2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe First Drive
No apologies from AMG’s latest performer
RONDA, Spain -- Tap the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe's aluminum paddle shifter at speed, and a quick Bra-thwoomp! fills the leather and Alcantara cabin. The spine-to-sternum snort is an unapologetic blurt -- a mandatory part of the experience, according to AMG boss Tobias Moers -- that speaks volumes to the brand's desire for differentiation. Vive la différence, Mercedes; we're digging your bass-heavy music cues.
In this conflicted era of roaring horsepower and elevated efficiency, the latest C63 flies deliberately in the face of its six-cylinder BMW M4 and Cadillac ATS-V foes, if only for its increasingly novel V-8 configuration. The design language provides enlarged nose intakes, engorged power domes, and flared wheel arches that add just under 3 inches of bulk at either end. The effect, however, can be dubious at certain angles: When viewed from above, the C63 more closely resembles a Mustang or Accord than a $72,000-ish übercoupe. For maximum effect, it's best to glare at this muscled-up specimen from dead ahead or straight behind.
Visual direction aside, those pedestrian associations vanish quickly from the C63 S's snug bucket seats when chasing a low-slung AMG GT S coupe at Circuito Ascari in southern Spain. Boasting a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 that's essentially a non-dry sump version of the mill found in the GT-S, this four-seater produces 503 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque in S form (or 469 hp and 479 lb-ft in the standard setup). According to the company spec sheet, that's good for 0-to-60 mph sprints in 3.8 seconds (3.9 clicks for the regular model) and an electronically limited top speed of 180 mph (or 155 mph).
The palm-filling steering wheel with the center marker at 12 o'clock? Perfectly apt for the new sled, which uses stiffer settings, a reinforced front cross member, negative camber settings, and thicker-gauge aluminum on the steering knuckles for sharper feel. The S model receives an electronic limited-slip differential that reduces inside wheel speed during cornering acceleration and stabilizes the rear end during hard braking. The electrically powered tail minder considers yaw rate, steering angle, and throttle to determine torque allocation. Also included with the S package are adjustable engine mounts that manage the powerplant's 450 pounds or so of mass, which can rock and roll a vehicle's dynamics when unchecked. Three-setting magnetic dampers are tied to drive modes (and can also be adjusted separately), all of which is managed by a toggle switch on the center console that scrolls through a total of four modes.
Dialed into its most aggressive Track setting, the proceedings start on a properly dramatic note at Ascari, with the V-8's burbling idle belying its forced induction. During the first session on the recently rain-drenched circuit, worn tires and slick surfaces seemed to contradict the new C63's Nürburgring time of 7 minutes, 43 seconds, which matches that of the stunning, previous-gen Black Series. However, our second go on fresh rubber revealed a noticeably improved dynamic over its non-Black Series predecessor, namely through sharper turn-in, planted mid-corner manners, and less comically tail-happy exit characteristics.
The V-8's massive torque, which crescendos between 1,750 rpm and 4,500 rpm, can still easily kick the tail out, but a discreetly dispensed pro tip from Moers helps avert throttle drunk maneuvers: Flip the gearbox to manual mode, and the engine mapping transforms to a more linear, progressive setting. The change is like a secret handshake for AMG drivers and isn't disclosed in any Mercedes-Benz documentation, anywhere. You're welcome.
By the third session on the track, the GT S pace car driven masterfully by DTM champ Bernd Schneider became even more reachable. Though the C63's 3,803-pound curb weight and 51/49 front-to-back weight bias can't match the GT-S's more track-focused setup, it does manage a commendable job of rolling with the high-speed punches. The improved Speedshift MCT seven-speed transmission always finds the proper gear on its own in the Track setting, but manual mode lays power down more effectively (though overeager, heavy-footed drivers may still find the lure of wheel-spinning torque too tempting to resist). However, even in Track mode, the traction control system is still too limiting for Schneider-chasing antics: Switch to ESP Sport Handling, and the coupe finally powerslides beautifully through corners in effortless, manageable drifts aided by the accurate, electrically actuated steering. Optional carbon-ceramic brakes scrub off speed effectively, making it easier to mitigate the V-8-induced antics and attain appropriate corner entry speeds.
The newest AMG extends the sub-brand's ongoing theme of oversized power and driver-focused charms, expanding on the foundation built by the range-topping GT-S. Though its competitors are potent, the new 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe's sonic blurt signifies this coupe's ever-focused mission, calling traditionalists home with V-8 charisma and autobahn-ready composure. It may be an expansion of the workaday Mercedes-Benz volume seller, but the C63 exudes enough allure to keep the speed-addled set amply satisfied.
Road tripping the new C63 S Coupe across Andalusian highways revealed interstate-shrinking speed and surprising comfort from the adaptive suspension. Though there's a glued-down connection to the road and more than a bit of thrum from the Michelin rubber, the kinematics aren't jarring or grating enough to annoy over the long haul. Similarly, the blaring exhaust note can be tamed in the more sedate drive mode settings, allowing you to focus on the restrained interior surfaces and the real aluminum accents on the standard Burmester sound system.