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2016 Mercedes-AMG C63 S long-term review

By Nathan Ponchard, 25 Oct 2016 Reviews

2016 Mercedes-AMG C63 S long-term review

The Mercedes-AMG C63 S' monster V8 rumbles into our Garage for an epic nine-month stay.

MY NEW long-term ride has arrived with a bang – literally, according to neighbour Amber, who thinks the C63 S’s sports exhaust sounds like a bomb going off when I crank it over in the backyard.

In Lamborghini fashion, a cold start in the twin-turbo V8 AMG means a fairly high initial idle and, if the centre-console button with dual-exhaust icon is depressed, enough bass to rattle a neighbourhood that appears to have more interest in efficient public transport than the machismo of AMG’s breathed-upon Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Mercedes -AMG-C63-S-interiorMulti-digit, dial-and-touchpad control interface is reasonably intuitive, allowing you to scrawl letters and numbers, or twist and press.

Exhaust rumble aside, this Iridium Silver Mercedes-AMG C63 S has blended into the local landscape a little more politely than the black BMW M4 manual coupe I piloted for four months a year ago. The litany of high-vis-wearing workmen renovating and constructing like crazy in Sydney’s Inner West appear to care less for the AMG’s subtly flared bodywork and ‘stock’ star-shaped 19-inch wheels than they did for the M4’s black-on-black badness, though I reckon that’s a good thing.

Only those who truly appreciate automotive aggression will spot this C63’s carbon-ceramic front brake rotors ($9900 extra) and four massive bronze-painted calipers, as well as its semi-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres ($1200), but that’s part of the beauty of this car. It’s not trying to be anything more than it is, though the sum of its parts produces a pretty stupendous overall tally. A twin-turbo V8, brilliant AMG Performance sports seats, a panoramic glass roof and a thunderous 13-speaker Burmester stereo will do that to a car.

READ MORE: Mercedes-AMG news and reviews

But don’t be fooled by its relatively understated exterior. This is a pretty serious performance car – certainly more serious than I’d expected. Given I was coming into this long-term loan cold (I hadn’t even sat in a W205 C63), its very disciplined ride, even in Comfort mode, and sports-focused transmission came as something of a surprise.

The C63’s ride is fine for my tolerant cheeks, though others have expressed a desire for greater compliance. And the Speedshift-MCT seven-speed transmission takes some getting used to. In Comfort drivetrain mode, it always starts in second gear, which means off-the-line getaways require a fair amount of right-foot travel to muster all that turbocharged torque into action. And if you’re in a hurry, it can be inordinately slow to obey commands and get moving. The more you try and rush it – particularly when engaging reverse – the slower it seems to be … which sounds just like me getting ready to go out. Snap!

Mercedes -AMG-C63-S

The carbon brakes have proven superbly effective in town, without any screeching or dead-pedal response, even when cold. And while the semi-slicks require some care during a Sydney rain dump, they’re grippier than you’d think. That said, even in the dry, with ESP Sport hiding in the wings, the C63 S has more than enough muscle to break traction.

When I collected 1DF-6IS from Mercedes-Benz’s warehouse in December, it was parked in front of a white Edition 1 Estate, with black 19s, red accents and all the toughness I’d have probably ordered myself had a $165K performance car been on the shopping list. But I now really appreciate this silver sedan’s understated menace. Especially after my gauche Christmas ride (see below). Here’s hoping the police view it the same way when I inevitably tackle the Putty Road to the Hunter Valley in the coming weeks.

UPDATE #1

By Nathan Ponchard

UNHEALTHY as it is, consuming a gullet-load of drinks and washing it down with some fast-food gloriousness at 1am is a great way to bond with fellow humans. Some of the finer conversational details may be lost in the process but there’s a warm-and-fuzzy feeling associated with letting rip in fine company that can seal a friendship.

That’s how I feel about the Mercedes-AMG C63 S. Initial misgivings over its brusque and unforgiving nature – especially when tackling low-speed traffic snarls and bumpy urban roads – have transitioned into a much more tolerant, almost lovey-dovey relationship phase.

