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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

Mercedes-AMG’s new M177 4.0-litre V8 seems little short of stellar here. Suitably dramatic sounding, it’s also crisp under your right foot and so muscular through the lower revs that you can’t believe it’ll spin so keenly to the 7000pm cut-out. And yet it does.

We can pay it no greater compliment than to record that, even after the over-square, atmospheric awesomeness of the C 63 Black Series’ M156 V8, this feels like progress.

Against the clock, the C 63 fell short of the accelerative marker set by the BMW M4, mostly because of insufficient traction off the line

But of equal significance, believe it or not, is the gearbox. The multi-clutch Speedshift unit has been totally reworked and now shifts almost exactly as you want it to. Select Sport+ mode and the paddle-shift changes come through almost as fast and hard as a BMW M4 can deliver them.

Hold the left-hand paddle down and it’ll block-shift down to the lowest available ratio, even to within a few hundred revs of the redline; leave it in Comfort and it’s the heart and soul of smoothness.

Seldom have we been so impressed by a transmission from AMG, but the firm is evidently keen to address recurrent criticisms of the past few years and put itself in a position to be rated by hardcore purists as highly as by the old autobahn faithful.

It may, in fact, be too keen, because in opting to tie this car to the road surface so intimately, AMG has fallen short of the kind of rolling refinement you might want in a modern super-saloon.

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Usability is crucial with these cars because they’re everyday drivers for most owners. And although those owners aren’t likely to baulk at the idea of struggling towards a real-world 25mpg, they may just object to the road  and chassis noise this car produces, because it’s considerable. It's also unbecoming of a performance saloon of such refinement and sophistication in other departments.

Against the clock, the C 63 fell narrowly short of the accelerative marker set by the BMW M4, mostly because of insufficient traction off the line.

It’s a postscript in this section for two reasons. Firstly, because the quality of the C 63’s performance is easily good enough to excuse a slight shortcoming on quantity, and secondly, because if you really want to blow the competition away, you’ll buy the more powerful and bigger-wheeled C 63 S.