Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe Review: Does dropping the ’S’ from its name make it tame?
Lockdown 4.0 means the temples are still quiet. Our so-called Temple Run is deserted. And our time with the new Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe is limited only by the availability of premium petrol in these parts. In normal circumstances I’d be euphoric at the lack of traffic but eight weeks under lockdown can put a dramatic twist to your perspective. Now, you want the wheels of the economy to start turning. You want more people up and about, not a game of cricket being played in the Bus Rapid Transit lane. Masks in place, social distancing practiced (the crew and I are in two cars) we dispense with the drive from Pune to the industrial hub of Chakan in less than half an hour, and I’m not even attempting a 40th anniversary remake of Rendezvous (doesn’t ring a bell? Watch it on YouTube now!). Waiting at the gates of the Mercedes-Benz factory is a sanitised C 63 AMG Coupe, and that’s as close as we will get to the factory what with all the Covid-19 precautions being vigorously implemented.
Anyway, we are not here to make cars. We are here to test cars, dust off the cobwebs, experience — after eight whole weeks! — The Thrill of Driving. And what a car to get the juices flowing again!
The C 63 has always been epic. A C-Class to the dim-witted passer-by, the C 63 combined the practicality of four doors with the explosive power of, first, the 6.2-litre naturally-aspirated V8 and, in this generation, the twin-turbo V8. Both engines have been incredible, and though we moaned the demise of the nat-asp V8, the M177 hot-vee turbo delivered such a thunderous rush of torque overplayed by authentically destructive soundtrack that the moaning was a mere formality. And, oh, there was the small matter of over 500 horses to play with in C 63 S guise, 503bhp to be precise.
C 63 AMG has spent a lot of time in the gym
The C 63 Coupe now sheds two doors and the S badge. The latter addresses the dim wits of the casual observer. No longer will anybody mistake your C 63 for a regular C-Class. Up front is the snarly Panamericana grille from the AMG GT that, to some eyes, is too much while to my eye is appropriately threatening. An AMG isn’t a cuddly toy and the C 63 Coupe looks every inch the iron-pumping undertaker. Just look at the bonnet bulges!
The wheelarches are heavily blistered, especially evident at the rear where they are flamboyantly flared to accommodate the Coupe’s widened track (50mm more than the saloon). The swoopy roof-line received its fair share of praise on the C 43 AMG Coupe that was launched in India last year and it looks even better when mated to the pumped up wheel arches and then festooned with all the optional carbon bits including that boot spoiler. And finally the wheels. 18-inchers are standard, this car is upsized to the max and even gets the wheel hub cover that does a great impression of a centre-lock nut. The 19s up front are shod with 255/35 rubber while the gigantic 20s on the rear get super-wide and super-low 285/30 rubber. This is a seriously low profile and it raises two troubling questions. One: will it last on Indian roads. Two: the C 63 S AMG rode hard as nails. Will my tooth filings shake loose at the end of the day?
Everybody is doing Manettinos
As with the exterior, the interior too is evidently a C-Class but, equally evident is the fact that this is an AMG. You get the IWC clock. Carbon trimming everywhere you look. Massively bolstered seats. A higher resolution 10.5-inch infotainment that finally gets CarPlay but still isn’t a touch screen. The analogue dials are replaced by the 12.3-inch display that offers three display themes, the tacho swinging clockwise in all layouts. And there’s that ferociously fat steering wheel that has gorgeous metal trimmings and inserts mated to horribly plasticky protrusions on the steering wheel.
This is AMG’s version of Ferrari’s Manettino. The protrusion on the right is to toggle from Slippery all the way to Sport+ while punching the button takes you to your pre-configured Individual mode. The two buttons on the left lets you activate the sport exhaust, engage manual mode on the gearbox, and gets you access to the new AMG Dynamic mode.
New on the dynamic side is an electronic safety net that’s similar to Ferrari’s Side Slip Control in that it allows you a certain degree of leeway, of slip, before intervening when a crash is imminent. Three modes are on offer, Basic, Pro and Advanced and that makes the C 63 progressively more frisky, playful and unhinged (without the worry of biting you in the arse). And much like Ferrari’s system works in the background, so too does AMG’s, flattering the driver and making him look and feel far better than s/he is in reality.