Mercedes -AMG-C63-S-interior

Having fully stretched 1DF-6IS’s muscular legs over the past two months and 1700 kays, including a soon-to-be-published comparo, I now fully comprehend what this 375kW slingshot is capable of.

It’s an intensely serious sports sedan – the polar opposite of gentlemanly older AMGs – and the trade-off for that focus is low-speed firmness. It will surprise nobody that the faster you go, the better the C63 S gets.

WHEELS REVIEW: Mercedes-AMG C63 S

I’ve found a solution for its urban driveability issues. Instead of defaulting to ‘Comfort’ mode and quietly cursing the laborious off-the-line slurring as it starts in second gear, I now drive the C63 solely in ‘Individual’, mixing Comfort dampers with a livelier Sport drivetrain setting, a rumbling sports exhaust note and a more forgiving ‘ESP Sport’ safety net for the stability control.

In conjunction with semi-slick tyres, you’d think it was a step too far for standing-start traction but that isn’t the case. The Speedshift-MCT seven-speed holds onto gears a smidge too long at times in Sport but it makes the C63 feel genuinely quick. Sure, there has been the odd oversteer moment when plugging traffic gaps but at least its flow isn’t being spoiled by electronics.

Mercedes -AMG-C63-S-bootA long weekend away demonstrated the C-Class’s inherent practicality. And my inability to pack light.

About the only thing that can’t be remedied by pushing a button is the steering. Given that Sport, Sport + and Race are all too stiff for road driving in Australia, and group together all dynamic adjustments, there’s no chance of upping the meat of the steering while leaving the dampers ‘cushy’.

One particular corner on my work commute – a smooth, downhill left-hander just past Redfern station – makes the steering feel kinda slack, almost as if lane-assist is trying to make directional corrections, especially if the front treads aren’t bang on 38psi. And selecting Sport doesn’t cure it.

Yet when the C63’s vast roadholding reserves are fully explored, its steering becomes faithfully crisp and communicative, allowing this wonderfully poised little groover to be placed with precision.

Could it be related to our optional semi-slick tyres? When the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s get swapped for regular road rubber in the coming weeks, we’ll know for sure.

S express

Unlike other markets, Australia exclusively receives the range-topping 375kW C63 S, hence its firmly focused, ultra-sporting personality. Yet for what most punters do, the marginally more forgiving 350kW C63 riding on 18-inch wheels would be a more sensible and comfortable choice.

But Aussie AMG buyers can’t bear the thought of someone else having more power than they do, hence the ‘S’ on our C63’s bootlid. Wonder how owners will feel when the even more hardcore C63 S Coupe lobs in June?

Update #2

By Nathan Ponchard

AFTER last month’s thrash-and-dash extravaganza, all to the tune of the C63 S’s bent-eight rumble, it was back to humdrum urban duties for the AMG’s penultimate month on fleet.

A Mother’s Day blast up the M1 reminded me just how luscious the C63 can be when chewing up distance, but it’s a different beast when traversing the obstacle course of shopping-centre car parks.

2016 Mercedes-AMG C63 S

Experience has shown that relying on the drivetrain’s Comfort mode, and thereby cancelling out first gear, is anything but comfortable for the C63. As the transmission slips and slurs trying to channel enough torque to the rear wheels, the Mercedes-AMG C63 simply hangs about, wondering what’s going on. It’s especially hard-going in Sydney’s tight inner-city parking stations, where steep ascents and brutal speed humps leave the C63 struggling to transfer all its rev flaring into smooth forward momentum.

PLUS & MINUS: 2015 Mercedes-AMG C63S

The solution, as I’ve mentioned before, is Sport mode. And having relied solely on this set-up for months now, I reckon it’s both more economical and a more relaxing experience than the ironically named Comfort.

Direct drive to first gear means the C63 steps off the line beautifully, supported by surprisingly progressive throttle response that ensures the rear boots don’t instantly turn into whirly-birds in the wet.

Mercedes -AMG-C63-S-clockC63 has three clocks – two digital and one gorgeous IWC analogue – all showing the same time, as you’d hope.

