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2019 Mercedes-AMG C63 S sedan performance review

By Dylan Campbell, 08 Feb 2019 Reviews

New suspension and nine-stage traction control rated as AMG’s best-seller hits Australia

2019 Mercedes-AMG C63 S sedan performance review feature

Last year at a track in Germany called Bilster Berg we got our hands on Mercedes-AMG’s updated super sedan, the bonnet-bulging 2019 C63 S – and we were wowed by its improved refinement, smarter interior and tyre-friendly new nine-stage traction control.

At long last, this facelifted version of AMG’s best-seller has arrived in Australia. And you should read our international test report first before continuing below – in it, we’ve outlined all the changes, from interior to the new transmission to the different noise, and given our first impressions.

In this review, our first taste of the C63 S on Australian roads, we delve deeper into the Big Ticket Items for C63 S, those being the improved refinement and the veritable toy-box of Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and Traction Control (TC) modes now available in the form of what AMG calls its new Dynamics menu.

Whether you’ve read our other review or not, let’s get one thing straight first-up: the new C63 S is brilliant. No, really, it does strange things to our soul, with its classic combination of sonorous and stunningly powerful twin-turbo V8; rear-wheel drive and electronically locking rear diff; sweet and accurate steering and generally delicious handling.

Could the W205 C63 S be the best all-round rear-drive muscle sedan ever made? We’d say yes. And in this age where we are struggling to feed our long-held, rear-drive V8 sedan addictions, we are so glad the hot-rod-in-a-suit C63 S exists.

MOTOR review: AMG GT63 S 4-Door

But when it was released in its first form in 2015, all was not right – it was a bit too stiff, not as refined as the gorgeous baby S-Class interior suggested, and the transmission could make some crankiness known at car-park speeds, by way of a clunk or a hesitation; and also it wasn’t quite as fast down the gears as it was up, when you were burying a foot into what was (and still is) one almighty brake pedal.

Nobody sane ever complained about the engine being underpowered, of course, and so it’s telling that for this update, outputs remain 375kW and 700Nm in what would be a textbook if-it-ain’t-broke case study. AMG says the engine has not been touched.

Okay, so with a general overview out of the way, let’s skip ahead a bit and talk about the ride and refinement before delivering a few verdicts on the new nine-stage TC and other ESP modes.

The previous W205 C63 S was, as mentioned, a sporting beast, and it made this known every drive. Even in the Comfort damper mode, you were well aware you were in a sports car – it felt like the adaptive dampers were set permanently to Sport. The ride was harsh. We told AMG and of course told you in our reviews, and the reply from the car’s creator was, ‘this is what AMG customers want’. We didn’t quite buy that, and it turns out neither did the customers, and so AMG has fitted softer springs and dampers as part of this facelift.

It’s made a big difference. Thoughts like ‘oof’ and ‘eek’, the kind you’d have as the old C63 S thudded over harsh bumps, now occur significantly less often. It’s perfectly comfortable 85 per cent of the time (if the old car was more like 65 per cent), and the C63 S is now much more of a daily driver.

Okay, a degree of harshness is still transmitted into the cabin, and the ride is still nothing like the bliss of a Magic Body Control S-Class, but it’s a massive improvement over the old car. And much more acceptable.

Well done, AMG.

So has the C63 S gone soft? Well, apart from obviously literally if you mean the suspension, if you mean the rest of the car – no, it has not.

This is still a precise car, easy to place and with huge grip. There is now a new body-roll about the C63 S that requires management as you push harder into those grippy Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, and certainly the C63 S does not sit as flat as we remember the old one doing.

In this sense, the C63 S has become less tolerant to poor driving, and so you need to pick your inputs a bit more carefully as you move the 1680kg C63 S body through longer arcs. But this is why the damper button still exists.

Sport damper mode, and Sport Plus damper mode, are entirely usable on the road. Yes, ride comfort suffers, but now you won’t care, as you don’t hit this button until the horns are out and there’s still an impressive degree of mid-corner compliance even with the dampers wound into their tautest setting. (Previously Sport Plus was a Yas Marina-only proposition.) As we said in our international report, once you went searching for the damper button for ride comfort; now you go searching for the damper button for body control. And you get it.

This ride/handling balance is much more befitting of a torque-fat twin-turbo V8 four-door with an interior as nice as this one.

Speaking of which, refinement has improved. A lot. Possibly AMG owes Mercedes on this one, thanks to refinement gains made during the most recent C-Class mid-life update, where there are supposedly 6500 new parts. It feels like a lot of those were to make the C-Class, and in turn the C63, a bit quieter, with a bit less vibration.

Again, the C63 has not been transformed in one fell swoop into a baby, more nimble S63; instead, what were bordering-on-disappointing levels of NVH are now much improved. The plusher Sports seats are now standard in Aussie C63s, too, with the firmer and more focused Performance items becoming a $3700 option.

