Mercedes-Benz E-Class VS Mercedes-Benz C63
- Numb steering
- Rear headroom in coupe/cabrio
- So-so warranty
- Amazing power
- Addictive sound
- Impressive to drive in most situations
- Price is high
- Still not 100 per cent on the Coupe’s looks
- No applicable ANCAP score
To say Mercedes-AMG is popular in Australia is like saying the young people are fond of Drake, or that football fans seem to appreciate Ronaldo’s skills.
Per head of population we buy more of the three-pointed star’s go-fast specials than any other country on the globe. Typically, between 15 and 20 per cent of all Mercs sold here are of the AMG variety.
The ‘43’ suffix appeared on C and E Class variants, meaning a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 had been slotted under the bonnet, providing enough grunt for day-to-day enjoyment without the hardcore edge of a big-banger V8.
But the boffins at AMG’s Affalterbach HQ can’t seem to help themselves because the E 43 has been replaced by, you guessed it, the gruntier E 53.
Powered by a 3.0-litre, in-line six-cylinder turbo engine, the 53-series delivers close to 15 per cent more power and a huge dollop of extra torque courtesy of its tricky ‘EQ Boost’ starter/alternator system.
So, has the civility and relative efficiency of Merc-AMG’s only slightly psycho E Class models been maintained, or has another beast been released?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
If you know the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S, you know it’s a hardcore V8 thumper with little in the way of bashfulness. It’s a brawler. A beast.
Now there’s an even more eye-catching AMG C 63 S Coupe, which we’re testing here. It’s the Aero Edition - a collector’s version of the current-generation C 63 S Coupe with a bit more visual bling that also helps it stick to the road better.
It is a local area special edition, with only 63 examples to be sold across Australia and New Zealand. And if the rumours are true, the next-generation will see the V8 engine in danger of being axed in favour of a hybrid, high-performance four-cylinder version. Say it ain’t so!
Well, if the CarsGuide crystal ball turns out to be right, maybe one of these C 63 S Aero Editions is worth getting in your garage quick-smart. Or is it? Let’s go through the criteria and see how it stacks up.
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Mercedes-AMG E53 is a supremely refined and satisfying performance/luxury package. For those who want the practicality and style of a high-spec E-Class, with an extra performance boost (but not the full-fat V8 drama) it’s got to be an appealing option. Plus, the high-tech hybrid drivetrain is brilliantly executed and seamless in operation.
Does the E 53 AMG do enough to warrant the hallowed Affalterbach seal of approval? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Aero Edition is an absolute beast of a car, but it comes at a pretty hefty price. Yes you get a lot of performance, and the fact there are only 63 examples being made for Australia and New Zealand could be enough to get you to sign on the line. For me, though, if I was after a C 63, it’d have to be a wagon. It doesn’t need an Aero pack to look better.
Keen car-spotters will pick the E 53 courtesy of its ‘twin-blade’ radiator grille (in silver chrome) with black mesh insert in place of the standard E-Class ‘diamond’ version, and a distinctive ‘A-wing’ front apron design.
AMG-specific side sill panels link the front fascia to a rear treatment including a high-set diffuser panel and quad exhaust tailpipes finished in high-gloss (black) chrome.
The interior doesn’t vary dramatically from other high-end E-Class variants, the biggest differences being grippier, leather-trimmed sports seats, dark ash wood trim on the dash, console and doors, plus an ‘AMG Performance’ steering wheel trimmed in nappa leather.
A twin (12.3-inch) screen ‘Widescreen Cockpit’ media and instrument array includes the ability to scroll through an AMG-specific digital display, scrollable through ‘Classic’, ‘Sporty’ and ‘Progressive’ configurations.
Via the AMG menu it’s also possible to call up read-outs including engine and transmission oil temp, acceleration (longitudinal and lateral), engine outputs, turbo boost pressure, tyre temps and pressures, as well the current vehicle set-up.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of the current C-Class Coupe’s styling. To me, it has always looked a little droopy, a little melted at the back.
