I’ve got an issue with it in Germany. Every time I’m in a plane heading to Deutschland, the descent to the airport means a bumpy ride down through heavy clouds before the plane’s wheels touch down on sodden tarmac. I’ve had so many potential high-speed drives scuppered by precipitation in V-Max mecca I’ve lost count.
I’d have been more effective in a barge on a Rhine-rivalling autobahn than an SLR on one occasion, and a 911 GT2 in the damp recently caused me serious palpitations. While I’m sure your collective hearts are bleeding, it’s driving me nuts. Thankfully the clouds today, though low, aren’t dropping their load. So the needle on the speedometer is straining at an indicated 260km/m against an electronic limiter. It’s displaying 10km/h more than it should be, this obviously being no ordinary C-Class. It’s the latest C to wear the initials of Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, with Aufrecht’s Gro asach birthplace thrown in for good measure.
AMG, if you hadn’t guessed. Like just about everything wearing those three letters these days, the new C-Class is powered by AMG’s naturally aspirated V8. Rather than being a tweaked Mercedes unit, it’s been designed entirely in-house by AMG. For historical reasons, AMG insists on calling it a 6.3-litre, but its 6,208cc capacity means it’s actually a 6.2-litre. Call me a pedant if you like, but that’s what I’ll be calling it despite what the badges say. Not that the loss of 100cc makes any difference on the road, as the V8’s 6.2-litres deliver a more than adequate 457hp. It also explains why reaching that electronic killjoy on the autobahn is as easy as flooring the accelerator and enjoying the scenery rushing past ever faster as the cabin fills with the glorious sound of AMG’s V8 doing its job.
Wolf Zimmermann, Managing Director, Development and Production, AMG, let slip at dinner the evening before that with the Performance Pack option the C63 will reach 280km/h, 20km/h less than the E and S-Class models with the same additional tweakery. Why? AMG couldn’t have “entry-level” C63 buyers troubling the “bigger cars” in the outside lane. Automotive willy-waggling with electronic limiters if you like… And without a limiter? As if it’s no big deal, Wolf shrugs and suggests at least 310-320km/h. Oh my. Not that fast saloons in Germany are a new thing, but think about that for a moment. That’s incredible in a hot version of a series production car. Particularly the sort of car everyone from your dad to minicabbers might consider. In lesser guises, of course. Unless your old man is a well-heeled speed demon and your local taxi firm is a front for laundering drug money. The C63 is not merely a dragster either; it’s building on the already impressive poise of the standard C-Class to offer real ability away from the autobahns.
An M3 beater then? Don’t rule it out. It certainly looks the part. Inside it’s all chunky wheeled, big-winged leathercovered sports seats, aluminium detailing and more equipment than it is possible to list. Outwardly, there’s no view of the C63 that doesn’t exhibit some sort of added aggression. Obviously it’s got the coupe-aping large badge mounted on the twin slatted grille of the Sport models – rather than the bonnet-topping badge of more sober, sensible-trousers C-Class’s. But I’d like to see the bonnet-mounted badge make a return in addition to the huge grille one, as it’d be perfect for lining up and sighting cars on the road before leaving them ricocheting in the turbulence from the C63’s massive quad tailpipes.
The front bumper features larger openings, each and every one helping feed cooling air to the seven radiators needed to keep the C63 from melting. Actually, one’s for the climate control, so it’s for the driver and passengers, but any car needing two oil coolers and one for the gearbox is a serious piece of kit. Unsurprisingly, AMG has had a bit of job squeezing that engine, its radiators and all the necessary plumbing under the relatively short bonnet of the C-Class. To do so, it has changed the position of the front axle and also increased the track size, this obviously having other benefits – more of which later.
