Tim Robson road tests and reviews the new Mercedes-AMG C63 S Cabriolet with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Bathurst, NSW.
With astonishing performance from a twin-turbo V8 driving the rear wheels, massive brakes and retaining a sense of real-world practicality, the C63 range is the epitome of the everyday performance car.
It's the first example of a drop-top C63 the company has produced, but it's managed to maintain almost all the elements that have made its stablemates so popular with Aussie buyers.
In some ways, too, it may even be the best of the lot.
The C63 Cabriolet is based on the C63 Coupe, which itself is quite different to the sedan and wagon.
In place of the steel roof, Merc has fitted an acoustically treated folding soft top with a glass rear window that can be raised or lowered in a nick over 20 seconds, at speeds of up to 50km/h.
It's the interesting juxtaposition of hard sporting lines and a softer rear end that works well in practice.
The Cabriolet retains the blistered guards – increased by 64mm and the rears by 66mm over the stock car – and wider, staggered wheels of the Coupe.
At some angles, the soft top looks a bit awkward and lumpy, especially where it's been profiled to provide rear head room – but roof up is not what this car is about.
It's the interesting juxtaposition of hard sporting lines and a softer rear end that works well in practice, especially with the 20-inch rear and 19-inch front rims.
The Cabriolet is still ostensibly a four-seater (losing one position over the sedan and wagon versions), and losing the roof does wonders for head room! Even with the top in place, the rear seat is comfortable for taller people.
The front seats slide forward automatically when tilted forward, but the door aperture is small and the sills are quite high, meaning that it's not simple to get in and out.
There is a pair of ISOFIX mounts for child seats, too.
The centre rear armrest features a pair of cupholders, while side bins can also hold small bottles.
Up front, Merc-AMG's excellent seats are welcome company over a 600km test weekend.
The 280-litre boot loses 75 litres to its already undersized Coupe sibling, while the shield for the folding roof makes luggage fitment even more of a challenge.
Up front, Merc-AMG's excellent seats are welcome company over a 600km test weekend. Useful pockets in the centre console, and another two cupholders in the centre stack, complement deep door bins with bottle holders.
Be warned – the pockets near the dash are mounted above the gearbox, and if you use the door to cover your phone on a hot day, temperatures can get pretty toasty for it.
There are plenty of ways to access the satellite navigation and digital TV-equipped multimedia screen, while the twin binnacle dash and digital screen combo are a simple joy to use.
Chunky alloy shift paddles, a stout, small-diameter steering wheel and huge alloy pedals bring performance credo into the cabin.
Price and features
Mercedes-Benz will bring just the top spec S variant of the S63 cabrio to Australia, as it does for the other three cars in the range.
It's thoroughly loaded with kit, so the options list is rather short.
Automatic belt feeders for driver and front passenger, automatically dimming rear-view and driver's side exterior mirror, wood and alloy trim, satellite navigation, digital TV, DAB+ digital radio, a four-mode Dynamic Select switch, electric and heated front seats with memory function (seat and mirrors) and keyless entry are standard on the extensive spec sheet.
The S63 S Cabriolet retails at $179,00, which is an $17,785 uptick over the coupe; it's also 225kg heavier, thanks to extra body stiffening in the floor.
There are just a handful of options, including no-cost-option wheels and a $9,000 set of brakes with 402mm ceramic rotors and gold (coloured) calipers.
Engine and transmissions
The '63' part of the C63's name actually comes from its previous engine that was fitted to the sedan, wagon and coupe; a 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 that churned out 336kW of power and 600Nm of torque.
The M156 was a long, leggy beast of an engine, but it couldn't survive in an era of tightening emissions regulations.
It's hard to believe that the 4.0-litre is turbocharged, such is the linearity of its power and torque delivery.
In its place is a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged power unit that's shared with the AMG GT sports car. It pumps out more power – 375kW – and even more torque – 700Nm – and manages, despite the noise-restricting twin turbos that nestle in the vee of the cylinder banks, to sound almost as evocative as the glorious 6.2.
In fact, it's hard to believe that the 4.0-litre is turbocharged, such is the linearity of its power and torque delivery. Most of its grunt is available from just 2000rpm, and it keeps delivering all the way to 6250rpm, howling like a WW II fighter plane all the while.
The seven-speed auto is built to handle the grunt, and delivers precise shifts when requested. Combined, it helps the Cabriolet dash from 0-100km/h in 4.1 seconds, and on to a governed top speed of 290km/h. It's just 0.2sec slower than the Coupe.
Despite its prodigious output, the C63 can be coaxed into achieving a claimed 9.2 litres per 100km.
Our 600km of testing returned figures of around 11.9L/100km, which is fair given how much time was spent in third gear just to hear the engine!
Over a mix of varied terrain, the C63 S Cabriolet reveals a different, softer character when compared to its excellent siblings.
The Coupe's revised rear suspension set-up and AMG's clever electronic LSD offers an incredibly sophisticated, highly reactive ride and handling balance, with a positive, planted front end.
The C63 cabrio, like the coupe, rides on wider tyres front (255mm on 19-inch rims) and rear (285mm on 20s) than the sedan or wagon, and the extra 225kg of weight lends the drop top a more lithe, supple nature than the hard-edged alacrity of the coupe.
Around town, the cabrio rides best out of all four cars.
With 700Nm ready to turn the rear tyres into particle fragments, the Merc responds well to the Sports Plus map with a fair bit of traction control left on, though the limits are set impressively high.
The same goes for the adaptive dampers; with all other elements of the car turned up to attack mode, setting shocks to Comfort gives an even higher level of ride quality and security.
Around town, the cabrio rides best out of all four cars, thanks to that extra weight on the springs and the more supple feel of the open top chassis.
The standard brakes are simply immense, as well, and the driving position is perfect. Wind noise in the cabin up to 100km/h is impressively muted, and an air blocking system that uses a fender at the top of the windscreen and a screen behind the rear passengers works well to reduce turbulence.
While a thicker roof than the cooking spec C-Class cabrios keeps more noise out, it's offset by a lot of tyre roar from those sticky Michelins underneath.
Its safety spec list includes (amongst other items) a 360-degree camera, an active bonnet, adaptive brake with hold function, brake drying function and Hill Start Assist, nine airbags (front, combined pelvic / thorax bags for driver and front passenger, side bags for rear occupants, window bags and knee bag for driver), passive Blind Spot Assist and Collision Prevention Assist Plus, which includes auto emergency braking.
Mercedes-Benz offers a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and a three-year capped service program for the C63, with scheduled costs topping out at $1382 for both the second and third years.