I have to say, the Aero Edition has changed my opinion somewhat, as the new graphic elements help lift it up a bit, visually raising its rear up like a stretching cat, tail in the air. I’m still not 100 per cent on it, but to my eye it’s better.
The carbon-fibre trim elements that have been added to the exterior certainly add some menace to the look, too, and I simply can’t help but constantly notice out of the corner of my eye the AMG pressing in the staggered, dished rims. At a glimpse, from a distance, it looks like rim damage, but thankfully it’s not!
The staggered set-up does really add some width and mongrel to the look, as if it needed more, with its open maw lower bumper air dam, and the signature 'Panamericana' grille treatment which looks like an evil character out of a movie. If you know the one I’m talking about, let me know in the comments.
As much as the look matters when it’s parked in your driveway, it’s the cabin that arguably matters more, right? That’s where you spend your time, after all. Check out the interior images to see if you think it lives up to the exterior look.
Despite availability in sedan, coupe and cabriolet form, the E 53 launch drive program focused exclusively on the coupe and cabrio.
Like all E-Class models the E53 offers plenty of space up front, as well as a generous, lidded console box incorporating multiple USB ports.
A second flip-top section in front of the media controller houses a pair of cupholders, oddments space and a 12-volt power outlet, plus there’s a medium-size glove box, and the doors feature long bins including big bottle holders.
Rear room in the sedan is typically E-Class generous, with three adults across the back seat a genuine option on shorter journeys.
Adjustable air vents are welcome, and a fold-down armrest houses two cupholders and a lidded bin, with another two USB ports provided. Door pockets incorporate bottle holders and there are map pockets on the front seatbacks.
The sedan’s boot capacity is 540 litres, more than enough to swallow a pram and accompanying baby ‘stuff’, or our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres). And the 40/20/40 split-folding seat back liberates yet more space.
Backseaters (two only) in the coupe and cabrio are well catered for. Legroom is surprisingly substantial, although with the roof up, at 183cm, headroom for me was just adequate. With the cabrio’s roof down however, that improved considerably. Worth noting that sensors in the front seats’ adjustment system stop them from hitting a rear passenger’s knees. Nice.
In terms of storage and convenience, there’s a pair of cupholders between the seats, adjustable air vents, map pockets, and some oddments space near the outside armrests.
Boot capacity in the coupe is 425L and 385L in the cabrio, with the rear seat splitting and folding to offer through-loading space. An electrically controlled, retractable separator in the soft-top’s boot defines the space filled by the roof when folded (which still leaves 310L).
Tyres are run-flat on all variants, so don’t bother looking for a spare of any description.
No two-door coupe is going to offer you the space and comfort of a sedan or wagon, that’s just a fact. But that only matters if you plan to actually use the rear seats. If you don’t, then the Coupe version of the C 63 S might be perfect for you.
Even so, I managed to (only just) squeeze myself between the seat and the door opening to slide into the rear row. This won’t be easily achieved by all attempters, especially on the driver’s side.
Let’s just say I probably looked like I was doing something very weird to the driver’s seat as I spider-manned my way in.
The rear space is tight for someone my height (182cm/6’0”) behind their own driving position, with knees hard-up against the seat in front and not much headroom (my noggin’ was brushing the ceiling) or toe space (size 12s don’t fit so well) to speak of.
It’s certainly a selfish car. Or maybe it’d be fine for smaller kids. There are two spaces in the back, both with ISOFIX child seat anchors and top-tether points.
But there is storage in the back - cupholders and storage caddies either side of the seats, though the storage situation improves in the front zone, with bottle holders in the doors, cupholders between the seats, loose item storage under the media screen and a covered centre armrest bin, too.
The front cabin is a special looking place, with carbon-fibre abounding across the dash and nice trim on the doors. The AMG steering wheel is a sight to behold - it’s a flat-bottomed unit with carbon-fibre and Dinamica (that’s Benz talk for microsuede) trim: perfect for sapping sweat as you manhandle the C63 through the bends.
