Congratulations, Mercedes: You’ve managed to break the $90,000 barrier, or even $100,000, for a compact performance coupe. I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or buy a stack of lottery tickets.
The options sheet for the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe blurred my vision, as did the bi-turbo V8 that inflames rear wheels with 503 horses and 519 pound-feet of torque. As with the previous-gen C63, this drift-happy Benz does without the all-wheel drive that Mercedes favors for its more sober big brother, the E63.
That’s about all this Mercedes does without. For the standard C63, a base price of $67,925 supplies 469 horsepower, a 3.9-second scamper to 60 mph, and a top speed of 155 mph. This C63 S starts from $75,925, cuts the 60-mph dash to 3.8 seconds, and lifts top speed to 180 mph. (Benz says it's a touch quicker than the C63 sedan, thanks to fatter tires and a shorter rear-end axle ratio). This C63 is a brute in a suit, a coupe that commits road-going violence even at its bellowing, throat-clearing start-up.
Tote up $18,000 in as-tested options, and this Mercedes blasted out the door for $93,895. That’s $9,000 more than the last, lavishly optioned BMW M4 I drove. And even that BMW struck me as immodestly priced versus the smaller, $54,000 M2. Add $5,250 carbon ceramic front brakes and a few other goodies, and this bodacious Benz can easily top 100 grand.
Yet if the price seems indefensible, the car itself does mount a stirring rejoinder. The C63 S is the most powerful, beautifully wrought, and luxurious car in the class. If you ever get bored with blowing people away, sit back and enjoy Mercedes's latest semi-autonomous doodads. The C63 is not the most complete track performer, as my test at Monticello Motor Club demonstrated, but few owners will care to test that theory. Taking the stand at the 4.1-mile road course, surrounded by hostile witnesses in a trio of vintage, race-prepped BMW M3’s, the Mercedes practically confessed: “Your honor, I’m just too pretty and posh for this racing stuff. Look, this perp of a driver already got grease on my Burmester speaker grilles. Now release me to the streets where I belong, where I can thrash unsuspecting Corvettes and still squeeze two friends in back. The anorexic ones, anyway. I promised to tell the whole truth, right?”
Yes, the Mercedes’ haute couture interior is strictly two-plus-two. But it makes a Cadillac ATS-V look like a Dockers-clad doofus fresh off the Detroit boat. Its trophy body, a bombshell of volatile curves and polished orifices, makes a BMW M4, a reasonably handsome car in its own right, seem aesthetically tame and predictable.
Compared with a standard C Coupe, the C63’s aluminum hood grows by 2.4 inches, and the dual power domes bulge like Dwayne Johnson’s pecs. Front and rear wheel arches spread roughly 2.5 inches wider, to make room for chunkier wheels and tires, and a one-inch wider axle track for more grip out back. The suspension is virtually a blank-slate AMG affair, including adaptive electronic shocks, dynamic engine mounts (standard on the S), and a taut multi-link rear with uni-ball joints replacing some softer bushings. Peering below the car, I scan a pair of missile-length exhaust pipes that finally dogleg to two mufflers and a set of flap-equipped exhaust outlets set flush within a carbon fiber diffuser. That view takes in a robustly engineered electronic rear differential that sends stonking power to either or both rear wheels.
The Mercedes also looks to one-up BMW and Cadillac (maybe that’s “two-up?”) with a bi-turbo V8 versus its rivals’ twin-turbo sixes. “Hot inside V” isn't the latest sophomoric Trumpian boast, but rather describes the energy-efficient, space-saving layout that stuffs turbochargers between the engine’s V-shaped banks. Developed in-house by the AMG performance division, the V8 makes 39 more peak ponies than the ATS-V, and 78 more than the M4. The blown 4.0-liter, which also does duty in the brilliant AMG GT sports car (though there in dry-sump form) shows that our fears have been misplaced: A turbocharged engine can bawl like a naturally aspirated engine, if an automaker wills it so. It’s hard to say which is more impressive, the V8’s low-end torque or its purebred Rottweiler bark, even without pressing the loud switch on the $1,250 performance exhaust system.
