

In fact, speed generally improves the ride quality, and the suspension’s ability to gently but confidently absorb longer-wave inputs without surrendering to float elicits its own brand of performance-oriented comfort. Town driving and low-speed manoeuvring can send pronounced shocks through the struts, though you’d expect as much in any car of this type, and those who routinely struggle to exceed second gear should question their motivations for buying a C63 S at all.

However, massive contact patches at each corner make for considerable tyre roar, which has an attritional effect on longer journeys. You might argue this comes with the territory, but at a steady 70mph the newer Audi RS4 tripped our testing microphones a full five decibels quieter than the Mercedes, which goes to show standards for this type of car have improved.


Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupé 2019 road test review - hero front

The C63 S’s 503bhp V8 likes a drink. Its 6.4mpg track economy figure is a fairly heroic effort, but its 26mpg test average is more representative. At a steady 70mph, it managed 34.2mpg, equating to a range of 497 miles.

At £78,023 before options, the C63 S Coupé costs quite a bit more than BMW both the M4 Competition Pack (£62,580) and Giulia Quadrifoglio (£63,540). With carbon-ceramic brakes (£4285), AMG GT R-style alloys (£2395), AMG Aerodynamics Pack (£1260) and a few more extras, our test car came in at £92,223.

Mercedes doesn’t retain its overall value as well as the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, but both of them outperform the BMW M4

Mercs generally resist depreciation, so it was a surprise to find the C63 S isn’t expected to hold its value as well as the Alfa. After 36,000 miles and three years, it’s predicted to retain 46% of its original price to the Alfa’s 50% and the BMW’s 43%.



Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupé 2019 road test review - static

Four years have passed since AMG’s latest take on the C-Class Coupé appeared with a downsized, turbocharged engine, and yet the appeal of this anachronistic car remains almost entirely undiminished.

And while it would be easy to attribute that appeal to such an utterly thunderous powertrain – one unique in this class – with real-world performance to make supercars sit up and take note, AMG’s real success has been to make its lovable coupé-cum-hot-rod simultaneously more engaging to drive hard and more accommodating of British roads. The chassis electronics are a particular highlight, if also a touch elaborate, and there’s a delicacy to the ride that wasn’t always there.

Scintillating C63 S lays down the gauntlet for M division

That all being said, the architecture and finish of the interior is beginning to feel its age, and AMG must do more to isolate the car’s cabin from unwanted road noise. For any other car in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class range, these would be serious criticisms, but given the ability of the C63 S to entertain and thrill like very few other cars on sale, they are justifiably forgiveable and result in only half a star being docked.


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe First drives