The seats are AMG Performance sports units up front, and the trim used is reserved for this model specifically: Nappa leather with yellow stripes. There are yellow details elsewhere, including on the rear seats, centre console and dash, and it certainly adds some visual excitement.
Media is controlled by a 10.25-inch display and Mercedes-Benz’s touchpad control system, but there is no touchscreen - rendering the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology somewhat tedious.
I’ve always had a gripe with screens that don’t allow touch but feature the tech that’s designed to transfer your phone’s screen to the media unit, and I can tell you the longer you spend twiddling the dial to get where you want to go, the more annoying it becomes.
The Burmester sound system has 13 speakers and is rather good, but I prefer the sound from the standard fit variable sports exhaust. So maybe that quibble with CarPlay isn’t that big a deal.
And if you just want to charge your phone, and there’s a second USB port up front, as well. Note: in non-Aero Edition C 63 models without the carbon-fibre interior pack, you also get Qi wireless phone charging, but it’s deleted from this variant and any model with the carbon pack.
The driver has a 12.3-inch digital info display to show where you are and what the car is up to, and there’s a head-up display as well. Yep, there’s standard sat nav with live traffic updates (and even live fuel price updates) - it’s just a shame the maps still look early 2000s-spec in 2D layout.
Cargo space is okay. The claimed cargo capacity or boot volume is 355 litres (VDA) with the rear seats in place. That’s small for a coupe of this size, and the shape of the boot (with a hump behind the rear seat) isn’t great as things do move around quite a bit.
But, thankfully, Mercedes has included its clever foldable storage box system under the boot floor - it goes where you might usually expect a spare wheel, but there isn’t one in this car. Instead you get Mercedes’ 'Tirefit' repair kit with an electric pump.
Price and features
Pricing for the Mercedes-AMG E 53 ranges from $167,129 (plus on-road costs) for the sedan, through $172,729 for the coupe, and $181,329 for the cabriolet.
Then the cabrio is something of an outlier, with the BMW M4 Competition ($165,615) again a smaller but faster and cheaper option. In the hunt for other performance-focused 2+2 convertibles, you’re into the entry-point of Porsche’s 911 line-up with the Carrera Cabriolet ($248,350) representing a close to $70k premium.
All variants are suitably well equipped. On top of the standard performance and safety tech detailed in later sections, the E 53 is fitted with dual-zone climate control, 13-speaker Burmester audio (including digital radio and Apple CarPlay compatibility), keyless entry and start, nappa leather trim, sports seats, ‘AMG Performance’ (flat bottom) sports steering wheel (also trimmed in nappa leather), adaptive LED headlights (plus active high beam), and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Also included are the Widescreen Cockpit display (twin 12.3-inch screens covering multimedia and instruments as well as ‘Linguatronic’ voice control), sat nav, ambient interior lighting (64 colour options), active cruise, a configurable head-up display, electric front seats (heated with memory), wireless phone charging, wood grain interior trim, electric steering column adjust, rain-sensing wipers, and a panoramic sunroof.
All that stacks up well for a contender in this part of the market. You pay the big bucks, you get all the fruit.
Look, I’m not likely to ever be in the position to say that a car that costs $188,600 plus on-road costs is “good value”, but to be honest, if you’re in that position, you’ll be getting plenty of car for your cash.
The Carbon Edition of the C 63 S Coupe adds $17,200 over the standard version of the high-performance two-door, but it adds a bunch of extras to help justify its price. A car like this is always going to be seen by some as a profligate purchase, right? You need to be able to justify spending an extra MG3’s worth of cash on this Edition.
The noticeable exterior bits include an AMG Performance rear spoiler, a model specific front lip, rear diffuser, and side facings for the rear apron air vents. Carbon-fibre is used in the front apron A-wing, the side sill inserts, rear diffuser insert, rear spoiler and the side mirror casings.