Let’s talk about the new ESP/TC modes. There’s a few of them; the new AMG Dynamics menu offers Basic, Advanced, Pro and Master modes, which control mostly the ESP, and increasingly slacken off as you switch between the general drives modes, those being Comfort (Basic), Sport (Advanced), Sport Plus (Pro) and Race (Master). Pressing the physical ESP button once shortcuts you to Master ESP mode no matter what drive mode you’re in.

Turn the ESP all the way off and the rotating controller below the right spoke of the new steering wheel turns into a nine-stage traction control selector, with a small and attractive colour display. No joke, the first time we turned this on, we felt like an eight-year-old ripping open something from Santa on Christmas morning.

MOTOR opinion: Don't switch off ESP when on the road

Now, you might think that the nine-stage traction control is a total game-changer for enjoying your 375kW rear-drive sports sedan, with you being able to, presumably, remove precise layers of electronic assistance as you click from zero (fully on) to nine (off).

However, it is like a classic motorsport traction control system – you’d undoubtedly be faster around a track with assistance from the computer putting the power down, rather than just your right foot. But degrees of yaw with a safety net? You’re better off with the ESP on and in Master mode.

So in that sense, the new nine-stage TC might be a useful tool at your next track day, as you’re hunting down a new PB lap time, but for hang-the-tail-out thrills, Master is your friend. And thank the gods of computer-assisted power oversteer, it’s excellent – the updated C63 S is more fun to more people than it was before.

In fact, the C63’s chassis and electronics are now so good, we have a First World Problem to report – the C63 S could use more power. It’s at this point AMG would sigh and stop listening to us, but we can’t help but fantasise about a C63 Black Series with either the more powerful M177 from the E63 S or even better, the more power-focused M178 dry-sump V8 from the GT. Particularly if the latter was mated to the super-responsive seven-speed twin-clutch transmission.

There’s precedent, of course, by way of W204 C63s such as the Black Series or Edition 507 which both utilised more potent versions of the 6.2-litre atmo V8 from the SLS – to create unforgettably good cars.

It’s worth a reality check here to say that lend your C63 S to someone who’s never driven a powerful car before and they’ll still give you the keys back, hands shaking, having turned white, but for people who read MOTOR, the idea of a C63 with this updated chassis combined with the potent, excellent AMG GT powertrain is truly saliva-inducing stuff. It would be tantalisingly close to a five-out-of-five star car.

AMG says there aren’t any plans for such a thing so S shall remain the big daddy C63 for now. But to be frank, with the new suspension and electronics, and improved transmission and interior, we are happy to lay our Black Series dreams to rest and appreciate what we have right now. And that is one of the greatest V8 muscle cars the world has ever, and maybe ever, will see.

Testing the mettle of the latest metal on MOTOR reviews

Engine: 3982cc V8, twin-turbocharged, DOHC, 32v
Drivetrain: nine-speed automatic, wet clutch; rear-wheel drive
Power: 375kW @ 5500-6250rpm
Torque: 700Nm @ 2000-4500rpm
Weight: 1680kg
0-100km/h: 4.0sec (claimed)
Top speed: 290km/h (claimed)
Fuel consumption: 10.4L/100km (claimed, combined)
Price: $160,900*
On-sale: Now

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Likes: Hugely improved ride comfort; same old ridiculous twin-turbo acceleration; rear-drive thrills; easier to enjoy thanks to brilliant new multi-mode ESP/TC; eager, precise handling; awesome V8 noise; beautiful cabin, steering wheel and much-improved infotainment software
Dislikes: Another level of refinement still imaginable; new transmission still asks for a bit of patience with multiple downchange requests in quick succession

2019 Mercedes-AMG C63 S sedan options – highlights

Exterior Carbon Package, $8200: carbon-fibre front bar insert, sill panels, rear bar insert, mirror covers and rear wing. Get it if you have a thing for carbon-fibre but not to improve the power-to-weight ratio.
Interior Carbon Package, $2200: carbon-fibre interior trim inserts, including steering wheel. Again, for those who must have the glossy dark weave.
AMG Carbon Ceramic brakes, $7900: Replaces front brakes with 402mm carbon ceramic items. Up to 50 per cent decrease in critical unsprung weight. Longer service life than steel items; significantly less brake dust.
Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tyres, $1200: Replaces standard tyres (Michelin Pilot Super Sport) with more track focused Cup2.

2019 Mercedes-AMG C63 S variants and pricing*
Sedan – $160,900 (increase of $4060)
Coupe – $165,900 (increase of $2660)
Estate – $163,400 (increase of $4060)
Cabriolet – $184,000 (increase of $2760) 

*All prices correct as of February 2019. Exclude on-road costs.

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