My Monticello trip got off to a late start when the Benz blew a front tire—but fortunately not an expensive, optional AMG black-spoked forged wheel—over a modest-sized pothole on Manhattan’s West Side Highway. Like some other AMG’s, the C63’s stiff ride is at odds with ravaged city streets, even in its softest Comfort setting. I have no doubt that the unyielding suspension and low-profile 19-inch tire (there are staggered 20-inchers in back) contributed to the sidewall blowout. Fortunately, Mercedes of Manhattan was nearby, with its five palatial levels and 28 service bays. The techs tracked down the Continental ContiSport summer tire and promptly got me on my way. Thanks, guys. I owe you.
The Mercedes made up time on the two-hour northbound rip to Monticello as I paddled through AMG's latest Speedshift MCT transmission. The oddball seven-speed trades a typical torque converter for a set of wet start-up clutches, aiming to combine the instant response of a dual-clutch unit with the comfort of a conventional automatic. But left in Comfort mode, the MCT, combined with a too-wimpy throttle setting, can dither or dampen what the car so badly wants to do.
The prescription? Start each day by dialing the C63’s Dynamic Select switch to Sport, Sport Plus, or Race, then individualize the suspension to Comfort for the street. Full-on Race mode was the fast ticket for Monticello, delivering satisfying slam-bam shifts with heightened suspension and throttle response. With its gift-from-God engine, the Mercedes launched like a cruise missile from corners and reached nearly 155 mph on Monticello’s front straightaway. Confident, firm-pedaled brakes are spectacular on road or track, including racing-style radial attachments up front. (Not so long ago, AMG sedans were notoriously under-braked for track duty, managing a handful of laps before they’d fade and freak you out with their sudden disappearing act).
The Race setting also includes a hang-on-tight Launch mode, which I didn’t goof with, and a sport handling mode, with which I did. Lapping Monticello, the system allowed entertaining yet easily recovered slides, including ones induced by simply lifting off throttle on corner entry. But while I was charmed by the Mercedes’s tail-wagging eagerness, that's not the fastest way around a road course, nor a technique that would let tires survive an actual race. That’s where the M4 or ATS-V, despite less horsepower and aural thunder, are likely sharper scalpels for track operations. Standard seats looked amazing, with their peaky integrated headrests, but their wide seat back and stingy upper bolstering left me flopping around during laps. Body-hugging AMG Performance Seats are available for a $2,500 upcharge, but they're butt-numbing uncomfortable on long trips, so be honest with yourself on your priorities.
Fast directional changes aren’t the Benz's forte, as revealed by a somewhat lazy path through Monticello’s slalom-like bends over a blind uphill crest. At nearly 4,100 pounds, the Benz is a weighty beast, nearly 100 pounds beyond an M4 and 300 more than the Caddy. And while the heft and accuracy of the Benz’s steering is outstanding—ditto its burnished, flat-bottomed steering wheel—not much road information filters into the driver’s hands, especially compared with the granular feel of the Cadillac. In the C63's defense, its roadholding performance was handicapped by the mediocre grip of those aforementioned Continental ContiSport tires. Throw a set of proper Michelin Pilot Super Sports on this AMG, and it would have shined brighter on track.
The Mercedes does light the world afire when I leave the Catskills track for knotty two-laners through pine forests. Now in its element, the Mercedes flaunts surplus grip to dominate every curve, and the surplus force to overwhelm any limit of speed, or common sense. Here, the M4 owner may brag about chassis integration, while the ATS-V talks up steering nuance. These fine points may be drowned out by the Benz’s 503 horses, or inundated by its wave of style and luxury.
Yes, $94,000 (or more!) is crazy money for any C-Class, a line that starts from $40,425 in basic C300 sedan form. But the C63 S is a crazy car, two-fisted drunk on old-school V8 horsepower and the latest techno cocktails. If you choose to afford it, fill ‘er up and quaff it down.