There’s more carbon-fibre inside the cabin, which we’ll cover off in the interior section. Other additions over the standard C 63 S Coupe include ceramic composite front brakes (402mm six-piston) and 360mm single-piston rear brakes, and there are “ultra-lightweight” AMG forged 'Matt Black' alloy wheels with 19-inch rims at the front and 20s at the rear.
And in nice news, the car you see here has no optional extras fitted at all. The colour is 'Iridium Silver', one of only two options for this limited run model (the other available hue is Polar White, and both come at no extra cost).
Standard inclusions comprise leather interior trim, heated and electric adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, a 10.25-inch media screen with sat nav and smartphone mirroring, DAB radio, 13-speaker Burmester sound system, 12.3-inch digital driver info display, head-up display (HUD), ambient lighting, and performance items like active dynamic engine mounts, an adaptive AMG performance exhaust, a rear differential lock, and adaptive sports suspension.
Plus there’s a full-spec safety offering which we’ll cover in the section below.
Thinking about what cars compete with this one? There’s the Audi RS 5 Coupe (from $150,900), the Lexus RC F (from $136,636), and the BMW M4 Competition (from $167,829). So the C 63 S - which is already expensive comparatively - looks positively pricey in Aero Edition spec.
Engine & trans
Already used in other AMG models, including the entry-level version of the just-released flagship GT 4-Door, the E 53’s (M256) in-line six is a 3.0-litre all-alloy unit featuring direct-injection and a single turbo, supplemented by an electric compressor (turbo if you prefer) which builds up charge pressure prior to the main turbo coming on song. Turbo lag, be gone!
The EQ Boost starter-alternator is housed in an electric motor fitted between the engine and transmission, driving a 48-volt electrical system to support the additional compressor as well as the car’s traditional 12-volt functions (lights, cockpit, multimedia and other control units) through a DC/DC converter.
Maximum torque (520Nm) is available from just 1800rpm all the way to 5800rpm, with peak power (320kW) taking over at 6100rpm. But the EQ Boost’s hybrid party trick is the ability to drop in a brief full-throttle burst of 16kW/250Nm. Whoosh.
Drive goes to all four wheels via a nine-speed dual-clutch auto transmission and an AMG Performance turned version of Merc’s ‘4Matic’ all-wheel drive system, using an electro-mechanical clutch to distribute torque between the permanently driven rear axle and variably driven front axle.
Open the shapely bonnet of the C 63 S and you’ll find a hand-assembled horsepower-monster engine with a printed name plaque to prove it.
The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 produces 375kW of power at 6250rpm, and 700Nm of torque from 2000-4500rpm. It runs a standard-fit nine-speed 'Speedshift MCT' (multi-clutch transmission) automatic, and it’s rear-wheel drive. And yes, that means it likes to boogie.
The claimed 0-100km/h time is just 3.9 seconds, and top speed is apparently pegged at 250km/h. Yeesh.
The name on the “Handcrafted by” plaque on this particular engine? Hat tip to you, Julian Rembold. This is quite a piece of work.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is line-ball for sedan (8.7L/100km), coupe (8.8L/100km), and cabriolet (9.0L/100km) variants, emitting 199, 200, and 204g/km of CO2 respectively in the process.
Start-stop is standard, minimum fuel requirement is 95RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 66 litres of it to fill the tank.
High numbers are what AMGs are about. Sadly that’s the case not only for performance outputs but also fuel consumption.
The official combined cycle fuel use claim for the C 63 S Coupe is 10.3 litres per 100 kilometres, and you need to fill it with 98RON premium unleaded fuel, too.
On test? Well, across a mix of different driving - urban, highway, back road and spirited stints - I saw an 'at the pump' return of 12.2L/100km, while the digital readout stated 12.0L/100km.
Given the performance on offer, and how much I took advantage of it during my week with the car, that’s not bad…
Fuel tank capacity is 66 litres. So go easy if you know there won’t be a fuel stop for a while.