Power domes on the bonnet also give a bit more space and add some muscle to the C63’s looks, the overall effect being suitably aggressive without erring towards brash. Choose it in a darker hue and the C63 is actually relatively discreet. That is until you push the accelerator. Accompanying the relentless rush of acceleration is a quite fantastically menacing note from the engine and the tailpipes. It’s a rich bassy noise that morphs into a ripping metallic shriek at higher revs. Find a quiet, dry stretch of road and pin the accelerator from standstill and the C63 tears up to 100km/h in just 4.5 seconds. That’s faster than BMW’s M3 and the Audi RS4, but then the AMG does have a larger stable of ponies under its bumpy bonnet. It’s in the upper sweep of the rev range where the C63’s real muscle feels apparent, its 600Nm of torque delivered at 5,000rpm. But it builds steadily to that peak, with 500Nm available from 2,000rpm right up to 6,250rpm.
Even so, it’s an engine you’ll want to rev, even if it’s just to enjoy the noise it makes. Despite all that torque it’s rarely unruly when pulling away. The tyres’ traction isn’t as easily broken as I’d expected and the ESP and traction control light is rather notable by its absence, even when dusting off the hideously modified two-tone monstrosities that the German kids line up alongside you at the traffic lights. The lack of smokin’ tyres can fool me into thinking that the C63’s not as rapid as it should be, but a quick glance in the rear-view mirror at a rapidly receding wide-boy reveals the C63’s relative civility is creating something of a performance illusion. It’s fast. Very fast. But AMGs have always been fast; the problem tended to be that when corners were added, they were overtaken.
However, like most of AMG’s recent models, the chassis tuning is as impressive as the mighty outputs. The front axle changes incorporate a new-design three-link suspension with a 35mm wider track, the rear up by 12mm. The steering system has been recalibrated with new valves and stiffer mounts to increase its agility. The result is very direct steering that is nicely judged for weight. There’s some feel too; it’s not loaded with communication, but there’s enough there to gauge the grip and inspire confidence when pushing the C63 hard. Just as well too, because off the autobahn on the winding roads through the woods, the roads are damp and greasy with autumnal fall. Passing dawdling traffic the C63 demonstrates its devastating cross-country overtaking ability; I just push the accelerator and go. Like all AMGs the C63 is an automatic, the Speedshift system having seven ratios to choose from. That’s at least one more than is really necessary, meaning my fingers are busy on the wheel-mounted paddles.
Downshifts could be quicker, with the C63 sometimes second-guessing and frustratingly needing a double prod to get the result I want. And while I’m complaining, bigger paddles would also be useful. The ride’s stiff, but not compromisingly so, even on the larger optional 19-inch alloys. Pushing hard on damp roads the front bites well, the steering’s accurate and the C63’s nose is quick to react to my input at the wheel.
The stability controls keep the rear relatively in check, with the odd minor waggle and flashing ESP light highlighting just how hard the electronic systems are working. Switching them off, or at least to the ESP Sport setting – the three-stage ESP setting the first for an AMG – means I can use the C63’s power to oversteer a touch before the electronics throw out the safety net. The third function, ESP off, is for heroes or fools in today’s conditions. I’m neither and sadly there’s no track nearby to unleash the C63 properly. If track use is likely then that speed-limiter-raising Performance Pack option should be on the shopping list. It adds limited slip differential, even stiffer suspension and composite brakes – not that the standard ones ever feel anything less than stupendous on the road.
But for all the C63’s ability it feels like a ridiculously fast road car rather than a fast road and track car. It’s likely more M3 drivers than C63 drivers will be rocking up at the Nürburgring barrier and paying their euros for hot-lappery. Not that the C63 wouldn’t do a good job; it’s just likely to appeal to a different sort of performance driver. So, really, it is pointless for me to complain about AMG’s dedication to automatic transmissions, particularly when Wolf Zimmermann lets slip that more AMG cars are sold in California than in Europe. What’s impressive then is that AMG is producing cars that are so suited to our style of driving. Whether that be 260km/h autobahn storming in Germany, or back-road bashing around Limerick, the C63 does a pretty remarkable job. Thank heavens for once it wasn’t raining!
Engine 6.2 litre 457hp, 600Nm torque
Transmission AMG Speedshift sevenspeed paddle-shift auto
Acceleration 0-100km/h 4.5 seconds
Top speed 250km/h (limited)
CO2 emissions NA g/km
Boot capacity 475l
Price €110,000 (est.)