We knew from the moment the C63 rammed down the front straight at DECA that this would be a mighty hard year to pick a top three, let alone a winner.
Of course, the two Mercs (or AMGs, if you will) are joined at the driveshaft by slightly different versions of the same M177 4.0-litre engine (nerdy fact – the AMG GT’s engine is the dry-sump M178), and both are driven at the right end. Other than that, the differences are pretty apparent.
The C63 S pumps out 375kW and 700Nm, while still returning fuel economy below 9.0L/100km. And the massive motor is backed by a clutch pack-equipped seven-speed auto transmission, while a clever electronic limited-slip diff helps to spread the prodigious output across the rear axle.
A dual-mode exhaust can deliver your grandparents to church on Sunday in quiet mode, before terrifying children and small animals with the ‘loud’ setting. The pair of turbos spin at 186,000rpm. It has the same cooling capacity as Merc’s 1000Nm V12 engine, and it even has fluid-filled engine mounts that firm up under enthusiastic driving to further reinforce the chassis. It is, in short, a race car with a boot.
The interior, too, hasn’t missed the racer’s touch, with low-slung sports buckets facing a Dinamica-trimmed steering wheel, while a multiple-mode Drive Select toggle changes the C63’s character with a single touch; a mild-mannered family hauler is transformed into a menacing back-road assassin in a heartbeat.
The mode marked ‘Race’ is enticing, however the Sport Plus setting offers most of the traction and stability mode freedoms at both DECA and Winton, but with the confidence-inspiring addition of a safety net should our ambitions outweigh our talent on the road. The suspension firms up, the rear diff tightens and the steering weights nicely, while the exhaust leaves no doubts as to your intentions.
New to the C-Class – and hence the C63 – is the Individual mode; my fave is putting the engine and transmission in ‘Race’ mode, the stability systems to Sports Plus and the suspension to Comfort. This gives the C63 a bit more compliance and confidence over the bumpy, damp, cold Alpine roads.
In short, the C63 is an absolute weapon and an astonishingly capable car. Its power delivery is akin to a sledgehammer in a silken stocking, with zero turbo lag, a linear power curve and relentless dams of torque flinging you down the road time and again. Grip, balance, poise – the C63 offers them up in spades.
Perhaps the nicest element of all is the way the C63 flatters its pilot, no matter how ham-fisted his or her inputs may be. It’s never edgy or frightening, despite its prodigious capability, and its stability systems are so finely calibrated it’s nearly impossible to tell just how hard they are working to keep you out of the roadside scenery.
And all of this genuinely high-end performance comes packaged in a roomy five-seater with a great stereo, clever infotainment, Wi-Fi capability, terrific visibility and excellent safety credentials.
The judges all love the C63 S without question, but for mine, it dropped off the pace a little after a few days of big miles living with its rigid, largely unyielding ride (even in comfort mode) and firmly cushioned front seats. The optional track-spec Michelins fitted to our PCOTY car aren’t as progressive as the stock items, either, especially in cold-weather running.
How did it outshoot the AMG GT S, though? Its performance times were within a bull’s roar of the front bunch, and both its alpha and beta sides are more easily tapped than the always-on-point GT. Its rather large price difference did it no harm, either – if the ‘value’ part of the PCOTY equation carried more weight, you might have been looking at the winner of PCOTY 2015. Yep, it was that close.
Engine: 3982cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo Power: 375kW @ 5500-6250rpm
Torque: 700Nm @ 1750-4500rpm
Gearbox: 7-speed automatic
Brakes: 390mm ventilated discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 380mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers
Suspension: A-arms, coil springs, gas dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, coil springs, gas dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
Wheels: 19 x 8.5-in (f); 19 x 9.5-in (r)
Tyres: 245/35 ZR19 93Y (f) 265/35 ZR19 98Y (r) Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2
0-100km/h: 4.76sec (6th)
0-400m: 12.65sec @ 194.40km/h (4th)
Lap Time: 1:36.3sec (4th)
Dylan CampbellL: 2nd
“Does grunt. Does corners. Does noise. And, to our surprise, does Cup tyres, too. Love this thing"
David Morley: 2nd
“As much as I loved the old naturally-aspirated donk, this is just better”
Scott Newman: 2nd
“A monster. Outrageous power in a practical package. Ride quality the only real bugbear”
Tim Robson: 4th
“Impressively fast, but not as much fun as I expected on the track, if I'm honest”
Warren Luff: 2nd
“Ultimate sleeper. Put the wagon version in my driveway and I’ll be very happy”