And the Speedshift-MCT transmission doesn’t needlessly hold onto gears like so many two-pedal cars when switched to Sport. Instead, progression up its seven-ratio set mirrors how you might upshift in a manual, all to the tune of an angry nudge from the exhaust as it upshifts under load.

The Sport-primed transmission also eviscerates the top gear-obsessed Comfort setting by proving that you can have your cake and eat it too. Sport has no qualms settling into sixth or seventh, yet as soon as you call for instant forward thrust, AMG’s gearbox is immediately on the case, briskly shifting down with dual-clutch-rivalling haste.

Specs and features: Mercedes-AMG C63S

If you buy a car like the C63 S and only ever drive it in the city, you’re missing out on soooo much of this car’s richness.

Leaving the parents’ joint, there’s a right turn at a tight roundabout, followed by an uphill on-ramp leading straight into a 100km/h zone. It’s like dropping a green flag in front of the C63. With ESP Sport engaged, I flattened the aluminium throttle pedal and the C63 simultaneously grabbed the lowest gear possible and the hotmix surface below, shoving both occupants in the back as it turned that incline into something more like a downhill ski run.

Then there’s the addictive sideways nudge from the tail as it barks into third, a not-so-subtle reminder that 375kW and 700Nm are doing the talking.

Even knowing what’s up its sleeve, the C63 S never fails to surprise and satisfy.

Update #3

By Nathan Ponchard

THE warnings came like the sky was about to break: severe weather right down the east coast, nailing Sydney and its surrounds right about when I needed to point the Mercedes-AMG C63 north to attend a mate’s boozy LA homecoming.

Now, the sensible Nathan lurking somewhere deep inside would have ignored the Cup-tyred AMG sitting in the backyard and chosen the soothing suppleness of the Ford Mondeo Titanium Ecoboost parked out front. Believe me, I did consider it. But what kind of test would that be for this four-door sports car wearing the summeriest of summer tyres?

2016 Mercedes-AMG C63 S

Orthopaedic pillow packed and tunes prepped – Madonna’s Like A Prayer has stood the test of time better than you’d think – the C63 casually thundered and threaded its way, at the sat-nav’s insistence, via the Lane Cove tunnel and up through Ryde to the Pacific Hwy and the M1. Nice change, I thought, even though I have a deep mistrust of sat-nav.

Besides the rejection of Madge’s vocal stylings by the centre dash speaker, its grille buzzing to each beat as if being put through interrogation, the trip to Wamberal was uneventful. A pleasantly brisk and tuneful 120km/h cruise up the freeway, a duck into Dan’s in West Gosford for refreshments, a servo stop for chewy, and an hour and 20 minutes later I was parked. Only the speed hump I accidentally nailed at 60km/h on Old Gosford Road invaded the calm.

The way home, on the other hand, was a different story. It began innocently enough, cruising down Ocean View Drive feeling slightly dusty, intending to catch a glimpse of the raging surf, but instead treated to blankets of salt spray and a wall of white. Terrigal Drive threw a fallen tree into the mix, while Erina offered up some flash flooding, like we were in an AAMI commercial, which the Benz barged its way through.

2016 Mercedes-AMG C63 S

Then came the freeway and a pounding from above. For 30 minutes from Kariong to Wahroonga, the C63’s wipers never once cooled off from maximum thrust. I had the cruise set at 120km/h but the steep climb from Mooney Mooney Bridge saw rivers of water washing across the road, making any level of auto-pilot feel disconcerting, so I flicked it off, locked my thumbs onto the wheel spokes and hyper-focused.

Soon 120 became 110, then 85 as the C63 enjoyed moments of aquaplaning and the occasional drift of the right wheels into the breakdown lane. Nothing too serious, but enough for the odd intake of breath.

To maintain our pace on a road relatively free of traffic, I stuck to the centre lane through corners just in case 120km/h of forward momentum added an unwanted diagonal component to the mix, but the C63 did a top job of keeping its cool and powering through Mother Nature’s treachery.

