Mercedes-AMG C63 saloon
"The Mercedes-AMG C63 takes all that's good about the standard C-Class and adds a huge dose of extra performance"
- Excellent handling
- Superb performance
- As practical as any C-Class
- Costly to buy
- Expensive to run
- Suspension can be uncomfortable
Purists might miss the huge 6.2-litre V8 engine from the old car, but despite being smaller, this version's 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 provides more power and more performance.
How much more? Try a 0-62mph time of just over four seconds.
Yet despite this, the Mercedes-AMG C63 is cheaper to run than ever. Mercedes say it'll return 34.5mpg on average and CO2 emissions of 192g/km mean it'll cost £265 a year to tax. That's certainly better than the 23mpg and 280g/km the old car recorded.
But that's not the reason this car exists. It's here to take you and up to four passengers – plus your luggage – very fast indeed. And the driver will have huge fun on the way. The car's rear-wheel-drive configuration, firm suspension and steering that provides plenty of feedback to the driver all conspire to make this saloon car drive like a sports car.
If the standard car's 4.4-second 0-62mph time isn't enough, there's also a Mercedes-AMG C63 S, which cuts this time to a dizzying 4.1 seconds. Most models in the Porsche 911 range take longer.
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The C63's interior is elegantly sporty, with very supportive sports deals and a thick-rimmed steering wheel, but pretty much everything else is as you'd find in a standard C-Class. Not that that's a bad thing – the C-Class has one of the nicest interiors in the business.
There's plenty of equipment fitted, too, with sat-nav, leather trim and LED headlights among the highlights – but it's easy to boost the car's price with a few choice options.
The C63 stands out from the normal C-Class thanks to a fairly subtle bodykit, quad exhaust pipes and 18-inch AMG wheels, which give the car a more muscular, aggressive look.
Although the C63 S provides the ultimate in performance, we'd recommending saving £6,000-odd and going for the standard model. You might want to consider the £2,500 Premium Package, which adds a panoramic sunroof, Burmester stereo upgrade, keyless entry and more leather trim.
MPG, running costs & CO2
If you're looking for a cheap-to-run car, then head this way to read about the regular Mercedes C-Class. Despite the work to drive down running costs, there's only so much you can do when you've built an engine that produces between 469 and 503bhp.
Against that backdrop, the C63 is pretty impressive. The standard car can return an average of 34mpg, while the C63 S is slightly thirstier, at 33.6mpg. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 192 and 196 grammes per kilometre respectively, meaning they fall into the same road tax band, which results in a bill of £265 a year.
The C63’s figures are virtually identical to that of the its main rival, the BMW M3, which returns 34mpg and has CO2 emissions of 194g/km, putting it in the same tax bracket as the Mercedes. Despite the extra power available in the 503bhp Mercedes C63 S, official economy figures remain the same. If you go for the estate version of the C63, economy drops slightly to 33.6mpg and CO2 rises to 196g/km.
Naturally insurance won't come cheap, with the cars in group 47 and 48 – slightly higher than both the BMW M3 and Audi RS4.
Engines, drive & performance
While the BMW M3 benefitted from an excellent base – the BMW 3 Series is one of the finest-handling saloons on the market – the C63 was at a slight disadvantage. There's nothing wrong with the standard Mercedes C-Class, but it's nowhere near as much fun to drive as the BMW.
It's all the more remarkable, then, to discover that the Mercedes-AMG C63 is an outstanding car to drive. The C63 saloon claims 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds and is limited to 155mph. The C63 S lowers the 0-62mph sprint by 0.3 seconds, plus it offers the option of raising the maximum speed to 180mph.
The twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine, borrowed from the Mercedes-AMG GT supercar, is a masterpiece. It packs a harder punch than the old 6.2-litre engine but has lost none of its predecessor's character. The engine delivers a meaty rumble at tickover, while flaps in the exhaust open as the revs rise to create a spine-tingling bellow.
What really strikes you when you drive the Mercedes supersaloon is the in-gear power available; a push of the throttle virtually anywhere in the rev range results in the car accelerating in a way that most others can only do when you get their engines in the absolute sweet spot.
Not everything about the C63 is perfect. While its seven-speed gearbox is smooth enough, it can occasionally serve up jerky low-speed shifts and it sometimes fails to respond crisply to requests from the steering wheel-mounted paddles. Its suspension will be appreciated most when you’re driving quickly on smooth roads, but it can feel firm at other times, and the car doesn’t always feel 100% settled as a result.
The C63 S gets recalibrated steering, a wider front track and heavily revised suspension that has three modes, depending on whether you want a sportier or more comfortable drive. The modes are Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race. The most extreme is Race, which provides the most aggressive throttle response and firmest ride. It also changes the shift settings of the gearbox, meaning it holds gears for longer so the engine spends more of the time at the most powerful part of its rev range. The Race setting also completely opens the exhaust, so you get the addictive V8 sound at its loudest, complete with pops and crackles when you lift off the accelerator.
