Test drive: Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe

Whether it’s visual, physical or aural, AMG’s four-litre bi-turbo V8 is all about the drama

Merc AMG C63S drive cover

Last Christmas, I committed a cardinal sin in the eyes of devout petrolheads by passing up the chance to take a Mercedes-AMG GT S home for the holidays. Concerned about the unwanted attention the roaring two-seater might draw, I handed over the keys to an elated Sean Eu instead. It didn’t take long for his envy-inducing Facebook posts and glowing feature-length review that followed to convince me I had made the wrong choice. Luckily, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia had one more car in its fleet in which I could enjoy a GT S moment, something I’m much more comfortable with for its inconspicuousness, or so I thought.

The Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe isn’t entirely new to me. At the Sepang International Circuit where I had an earlier, fleeting, first taste of it, the C-Class Coupe juiced up with AMG GT internals felt like a fantastic track machine, yet coolly understated. At least that’s what it seemed in an environment where glaring chrome sticker wraps, knife-sharp cannards and wings the size of the Gateway Arch are considered the norm.

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That sense of subtlety was completely absent the day I reacquainted myself with the two-door version of Stuttgart’s iconic super saloon – its widened fenders looking more striking in the company of a considerably tamer C350e, as did the muscular ripples on the hood which keeps the C63’s four-litre twin-turbo V8 shielded from the elements.

Oddly enough, Merc’s idea of an environmentalist’s C-Class rides on 19-inch wheels, just like the C63. But the black finish of the AMG-fettled coupe makes it look like it’s floating on pure darkness, amplifying the sinister persona defined by its aggressive styling and, more notably, its guttural engine soundtrack.

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For all that the C63 S Coupe is engineered to be, the sound of its V8 being awoken by a cold start is all the reason some would need to justify purchasing one over a BMW M3. It begins with the progressively rapid crank that induces a deep and raucous vibrato which sends shivers down the spines of everyone within a three-metre radius, and more.

Every adjective you can think of to describe a Freddy Krueger movie – brutal, violent, raw, and uncensored – applies to the tremor that resonates between the front-mounted engine and the exhaust tips at the back. A sound so intoxicatingly loud that we cannot imagine any smaller engine producing something similar without cracks forming in its block or cylinder heads. Fat chance going unnoticed in this…

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As it stands, there’s already a lot of strain on the four-litre V8, considering the 2.2 litres of engine that went missing over one model cycle. With an output of 510bhp and 700Nm – more twist than you get from the fire-spitting V12 of the Lamborghini Aventador – the C205 model matches the power of the C204 C63 AMG Coupe Black Series, which had a 6.2-litre V8, while finding room for an extra 80Nm of torque.

The guys at AMG ensured there’s no reason to worry given the extensive use of motorsports tech in the engine, including Nanoslide cylinder coating, a closed deck crankcase, lightweight forged pistons and flow-optimised cylinder heads made of heat-resistant alloy. We’re talking about engineers capable of extracting 190bhp per tonne from the two-litre four-pot engine of the smaller 45 AMG models. So there’s really no reason to doubt what they can do with a massive V8.

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The magic of the C 63 S Coupe, however, lies in the way it refrains from behaving like an unruly V8-powered track machine when you don’t need it to. As we exited the swanky corporate headquarters of Mercedes-Benz Malaysia at rolling speed, we noticed its exhaust losing its acoustic hostility, if not its full gruffness, and its AMG Ride Control sports suspension softening a little for the bumps and potholes that infested the surrounding industrial roads like a tarmac-eating disease. There was enough ground clearance to steer the car out onto the open roads more confidently than we did with the AMG GT S, so that’s a big point for day-to-day usability in which 500+bhp sportscars don’t always excel.

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On the wider straights, the C63 S Coupe will happily ditch its Big Friendly Giant act to reveal the true extent of its bloodlust the moment a spike in throttle input is sensed, even if AMG Dynamic Select is set to the default ‘Comfort’ driving mode.

Do this from a standstill and you’ll notice a brief moment of lag before the engine slingshots the 1.8-tonne two-door into motion like the biggest, meanest and loudest hammer thrower you’ve ever witnessed on TV during the Olympics. Half the time, this split-second delay stems from electronic interference meant to keep the rear wheels from spinning out of control, which is a genuine likelihood in a car that unloads all 700Nm on just a single axle, LSD-fitted or not.

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The speedo should be reading three digits roughly four seconds after the accelerator is worked – launch control helps you re-enact the 3.9-second century sprint published in the spec sheet. While most mass-produced turbocharged mills begin tapering out from here, momentum is the AMG bi-turbo V8’s best friend as it sets the stage for its fantastic mid-range to shine. The wealth of force-inducted twist stays accessible right up to 4,500rpm. At highway speeds, this flexibility acts like a catapult which launches the engine towards the 5,500rpm mark where all 510 horses are herded into a rear-wheel stampede that doesn’t slow down until the car hits 290kph, on paper at least.

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Being more accustomed to the taste of poultry over equine, we loosened our right foot, triggering hefty downshifts accompanied by lovely exhaust burbles, and exited the highway in search for a different sort of thrill off the beaten track. Even on the tightest sections of Negeri Sembilan’s sweeping B-roads, the C63 S Coupe imbues you with the confidence to carry half its top speed through half-lock bends – the massive, drilled discs should keep overzealous drivers unharmed from an overcooked entry.

Steering response may not exactly be M4-obliterating, but there’s an evident edge in sharpness and precision over the four-door C63, with the two-door chassis feeling like a more balanced and natural platform for this height of performance in the first place.

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As we upped the entry speed with every successive corner, we noticed the 7-speed AMG Speedshift dual-clutch gearbox lost the smoothness it exhibited on highways and town roads as the changes in velocity got more drastic. The greater physicality of every gear change isn’t unsavoury, and there is still plenty of urgency to go with it. But things aren’t quite as fluid as the DCT hooked up to Lamborghini Huracan’s V10 or the one that McLaren’s multipurpose M838T 3.8-litre V8 is always packaged with. However, the fact it merits comparison with such names says a lot about the C63 S and its AMG components strictly from a performance viewpoint.

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So did I manage to nab a GT S moment in the ‘subtler’ C63 S Coupe?

To be fair to the latter, no. Not when the C63 S is such a great sportscar in its own right. Unlike the ultra-sleek GT S, this steroid-infused C-Class (a heavily modified one, admittedly) isn’t burdened by the superficial standards set by the poster boys of motoring, most of which are Italian. Having this weight off the C63 S’s shoulders allows the spotlight to focus on its ability to replicate the theatrics of supercars twice its price with its own brand of drama – its thumping V8 and constant threat of wheelspin all part of its brutish appeal. The C63 S Coupe, then, feels like a truer product of Affalterbach in a traditional sense despite the GT S being developed by AMG from the ground up. And we won’t be surprised to hear it spoken of in the same breath as the legendary 190 Cosworth in decades to come.

Engine: 3,982cc bi-turbo V8, 510bhp, 700Nm
Economy: 8.9L/100km, 209g/km CO2
Performance: 0-100kph in 3.9 secs, 290kph
Weight: 1,800kg
Price: RM773,888

Manic four-litre V8 upholds bestial persona established by the old 6.2L. Immense talent on and off the track, with Coupe’s RM75k premium justified by sharper dynamics.

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Author: Daryl Loy