The Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG is a thunderous V8 super-saloon. It's fast, aggressive and beautifully built

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The Mercedes-AMG C 63 is more than just another alternative to the ubiquitous BMW M3.

In many ways it’s the most serious attempt yet by Mercedes’ performance arm, AMG, to put one over its nemesis from Munich, and when you look at what the car has in its armoury, you can’t help but feel for its opponents.

The C 63 is a few tanks of fuel dearer than an M3

The engine is a whopping great 6.2-litre V8 that develops 457bhp and 442lb ft in standard form or 507bhp and 450lb ft with the optional Performance Package, while the corresponding level of performance is big enough – in theory – to blitz anything the new M3 can offer

But the key difference between this car and those previously served up by AMG is that, according to its creators, it is a genuine driver’s car, rather than merely a very powerful, faster version of an ordinary Mercedes.

This time AMG has focused as hard on getting the dynamics right as it has on delivering huge power, hence the steering, brakes, suspension and even the ESP have all been completely redesigned to deliver a sharper driving experience.

As well as having a choice of power and torque outputs, the C 63 comes in three different body styles. As well as a four-door saloon, there's a two-door coupe and an estate, making its spectacular performance available to a relatively wide range of buyers, even if you need the practicality of a load-lugger.

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Mercedes-AMG C 63 cornering

It’s perhaps not entirely fair to say that the C 63 is the first AMG C-class to be thoroughly and comprehensively re-engineered to suit its market, because both the C 32 and C 55 were excellent cars. But you do get the impression that the C 63 represents a step up by Mercedes, both in design and engineering commitment, compared with its predecessors.

So while the 6.3-litre V8 engine very much remains the centrepiece of the car, it’s no longer the dominant factor. Just about all the parts of the C 63 that move – and plenty of things that don’t – have been redesigned, and the result is a more complete car that feels entirely separate from the rest of the C-Class range.

The C 63 is available as a saloon, estate or coupe

The engine itself, claims AMG, develops around 30 percent more torque than any other rival in the marketplace. So while the 451bhp at 6800rpm is deeply impressive (the M3 has 414bhp at 8300rpm), it’s the 443lb ft at 5000rpm that hits hardest. And the real killer is that at least 370lb ft of this is available between 2000 and 6250rpm; the M3’s 4.0-litre V8 produces a best of 295lb ft at 3900rpm.

The C 63 puts its power to the road via a seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox with paddle shifters fixed to the steering wheel, and which has three different shift modes: full manual (in which it will categorically not shift up unless you ask it to), sport auto and finally comfort auto, in which the shifts occur less quickly and more smoothly than in sport auto.

The C 63 is the first AMG to feature self-blipping on downshifts, once again indicating how badly AMG wishes to attract would-be M3 pilots.

There is also a three-stage ESP system that, at last, can be switched off entirely if you so wish, a move that requires a fair bit of bravery on a wet and windy B-road in December.

As standard the diff is not a full limited-slip item (you need to specify the Sport pack to get one of those, which also brings even stiffer suspension and 19in wheels), but the C 63 will still perform oversteer tricks on demand with a bootful of throttle – wildly so with the ESP switched off, slightly so with it set on ESP Sport.

The suspension has been completely redesigned for the C 63. Although the basic layout remains, the springs and dampers are different, the anti-roll bars are beefier, the tracks are wider front and rear and the ride height is  lower. Even the steering has a faster rack with just 2.4 turns across a still-decent-size 10.8m turning circle. 

The brakes, too, have been substantially uprated to include 360mm/330mm ventilated discs front and rear with six-piston calipers at the front. Standard-size wheels are 18in front and rear with 235/40 tyres at the front and relatively narrow – considering the vast power they have to transmit – 255/35 covers at the rear. The test car wore Pirelli P-Zeros.


Mercedes-AMG C 63 interior

If the exterior leaves you in little doubt as to the overtly sporting nature of the C 63, the theme continues inside, and how. The excellent basic platform that is the standard Mercedes C-Class cabin has been taken to another place altogether, and the result is extremely successful.

For starters, the seats are quite superb, featuring massive extra bolstering in all the right places and electronic adjustment in every plane. The wheel is a flat-bottomed item that feels peachy in the hands and also features numerous AMG upgrades, including a bespoke menu for track driving.

The steering wheel rim is just the right thickness

Select Race mode, for example, and a timer appears in the already good-looking instrument binnacle, while you can also monitor oil and coolant temperatures on the circuit.

Standard seat upholstery is supple nappa leather. The test car, refreshingly, was not loaded with extras, yet it still looked and felt like an exquisitely high-quality item inside.

And we know already how spacious and practical the C-Class cabin is. Space in the rear is excellent for this size of car, while the big boot has not been compromised during the AMG transformation. 


