Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Coupe review

Stop, look and listen, said Elvis - it's a philosophy made for this car. It's the last of the actions that most seem to do when near the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG - although in coupe form there's reason to look as well.

If you've never seen a spunky 1730kg powderkeg, stop and look at the images here - it sounds even better than it looks. Interestingly, the prestige compact sports brigade (of which the C 63 is one of several) are, for the moment, all V8s.

Benz dabbled in supercharged V6s and V8s before heading down the natmo-path with the 6.2 V8 (AMG's own engine); Audi has also followed a similar forced-induction Vee-configuration path; the M crew at BMW had - until late 2007 - done the M3 with a straight-six, but the next one looks like being a tri-turbo V6.

For now, we're left with brash, melodious V8s and there are few better than the AMG powerplant for making good-quality in-cabin sound systems redundant.

VALUE

Value is a relative term - the list price for a C 63 AMG Coupe is $154,800 but gets full leather sports seating for four, satnav, a quality sound system with Bluetooth and USB connection and all the gear you'd expect. The test car was fitted with the optional $14,900 AMG Performance Package, which first and foremost increases output by 22kW thanks to forged pistons, connecting rods and the lightweight crankshaft from the SLS AMG.

There's also a variable intake manifold and high-performance brakes (with composite front discs and red brake calipers), a carbon-fibre lip spoiler on the boot and a grippy AMG Performance leather/alcantara steering wheel.

The test car also sat on the optional (at $1980) 19in matt black alloy wheel, as well as the optional Driver Assistance Package (which adds active radar cruise control, Pre-Safe automated braking, as well as lane-keeping and blindspot warning systems) for $4900, keyless entry and ignition for $1850 and the tyre pressure monitoring system for $600 - as tested it was a tickle under $180,000 - not far off the price of an E 500 sedan.

TECHNOLOGY

The AMG 6.3-litre 32-valve double overhead cam V8 engine is an all-alloy unit with variable valve system and variable-intake manifold which in standard trim offers 336kW and peak torque of 600Nm. That's enough for a sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.4 seconds and an electronically-tamed top speed of 250 km/h.

Fuel consumption is reduced by clever programming of the seven-speed transmission and a new power steering pump to an overall combined consumption figure of 12.1l/100km.

The AMG Performance Package increases output to 358kW, and improves acceleration to 4.3 seconds thanks to bits borrowed from the SLS AMG Gullwing - lightweight forged pistons, connecting rods and lightweight crankshaft drop weight by 3kg and all come from the 420kW/650Nm 6.2-litre V8 engine.

The AMG Speedshift MCT seven-speed sports transmission sits somewhere between a multi-plate clutched geaarbox and a normal torque-converter automatic, the result being a more direct drive feel and quick, sharp changes.

The transmission has several modes, from Controlled Efficiency default mode to Sport, Sport Plus and Manual transmission modes - the gear shifts take just 100 milliseconds in S+ and M transmission modes. The C 63 AMG coupe also gets the new infotainment system that includes internet access for the first time, which allows satnav routes to be loaded via Google maps.

Benz says "when the car is stationary," at which point we lost interest ... but if you must know occupants can browse the internet or use a Mercedes-Benz Online service for weather and destination data.

DESIGN

The C-Class Coupe is a welcome step forward for the three-door C-Class, not suffering its predecessor's affliction of  being something of a conglomeration of old and new car - it's aggressive, chiselled and is a head-turner.

The AMG version is, as you'd expect, lower, wider and meaner-looking, with deeper front air splitter with larger air intakes, LED running lights, big brake calipers and low-profile rubber wrapped around dark alloy wheels. The twin exhausts and diffuser, as well as a carbon-fibre lip spoiler, leave anyone following in no doubt that is where they are likely to stay - well behind.

SAFETY

Not surprisingly a five-star car, the C63 AMG has seven airbags (dual front, front-side, curtain and a driver's knee airbag) as standard, as well as seatbelt tensioners and belt-force limiters for all seats and active front head restraints.

Benz claims the passenger compartment remains largely intact in a crash, thanks to multiple loadpaths and around 70 percent of the bodyshell panels comprising high-strength steel alloys.

Standard fare on the safety front also includes anti-lock brakes, high-beam assist, a driver fatigue warning system, three-stage stability and traction control, cruise control with speed limiter, parking sensors and camera and the Presafe system with automated braking.

Among the safety feature options on offer are adaptive highbeam assist, active lane keeping assist, active blind spot warning systems and radar cruise control systems.

DRIVING

Savage, brutal and razor-sharp are about the only printable words that flashed through my mind the first time the coupe was unleashed. Previous experience with this powerplant had prepared me for the burble and bellow, not to mention the part-throttle aural delights and the bull-blown banshee that accompanies the redline. But fork over the extra for the Performance Pack and those tasty engine internal bits tantalise that little bit more.

If it were all just to drop the 100km/h sprint from 4.4 to 4.3 seconds (half a second quicker than the M3) you might baulk at the extra $14,900, but the upgraded brakes threaten to uproot roads and the leather/alcantara sports steering wheel is decadent, if still just short of the feel of an M3, but the margin has narrowed considerably.

If you're thinking I liked most aspects of this car then your powers of comprehension are still intact. The test car sits on ribbons of rubber - 35-profile front and 30 at the rear - so ride quality of sharp bitumen breaks can be a bit rough, but it's not the worst ride experienced within this exclusive little category.

Most commuting is completed without issue, although some will goad you into rapid departures just so they can hear the "braaap" between the gears and the orchestral powerplant. Change gears at full-throttle in 100 milliseconds, with the ECU briefly pausing ignition and injection under full load to allow for faster gearchanges - the best bit is the staccato soundtrack that Benz calls "an appealing side effect."

The MCT seven-speed transmission is clever, snapping gearchanges at full noise with gusto and lolling through traffic in the highest possible gear, yet still delivering a more subtle (but no less amusing) soundtrack. Point to point on a twisting country back road is orchestrally amusing, as well as being ridiculous in how simply corners come and go with arrogant ease.

It's malevolently arrogant in attitude, but can still be a little unruly if you turn off the three-stage stability control - that's OK but I'd like to see the tricky limited slip rear diff on the standard features list, not the options page.

VERDICT

If you're looking for a dramatic drive at the touch of a button, the C63 is the sled of choice - while the sedan and wagon are genuine rockets, the coupe has a sportier image while still being practical day to day. The M3 might still edge it for steering feel and getting its (lower) outputs down, the C63 has taken a big step forward and was a tough one to return.

STAR RATING

MERCEDES-BENZ C 63 AMG Coupe (Performance Pack)

Price: from $154,800 (as tested with Performance Pack $179,030)
Warranty: 3 years, unlimited km
Resale: 51% (Source: Glass's Guide)
Service interval: 20,000km or 12-months
Economy: 12.1 l/100km, on test 16l/100km.; 283g/km CO2 Safety equipment: seven airbags, ABS, EBD, three-stage stability and traction control, Presafe Crash rating: 5-star
Engine: 358kW/600Nm 6.2-litre 32-valve V8
Transmission: seven-speed MCT automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body: 2-door, 4 seats
Dimensions: 4707mm (L); 1795mm (W); 1391mm (H); 2765mm (WB)
Weight: 1730kg (130kg heavier)
Tyres: size 235/35 R19 (front), 255/30 R 19 (rear), space-saver spare.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Price From $154,800

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