The living end

Having spent nearly 3000km in a BMW M4 Coupe a year ago, the difference in liveability between the M car and the AMG is quite stark.

Despite its manual transmission (which I loved), the M4 seemed the sweeter of the two in full urban conditions. Softer seat padding, a slightly less rigid ride and a properly round steering wheel made up for the greater difficulty manoeuvring the M4’s longer doors. But the C63’s bad-boy personality and greater dynamic finesse are hard to beat.

Update #4

By Nathan Ponchard

ACCORDING to a UK survey, moving house is more stressful than divorce. Having just done exactly that – the house bit (for the fifth time in six years), not the divorce part – I reckon that’s probably stretching the truth a bit. The actual moving part isn’t the issue. It’s the aftermath of dust, boxes, clutter and mind-boggling mess. Did I mention dust?

Given the chaos of winter 2016 in our household, it’s no wonder the Mercedes-AMG C63 S has been restricted to commuting and ferrying duties. But in doing so it proved there’s a lot to be said for the often-ignored practicality of a roomy medium-sized sedan.

In the C63, full pack-horse duty requires a press of the boot button (either on the driver’s door, the keyfob, or squeezing under the numberplate plinth) before it electrically opens, then flicking a latch on each side under the rear parcel shelf to drop the 60/40 split backrest to a near-flat position.

2016-Mercedes -AMG-C63-S-Coupe -interior -driving

In this configuration, the AMG carted around the original spare wheel for my ’63 Galaxie, assorted car parts, our electronic recycling dump (goodbye Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin with redundant iPhone 4 connect), 200 bucks worth of Kennards moving boxes and, ahem, our front windows.

My haste to get the century-old wooden sash windows in our bedroom restored, and the domino effect of discovering missing counterweights and ill-fitting glass panes, meant I spent days running around Sydney like our carpenter’s PA (admittedly, in an AMG). I went to Bunnings three times in four hours, so if you noticed the C63’s heinous fuel consumption this month, there’s a reason why. Frustration. But boy does that engine and its exhaust note soothe the pain.

Unfortunately the AMG had to be sidelined for my final PA job. Picking up our beautiful primered window frames with 12 new rectangular panes of glass puttied in place was a task too big for the C63’s ride. I simply couldn’t risk driving at snail’s pace trying not to break a window when a perfectly acceptable Honda Civic VTi-S was available, waving its far superior ride quality in my face.

2016-Mercedes -AMG-C63-S-Coupe -side

The contrast was startling, for more than one reason. Yes, the Honda’s ride was comparative bliss, smoothing the speed humps and concrete-slab joins in our street like the ‘turbo’ putty plugging the imperfections in our refreshed windows, but its boot lacked the usefulness of the AMG’s.

A smaller cut-out through to the cabin, more intrusive panelling in the boot sides and rear-seat backrests that don’t fold as flat unexpectedly marked the new-gen front-drive Civic sedan as inferior to the more practical, better-trimmed, rear-drive C63 S. Honestly, who knew?

Hard and fast

That describes the C63’s ride alright, though because it’s so well-damped you don’t get that springy, vertical pitching sensation that was the Audi S4’s nemesis for so many years. This baby is tied down as tight as a drum, though at times it feels like an air-sprung billycart.

Besides the brilliant winged-back driver’s seat and its sophisticated layers of Nappa leather, there’s little cushioning between tyres and buttocks. But so long as you treat speed humps, potholes and road joins with respect, the C63 is a loveable rogue.

Update #5

By Nathan Ponchard

THERE’S one validation of a car’s greatness that isn’t always discussed, and that is the difficulty in saying goodbye. Like anything in your life, if you treasure your time together, separation smarts. Nine months in a twin-turbo Mercedes-AMG C63 S with ceramics and semi-slicks will do that to a person, yet I’m glad it has come to this. Mutual appreciation (I hope!) and a bond ’til the end of days.