The regular C63 is also fitted with a mechanical limited-slip differential, while the S benefits from a faster-acting electronically controlled unit. Both are there to improve traction and stability.
These changes transform the C-Class from also-ran to among the best in its class. The steering is fast and well weighted, there's bags of grip and strong body control. With enormous power on tap, care needs to be taken when accelerating in slippery conditions, but the traction control does a good job of keeping car in check. Switch off the safety aids and the C63's natural balance and poise can be fully exploited.
The biggest question for most people considering buying a Mercedes-AMG C63 is whether it’s a better car to drive than the BMW M3. The answer to that is slightly nuanced – the M3 is the sharper, more alert point-to-point car, but the way the Mercedes delivers its performance feels safer and inspires more confidence. Which car you think is the best to drive is likely to depend on your own personal driving style and preferences.
Interior & comfort
Like many supersaloons, the Mercedes-AMG C63 is little changed inside compared to the standard C-Class. That's a good thing, because the C-Class has one of the best interiors in the business.
It's well made, effortlessly stylish and more than a match for the interior you'll find in a Mercedes S-Class – which can cost anything up to £180,000. Design highlights include handsome metal air vents, a rotary controller for the car's COMAND infotainment system and an 8.4-inch tablet-style screen mounted on the dashboard.
The only points of difference are instruments specific to the C63, high-backed sports seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
The C63’s sporty credentials mean it isn’t the last word in comfort, but the suspension isn’t so hard that your fillings will fall out. You can adjust things to make the ride softer when you want to be more comfortable, while road and wind noise are well isolated, meaning the Merc is actually a fairly good cruiser when you want it to be. All the V8’s power can make the car fabulously noisy when you want it to be, but it also means it doesn’t have to work hard to keep you gliding along on the motorway – in that situation it’s capable of a distant purr.
Practicality & boot space
You lose nothing in the practicality stakes by choosing a Mercedes-AMG C63 over a lesser C-Class. That means visibility is good, and space in the front is first rate.
It's a little more cramped in the rear, where the car's sloping roof reduces headroom, but there's still space for three abreast, although there won't be a huge amount of room for their feet.
There's a decent range of storage spaces too, including pockets in the front doors, a number of cubbyholes in the dash and a couple of cupholders in the rear.
The boot measures 480 litres, which is identical to the BMW M3 and the three rear seats can fold individually. The rear seats split-and-fold 40:20:40 as standard and there are plenty of handy storage spaces around the cabin, including deep doorbins, a large glovebox and a deep central cubby between the two front seats. The only niggles are the large transmission tunnel running down the middle of the car to the rear wheels which cuts into foot space for the person sitting in the middle of the rear seats, a high boot lip to lift luggage over and a opening that isn't as large as a hatchback, the C63 estate or the BMW M3.
The shape of the C63 estate means there’s a bigger 490-litre boot, with 1,510 litres on offer with the seats down. That model also gets a powered bootlid, shopping-bag hooks and a 12v power socket.
Reliability & safety
As well as luxurious cars, Mercedes is also known for the build quality and reliability of its products. The C63 feels solidly built and while its 4.0-litre V8 is new, it has been used in the Mercedes-AMG GT coupe already.
Overall, the Mercedes C-Class – on which the C63 is based – was rated average for reliability in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK. Of the owners who responded, 12.9% reported experiencing a problem with their car at least once.
The standard Mercedes C-Class achieved a full five-star safety rating when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP in 2014. The C63 version gets seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking and stability control, an active pedestrian-protection bonnet and bigger brakes than the standard C-Class.
There’s plenty of optional safety kit on offer if you want extra peace of mind. The Driving Assistance Pack costs around £1,500 and features blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control. If you go for the C63 S, you also get the option of carbon-ceramic brakes for just under £5,000.
Price, value for money & options
You'll have to part with the best part of £60,000 for a Mercedes-AMG C63, and another £6,500 if you want to upgrade to the C63 S. The extra cost of the S is quite hard to justify, particularly as the standard car is so good.
It's not like you miss out on loads of extra equipment by choosing the standard car. Highlights include full leather sports seats with memory function, automatic headlights and wipers, a reversing camera, Bluetooth, sat-nav, internet connectivity and a digital radio.
Should you be swayed by the promise of extra power from the C63 S model, you'll also get red brake calipers, a seat upgrade and different alloy wheels.
The Premium Pack is one of the standout options. For £2,600, you'll receive a leather-trimmed dashboard, Burmester stereo upgrade, LED lighting and a full-length sunroof.
Used values for the car are pretty good, with experts predicting the C63 will retain 49% of its value after three years. That's on a par with the BMW M3 in terms of depreciation.