It only takes a few kilometres behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG E 53 to recognise that it fulfils its job description pretty well.
With claimed 0-100km/h acceleration sitting in the mid-4.0sec zone (coupe 4.4sec, sedan/cabrio 4.5sec) it’s fast, but not brutal. It growls without rising to the full-blown roar that’s become the aural signature of the current 63-series AMG V8s.
But don’t take that to mean meek and mild. It’s properly rapid and the sports exhaust, particularly with the drivetrain mapped to the ‘Dynamic Select’ system’s ‘Sport+’ mode leaves you (and everyone in a 200-metre radius) in no doubt that you’re driving something special.
Dynamic Select allows individual calibration of the engine, transmission, suspension and steering. Around town with everything dialled in to ‘Comfort’ the E 53 is as refined and compliant as any other high-spec E-Class.
Despite the standard 20-inch rims shod with low-profile run-flat rubber (245/35 front, 275/30 rear) the ‘AMG Ride Control’ adaptive damping combines with the overall air suspension system to provide excellent ride comfort.
Find a twisting B-road and push into ‘Sport’ or Sport+’ mode and the car’s character changes distinctly. All 520Nm of maximum torque is available from just 1800rpm right up to 5800rpm. And while that’s plenty, pin the throttle and an additional 250Nm (and 16kW), courtesy of the EQ Boost hybrid system joins the party.
Press on and as peak power (320kW) takes over at 6100rpm you’ll notice the horizon is approaching rapidly. The additional electric compressor means power delivery is beautifully linear, and the hybrid boost is undetectable.
The nine-speed dual-clutch auto is as smooth at parking speeds as it is at maximum attack. Manual changes (up and down) are rapid and positive, accompanied by entertaining blips and bangs from the exhaust in the more aggressive drive modes.
The coupe is the lightweight of the trio, weighing in at 1895kg, with the sedan and cabrio sending the needle roughly 100kg further to the right. But despite that not insubstantial kerb weight, and the all-wheel drive set-up, all feel light and nimble for their size.
While the variable steering adjusts seamlessly as lateral forces increase, no matter which mode is selected, road feel is modest at best. But the AWD system shuffles drive to the right wheel without fuss and power down out of quick corners is satisfyingly solid.
With all this performance, on-tap braking is critical, and the standard set-up is perforated and internally ventilated discs all around (370mm front, 360mm rear) clamped by four piston calipers at the front and single piston floating calipers at the rear. After an ‘enthusiastic’ session on the launch drive they remained progressive and strong.
The multi-adjustable sports front seats are comfy when they need to be, and with the side bolsters adjusted inwards, secure and grippy as G-force builds. Top-notch ergonomics complement this satisfying and well resolved dynamic package.
Just one word sprang to my mind when it comes to accurately describing the performance on offer from this car. The word is ‘brutal’.
Smash the accelerator and the power and torque on offer is enough to make your eyes feel like they’re not doing the right thing anymore. You get pushed back in your seat with a surge, and your ears are also rewarded with one of the best soundtracks in the automotive world.
The engine builds pace with enormous intent, and the sound that comes from under the bonnet and out the back through the exhausts is addictive.
Yes, there is an active exhaust button which you have to press to make sure that you hear all that noise if you’re running around in 'Comfort' mode, and during my time with the car it was active the whole time.
I had some questions from neighbours over the week that I had this car about whether it was actually nice to live with on a day-to-day basis. And the answer is yes, if you put it in comfort mode it’s surprisingly amenable.
The ride is really well sorted at pace despite having a bit of that trademark low-speed wobble that seems to afflict Mercedes products from A-Class through to the GLE SUV. But it wasn’t bad enough to really bother me, as most of my time was on highways and backroads.
The steering is direct and accurate. The only thing you need to be aware of is that you will lose traction at the rear axle when you put your foot down hard. And for the enthusiast that’s exactly what you want.