What began as a slightly frosty introduction has grown to the point where I honestly feel like this Iridium Silver C63 S is mine. All mine, I tell you! I baby it like a doting father, parking it away from other cars in multi-storey lots, and as close to the gutter as possible in our narrow street without kerbing its star-spoke 19s. Admittedly, the front-right does have the odd small nick, where I’ve reversed in with lock on and ‘rested’ it on the gutter, but there are no scrapes to be ashamed of. And I’ve grown highly tolerant of the C63’s ride.

Our new digs (in yet another one-way street where everyone folds their mirrors in) is accessed via a mostly concrete-slab surface, and several of them don’t line-up properly. Not the AMG’s forte at all, yet its hard ride somehow cops the hits with dignity and integrity. Ditto the litany of speed humps populating my back way to the Sydney office.

2016-Mercedes -AMG-C63-S-seatsA hectic schedule has meant precious little time spent in the Benz over the last few months, but every time I clasp a doorhandle and hear it unlock, I’m reminded of how much I love the lightness of its aluminium doors (and the ‘thunk’ when you close them), the form-fitting support of its slim-backed sports seats, the terrific vision over its low cowl and ridged bonnet, the inherent rightness of the C-Class sedan’s overall size, and the deliciously anti-social rumble of its quad exhausts.

The C63’s cabin maintained its class and superb user-friendliness to the end, tempered slightly by a short-cushioned rear seat and the rather odd shape of its flat-bottomed, part-microfibre steering wheel. I frequently drove the C63 only touching the wheel’s leather bits, rather than dirtying its fluffy surfaces, and I often wondered why the hell you’d want a non-round wheel in a road car. At least my HJ Kingwood’s ‘oval’ wheel (with boomerang spoke shape) was designed to accommodate a beer gut.

TWO DOORS: 2016 Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe review

I wasn’t necessarily won over by the C63’s ‘standard’ 13-speaker, nine-channel, 590-watt Burmester stereo. Despite being simple to use, with digital radio a constant companion throughout our time together, the Burmester didn’t live up to the sound quality promised by its gorgeous perforated-metal speaker grilles. An audiophile mate and I both agreed it sounded too ‘bright’, and dialling back the treble couldn’t fix it. The centre dash speaker also developed a trim buzz, though only if you cranked the volume (via either a wheel button or a brilliant metal barrel dial on the centre console, easily accessed by either front occupant).

2016-Mercedes -AMG-C63-S-door -insert

If you approach the C63 well aware that this is a highly focused sports sedan, not a cushy straight-line brawler, then its charms can’t help but get under your skin. It’s an impossibly hard car to fault – especially if you have a work fuel card, and don’t mind leaving its drivetrain in Sport – with the dynamic excellence and prodigious performance worthy of a modern AMG classic.

So, yeah, I’m really gonna miss relaxing to rolling thunder and feeling a bit spesh in this C63 S. Its Holden Spark LS replacement better enjoy taking speed humps at 50.

Fuelling the fire

In full city gridlock, the C63’s thirst can be borderline fearsome (two tanks averaging 24.7L/100km and 25.2L/100km confirmed as much), though a more even mixture of urban motorway and city commuting levels the AMG’s thirst out at around the 13-15L/100km mark.

Best of the lot over 4381km of enthusiastic motoring was a pair of 10s during my round trip to Dubbo a few months back (10.7L/100km on a fast four-hour blast back to Sydney being a commendable highlight). But if you really care about fuel economy, best avoid anything with an AMG badge. And ignore this car’s official combined number of 8.6L/100km.

Medium heat works best

In much the same way that the original Commodore was arguably the perfect size for a family sedan, the C63’s W205 Mercedes-Benz C-Class architecture makes it a four-door sweet spot.

While the C’s short-cushioned rear seat appears to have been designed to steer punters into an E-Class if you’re chasing serious lounging comfort, there’s plenty of legroom back there, and at 1877mm wide (owing to its pumped guards), the C63 strikes a not-too-narrow, not-too-wide balance that suits our cities like a beer garden on a summery Friday arvo. It’s also reasonably trim length-ways (4750mm) but squeezes a leggy 2840mm wheelbase beneath.