First Drive: 2019 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe
The sporting all-rounder
BAD DRIBURG, Germany - As I emerge from a modestly sized cloud of Michelin smoke, the AMG Academy instructor who is leading me in an AMG GT-R chirps over the radio "Maybe turn the traction control back on!". But it's not easy when you have 503 German horses daring you to drive in a manor anything other than clean and tidy. After all, I'm in a 2019 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe, which comes from a lineage of fun to drive, tail-happy automobiles.
Just before I headed out on track, the Mercedes-AMG team presented the car to the gathered group of journalists, stating that the chassis dynamics team has gone to great lengths to add more refinement to the C 63. This made my assignment on the international launch of this car all about trying to find out if that refining of the C 63 has come at a cost of losing some of the fun and sideways antics that are so loved about the existing chassis. It's a tough job, but I will do my upmost to test this hypothesis in its entirety.
The location that AMG chose to host the launch is the Bilster Berg Drive Resort in Northwestern Germany. Once an abandoned arms dump for the British Army stationed in Germany, the track was carved out of the hilly landscape. Designed by Hermann Tilke with help from famed rally driver Walter Röhrl, this was one of the scariest tracks that I have ever driven on. The tarmack ebbs and flows with an overall differential between highest and lowest points of 236 feet, with many crests and dips coming mid-corner. That morning, AMG's Product Manager Roland Kreutzer nonchalantly stated over breakfast "You will like it, it's like a mini-Nürburgring." Thanks Mr. Kreutzer, but that doesn't help with the nerves.
We are first sent out behind an AMG Driving Academy instructor, who also happens to be a factory AMG GT3 driver in an AMG GT R. Talk about an intimidating way to pop your Bilster Berg cherry.
The first thing that strikes you when sat behind the wheel of the new 2019 C 63 is its new steering wheel, which comes with a DINAMICA microfiber trim on C 63 S variants. The material closely emulates Alcantara and offers a comfortable and grippy surface that's perfect for hands that are sweating as a result of elevated adrenaline levels. The wheel rim is thick and sits well in your hands, and the control electronics are all in ergonomically satisfying locations. The swipe sensor allows for easy transitions between display modes on the fully digital dash, and the metal gear selector paddles give a tactile click upon activation.
I use the first few laps of the day to acclimatize myself with the track and the car, as well as to familiarize myself with the changes made to the car. For starters, the engine has been left completely untouched, with the engineering team at AMG using the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" philosophy. And rightly so.
The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 is so good that it is used in AMG's GT cars. Aston Martin has also started to use the architecture in their sports cars. In C 63 S form, the engine outputs 503 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque thanks to 18.8 psi of boost from the two turbines nestled in the 'hot vee' of the V8. The non-S variant has to make do with 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque thanks to a reduced boost of around 17.4 psi and a varied wastegate opening strategy.
What was broken with the previous C 63 however, was the transmission. The seven-speed torque converter automatic was slow to respond and changed when it wanted to rather than upon your demand. To solve this issue, AMG changed it out for its in-house nine-speed multi-clutch automatic. This allows for faster shifts and more control over the shifting strategies, giving more immediate shifts when you pull the wheel-mounted shifter paddles. Although not quite as abrupt as a dual-clutch transmission, the AMG nine-speed offers a middle ground between slow torque converter autos, and heavier, more expensive DCTs.
An e-diff (with torque vectoring) now comes as standard on all C 63 variants. It locks the rear wheels together in cornering, minimizing inside wheel slip and providing optimal traction on corner exit. It also completes the perfect recipe for sideways antics, but we will come to that later.
One of the most impressive changes to the 2019 C 63 comes from the daddy of the AMG line up that is the GT R. The nine-step variable traction control system first seen on the GT R is now available on the C 63. The control knob has migrated from an ad-hoc looking central dash position on the GT R to a very smart looking digital dial on the bottom right side of the all-new AMG steering wheel. Termed the 'AMG DRIVE UNIT,' the dial is also used for changing drive modes on the fly, but changes to traction control management when you press and hold the ESP button long enough to turn off the stability control.
You operate the controls by spinning the bezel left and right to change the level of traction control intervention from one (pretty much fully on) to eight (almost completely off). The system is not the same as the SSC2 system on Ferrari cars, which uses yaw angle and steering angle sensors to determine the level of intervention. The AMG system is actually quite rudimentary but it works incredibly well. With stability control completely off, the system limits the amount of wheel slip that is allowed from the rear wheels by cutting back on engine power. Although the system's operation is quite simple, it thoroughly transforms the car. With ESP on, the traction and stability control systems work together to keep you straight and true. So when you mash the loud pedal mid-corner for a fast get away, the system limits power and applies brakes to individual wheels to stop you getting out of control. This is ultimately safe, but slows you down, stifling the potential of the car.
With the multi-stage traction control however, you can chose your amount of rear slip. This allows you to floor the gas and unleash more of the engine's power, meaning you get out of the corner with a customizable amount of crossed hands and carry more speed. I did some back-to-back comparisons of laps with the system on and off and can adamantly state that the car feels and drives much better with the ESP off and traction control in a limited slip setting.
For the track day enthusiasts who like to chase tenths here and there, the C 63 now comes with a track day data logger called 'AMG TRACK PACE,' which logs up to 80 separate vehicle parameters for the driver to download at a later stage to analyze. The standard 7.0-inch media console (or optional 10.25-inch console) can display current information such as G-force, engine power and boost, with this information also available as part of the HUD.
On the road the C 63 has presence, but doesn't go too far. In a comfort setting, with the engine burbling away at low RPM, the C 63 trundles around towns with ease. However, when you reach your favorite set of winding roads, a flick of a switch transforms the C 63 into a fire breather.
A new drive mode called SLIPPERY backs off the throttle map and other key vehicle parameters to tame the beast on wet or ice-laden roads. COMFORT mode is great for day-to-day use. After comfort come SPORT, SPORT+, and RACE. Finally, INDIVIDUAL mode allows you to change a plethora of settings to make your ideal drive mode.
After getting to know the 2019 C 63 S, it's abundantly clear that this AMG is the sporting all-rounder. What other cars are more than capable of daily drive duties with practicality boxes ticked, but can also shred like a purebred sportscar?
I couldn't have asked for a better car for my baptism of fire into one of the scariest tracks on the planet. The 2019 Mercedes-AMG C 63 retains its character with its segment-leading twin-turbo V-8, which is now mated to a fast shifting transmission and limited slip differential. And you can now pull more performance out of the chassis with a variable traction control system that lets you have sideways fun, but stops you short of any dangerous situations. I relied heavily on the control system at Bilster Berg. If I were lucky enough to run a C 63 as my own car, I'm sure it would get used daily.
2019 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe Specifications
|ON SALE||Early 2019|
|PRICE||$77,000 (base, est)|
|ENGINE||4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/503 hp @ 5,500-6,250 rpm, 376 lb-ft @ 1,300-4,500 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||9-speed multi-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|L x W x H||187.1 x 73.9 x 55.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.7 sec|