I know I want to feel the thing squirm under throttle. It’s a rear-drive V8 coupe, after all. You want to feel like you’re a vein in its bicep muscle; you know, the one you see in a weightlifter’s arms – the one that wiggles around a lot. You want to have that. Right?
On the performance front it is exceptional. Twist the little dial on the wheel to 'Sport' or 'Sport+' (I didn’t sample 'Race' mode as I wasn’t at a racetrack), and everything feels like it’s had a protein shake.
Even so, in that mode it steers brilliantly, there's a nice feel through the wheel, and the ride, while stiff, controls the body brilliantly when you change directions.
The transmission is very good, too. In Comfort mode it can take just a second or two at first to become accustomed to the idea that you want to drive aggressively.
But in Sport mode, or when you select the manual transmission mode using the trigger button on the steering wheel, you will certainly get the most out of the engine. That’s what I did when I was driving it in a ‘spirited’ manner.
If you are just after that high-end Coupe cruiser experience, it’s a relatively quiet car (provided the surface below isn’t the coarsest of coarse-chip bitumen), with enough luxuriousness to make it feel premium as well as sporty. That’s an important thing to consider, especially at this price point.
You’d expect any current passenger model wearing the three-pointed star to be on the leading edge in terms of active and passive safety, and the E Class range scored a maximum five ANCAP stars when it was assessed in late 2016.
The E 53’s crash avoidance tech includes ABS, EBD, brake assist, AEB, ESC, traction control, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, fatigue detection, a surround camera system, tyre pressure monitoring, and traffic sign recognition.
And if a crash is unavoidable all models feature dual front and dual front side airbags, a knee airbag for the driver, plus full-length curtain airbags… even a first-aid kit.
The sedan features three top tether points and two ISOFIX child restraint anchor positions across the back seat, with a two-and-two count in the coupe and cabrio.
There is no applicable ANCAP crash test rating for the Mercedes C-Class Coupe, nor is there one for the C 63 specification. But when it was tested back 2014, the sedan scored five stars - as you’d expect.
It is comprehensively equipped in terms of safety technology, including auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection (from 7.0km/h to 70km/h) and it’s active for cars from 7.0km/h to 250km/h.
Plus there’s lane departure warning and active lane keeping assistance (from 60km/h to 200km/h), blind spot monitoring with 'Active Blind Spot Assist' that will stop you from veering into oncoming traffic, front and rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control (Distronic) with traffic jam assist.
The C 63 also features 'Route Based Speed Adaptation', which can adjust your speed based on where the car thinks you are on the map. Just note - if you’re driving through new tunnels that haven’t been flashed to your car’s nav (as happened to me in Sydney during my testing week) - then you could find the car dramatically braking for surface-level intersections. You can switch the system off, thankfully.
There are nine airbags fitted, and while you mightn’t use the rear seats much there are ISOFIX and top tether points for both positions (yes, only two).
Mercedes-Benz offers a three-year/unlimited km warranty, with 24-hour roadside assist included for the duration. Not exactly leading edge when you think about Kia at seven years/unlimited km and Tesla’s eight-year/160,000km cover.
Scheduled maintenance for the E 53 is set at 12 months/25,000km, and service plans are offered at silver and platinum levels for up to five years/100,000km.
Mercedes-Benz is among the minority of luxury brands now offering a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan - most still have three-year cover. So that’s a tick.
And the service intervals are pegged at 12 months/20,000km. Another tick.
Plus you can either pre-pay your service plan in three-year ($3800), four-year ($6000) or five-year ($6550) plans - roll it into the finance package, and it won’t hurt quite as much.
According to Mercedes, the three-year coverage option makes for a $900 discount over pay-as-you-go servicing.
Roadside assistance covers the five-year new car warranty period, too. So Mercedes seemingly takes good care of its customers. But if you have any concerns or questions over reliability, problems, issues or complaints about the C 63, check out our AMG C 63 problems page.