What's it like?
The defining characteristic of the old C63 was Affalterbach’s phenomenal, naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre engine, which possessed a soundtrack so absurdly evocative it was like driving around with John Bonham and a Ludwig drum set in the boot. That special rhythm section bass line has gone, never to return.
But its replacement, has its own cutting-edge, alloy-edged charm. Think of it as a Roland TR-909 drum machine – obviously synthesized, sampled and sequenced compared with the flesh-and-bone gusto-genius of Bonham, but supremely capable of a fast-paced V8 tempo nonetheless.
The depth of performance behind the compressed, quavering heartbeat is terrific. Previous experience of the 4.0-litre unit hasn’t disappointed, but the way in the S cycles through adjectives – easygoing, enjoyable, enthralling, exhilarating - as your toe journeys toward the bulkhead is something else.
From ultra low revs, the V8 delivers big-capacity lazy largesse with total swagger. The tightly-wound, lets-get-a-shift-on attitude of its direct rivals is eschewed for moor-slipping finesse, aided by the accelerator pedal’s long travel and the hugely-improved shift of the standard seven-speed MCT gearbox.
Once moving on its gargling bow wave, the S is seamlessly fast. There are five drive modes to flick between, although so keen is the transmission to have you in the right ratio that Comfort is going satisfy 95% of driver moods. This is good because the C 63 is at its best with the suspension in its kindliest setting.
Ride comfort was one of the previous car’s bullet-point problems; in the latest model it is improved to the point of background niggle. As we found in the standard C 63, the S tends to bridle when it meets sharp obstacles – a slight secondary brittleness not helped by the volume of the road and running gear noise that Mercedes has failed to keep out of the cabin.
The antidote to this mild aggravation is to simply drive faster. The car’s primary ride – a Germanic mind-meld of tacked-down and tolerant – is very agreeable, and encourages considerable liberties to be taken with the palpable chassis balance. Body movement is controlled, but not exorcised completely, giving keen drivers the inimitably pleasant sensation of hustling something rather large, heavy and energetically rear-wheel-driven round corners.
Race mode, the most aggressive state of tune, adroitly tweaks the savagery. Manual gear changes (hugely quicker than before) are punctuated with flintlock-sized exhaust bangs and the previously heavy steering feel gets honed into something sharper and likeably direct. The front end is huskily positive too, but – as ever – the C 63’s handling is mostly about its roving hind quarters.
The software-driven differential proves no greater inhibitor of fun than the mechanical; the S best driven on the road in its stability control’s halfway house Sports setting, where the back axle pivots merrily and away from the front without overtly flirting with disaster. On a track, the car is doubtless capable of turning its epic power into costly tyre bills almost immediately – but the level of accessible fun to be had in the presence of cats’ eyes is deeply impressive given the V8’s cavernous intent.
Should I buy one?
The C63 has always been a misfit’s choice: flashier and trickier than the Audi RS5; not quite as deft or as delicate as the BMW M3/4. Broadly speaking, the S doesn’t transform that verdict – but the new Coupé is endowed with so much power, sinewy good looks and handling attitude that it’s hard not to fall adoringly under its spell.
For any buyer still motivated by the traditional big bonnet, three-door blueprint, there’s nothing this memorable south of a Jaguar F-Type R.
Mercedes C 63 S Coupé
Price £68,070; Engine V8, 3982cc, twin-turbocharged, petrol; Power 503bhp at 5500-6250rpm; Torque 516lb ft at 1750-5500rpm; Kerb weight 1800kg; Gearbox 7-spd automatic; 0-60mph 3.9sec; Top speed 155mph (limited); Economy 32.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 200g/km, 35%