There is a fourth mode, Master, in the AMG Dynamics that then turns the right knob on the steering wheel into an 9-stage traction control knob. Similar to the big yellow knob on the centre console of the AMG GT R, you can adjust the level of traction control . This mode lets you drift with a measure of safety provided by the electronic net. However this mode is only available on the C 63 S.
Less of a hooligan?
Deleting the S badge means the C 63 AMG Coupe looses 34bhp to now put out 476bhp of power. Torque is down 50Nm to 650Nm. The 0-100kmph time goes up by a tenth of a second to 4 seconds. And the roads at Temple Run are rather shabby. It’s bloody amazing that we make roads and only return ten years later to effect repairs or maintenance. Anyways on the plus side we have this private road all to ourselves, and don’t have to deal with the uncles who want to know who you are, what you’re doing, who gave you permission, even the size of your underwear.
I’m wearing my extra large boxers to leave room for the after effects of the brave pills I’ve been popping all morning. There is, after all, no other way to drive the C 63 than with everything off. In fact there is no other reason to buy a C 63 if you don’t want to switch everything off and abuse the brave pills. For the less naughty amongst us there’s always the C 43 AMG with its all-wheel-drive to keep you from running out of talent.
Drifting the C 63 AMG Coupe
While the C 63 AMG looses 34 horses, Race Mode, launch control and dynamic engine mounts, with this facelift, it does not loose the electronically actuated limited slip rear differential. In the past it got a mechanically actuated LSD that reacted to inputs and situations making the transition from grip to slip rather sudden. The electronic diff is almost predictive, and makes the switch from open to closed quicker and thus making it easier to apply the necessary steering correction to catch the slide. The LSD is crucial in making the C 63 a riot machine, sending power to both the rear tyres and allowing them to keeping spinning and sliding. In contrast an open differential would feed more power to the tyre with less grip thus leading to the other tyre regaining traction and killing the slide.
That’s the theory. In practice, well, it all works like a bomb. When you have 476bhp, 34bhp makes no difference whatsoever. Not once did I feel the C 63 lacking in power compared to what I remember of the C 63 S AMG. And the Coupe slides like a beauty. Kick the tail out in second, short shift to third, and play with the throttle riding the torque to keep the rear spinning, sliding, and oversteering like a demon. With its tyres alight, that’s the only way to drive the C 63. And I’m happy to report there is no toning down, no diminishing, no dilution of the core strength of the C 63. Its ability to play the hooligan.
Of course there is traction!
All the talk of drifting and sliding might lull you into thinking the C 63 cannot handle all its power. that’s far from the truth. In fact considering this is only RWD the C 63 actually does deliver more grip and more composed handling than you’d think possible. You really have to be aggressive with the throttle to kick the tail out, otherwise in all other situations the C 63 handles tenaciously with very little body movement and next to no roll.
In fact the Coupe is a (slightly) better handler than the 4-door. The wider rear track of the Coupe includes additional strengthening that makes it 2-door heavier than the 4-door (weird as it might sound) but that bracing improves steering response giving you the confidence to lean on the outside tyres that much harder.
Of course in Sport + mode it offers next to no suspension compliance either. Already a stiff car, the 19/20 wheel combo with low-pro tyres make the C 63 hard. Very hard. Sport + is good only for a smooth race track like the BIC. For the MMRT and every other road Comfort is the best, adding much needed compliance to deal with the bumps that you hit at speed when motoring along enthusiastically. Comfort, though, should be labelled Just About Adequate. The C 63 is a hooligan and that extends to its ride quality.
That said I must clarify that we had no trouble with the tyres despite driving it very enthusiastically during the test and over a mix of roads. On that front then, no worries.
The C 63 AMG is exactly what AMGs should be. Mega power. A wall of noise. Riotous oversteer on demand. Hard as nails suspension. Gorgeous interiors. All the techy bits and bobs to keep you occupied. And suitably pumped up with muscle in all the right places. It also looks sufficiently different from the regular 4-door C-Class to keep the neighbours interested. Priced at Rs 1.33 crore, it has no real rivals in India now that the BMW M3 and M4 are no longer on sale in India and neither does Audi India have the the RS5 in the lineup. Which means a wide open space for the C63 AMG Coupe to light up its rear tyres.