Mercedes-AMG C 63 estate cornering

Mercedes may be in the process of phasing out the normally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 used in this generation of the C 63 (the next one will probably have a smaller-capacity twin-turbo V8), but it's a magnificent engine that lies at the very heart of this car's considerable appeal and delivers a level of performance that blitzes its rivals. 

Blitzes? You’d better believe it. Despite the C 63’s faintly amusing traction issues over the first few feet, it’s still quick enough to level with the M3 from 0-30mph (2.1sec). But from that moment onwards it drives away from the BMW under a full-bore acceleration run, so that by the time 150mph is registered it is a quite incredible 3.6sec farther down the road (22.9sec vs 26.5sec), having knocked off 0-60mph in 4.4sec and 0-100mph in 9.7sec.

The C 63 oozes excess

True, the AMG engine doesn’t rev with anything like the same mania as the M3 towards the red line (it’s all done by 7100rpm, whereas the M3 goes to 8500rpm), but that hardly matters when the flow of torque is this potent and, what’s more, is available pretty much from the moment you fire the thing up.

Yet what really separates the C 63 from its imitators and makes it feel so very rapid in a straight line is the way the seven-speed automatic gearbox works so well in conjunction with the mighty V8 motor.

Even in Comfort mode the transmission works beautifully, offering decently swift upchanges that don’t unsettle the car mid-corner. Use Manual mode, though, and the C 63 truly bares its fangs, blipping downshifts like the best professionals, picking off gears almost as fast as you can speak them on the way up through the intermediate ratios. 

Our only complaint is that upshifts could and should occur faster when you flick the paddle, but then maybe the C 63 might feel too manic if this were the case, especially on a wet road with the ESP (heaven forbid) switched off. Either way, it is one of the very fastest cars with four doors and a boot that we’ve ever road tested.


The 457bhp Mercedes-AMG C 63

The good news continues, by and large, with the C 63 AMG’s chassis, except for one specific problem that we’ll come to. What’s not in doubt is the way this Mercedes steers, the way it stops or the way it handles.

AMG has worked hard to give the C 63 a unique personality and make it feel like a model in its own right dynamically, and the result is hard to argue against.

Handling is first rate; less so the ride

It has better steering than the M3, we feel, thanks to its crisper response just off centre, specifically when turning in to quicker corners. And the way the chassis loads up so smoothly when you begin to really commit to corners also makes the BMW feel edgier by comparison, particularly in the wet, when the C 63 feels more planted, period, be that at the front or rear, on the way into or out of corners.

We’re also genuinely impressed with the way the car puts its power down so neatly, considering how much power – and torque – there is to deploy.

Of course, it’ll light up its rear tyres if you turn the ESP off and give it a bootful in a low gear (it’ll spin them up in fourth gear on a greasy surface if you’re really going for it), but with the ESP switched to Sport mode the C 63 is remarkably well mannered, even on a wet road, yet also remains sharp and pure in its handling.

And the problem? It’s the ride quality. In the UK, even on 18in wheels, the C 63 feels too stiff on too many road surfaces. On lumpy urban roads at low speeds in particular, it just feels too harsh and too uncomfortable for its own good. We don’t imagine this situation will improve one bit by choosing the sports pack, which brings bigger wheels plus suspension that’s harder still (not to mention composite brakes and a limited-slip differential). So don’t say you haven’t been warned. 


Mercedes-AMG C 63 2011-2015

The smaller models in the Mercedes AMG line-up have tended in the past to be expensive beside their rivals and more depreciative in the long run, especially compared with BMW’s M cars. This has certainly been true with the C 63's predecessors.

But the C 63 certainly kicks off in the right way by being so competitively priced in the first place. Only time will tell how much it depreciates in the future.

The real killer, apart from company car tax and insurance, is fuel consumption. Mercedes quotes a combined figure of 23.5mpg, with or without the Performance Package, but on average it returned 18.9mpg with us, and more often it was around the 11-13mpg mark. That means a real-world range of little more than 180 miles on the 14.5-gallon tank. 


4 star Mercedes-AMG C 63

The C 63 is one of AMG’s finest moments to date. It has a completeness to its dynamic repertoire that has eluded many previous Mercedes AMG products.

Apart from being shatteringly quick and beautifully made, it’s also just a thumping good car to drive. The not-so-good elements are the ride and the range (and they’re both quite serious issues), but the C 63 remains an intoxicating and desirable car in any of its body styles. There's a lot to like about a roomy and versatile estate that goes and sounds like a C 63.

We are smitten with this car, and no mistake

Despite its poor economy, the naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 remains the pinnacle of AMG engine design in many people's eyes, with the sort of aggressive character and throttle response that is hard to replicate in a turbocharged engine, and could easily be reason enough to opt for this C 63 over any of its rivals.

But thanks to the way the C 63 handles and the quality of its interior, it's certainly not the only reason to want one.

Mercedes-AMG C 63 2011-2015 First drives