Test Drive: 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe

Flick the Mercedes-AMG C63 S into its Sport or Sport+ modes, and the tachometer flits upwards a few thousand revs with an action as instant, precise and accurate as the second hand on an expensive watch. In that timeframe, a sharp growl from the exhaust comes to life, as does a touch more rumble from the now riled-up engine, a heavier steering feel, and a marked increased tension throughout the ride.

Like having several cars in one, all accessible in an instant.

Just a click, and the C63 Coupe hunkers down, tenses up, digs in, and shows its teeth. Its ability to engage various personalities on the fly impresses, but the real showstopper is the speed at which the transformation occurs.

There’s no waiting. No delay. It all happens as quickly as you can tip the selector switch forward or back a click or two. Instantly, you toggle the C63 from a tire-liquefying missile, to a relatively comfortable highway cruiser, or anything in between, in stages. It’s like having several cars in one, all accessible in an instant.

This is one of many ways the C63 S AMG Coupe hopes to impress you, if you’re after a big-dollar, big-performance rocket-coupe built to compete with the world’s hottest sub-six-figure cars. If you’re after a big-power plaything, and if you’ve got a lust for thrust and a few demerit points to spare, here’s a performance machine that needs to be on your radar.

Performance is numbers. Figures. Pounds-feet of torque and seconds to accelerate to a target velocity, and feet to stop from that velocity, and g-forces when cornering. But more than that, a performance is a show. A spectacle. An event where noises and visuals and character traits are precisely deployed to create a certain feeling. It’s in this definition of the word “performance” where the C63 shines most brightly.

Powerful visuals help define it. Walk up to the C63, and there’s an obvious elegance to the bodywork. It’s free of much accenting, chiseling and busy details: clean and smooth, more than busy and overdone. It’s streamlined, not inflated, for a physique more Olympic swimmer than bodybuilder.

High-performance cues are on the subtle side: the integrated quad-tip exhaust, big red brake calipers, and “V8 Bi-Turbo” badge on the fender. It’s not a sleeper, but it doesn’t shout, either.

That is, unless you click the exhaust mode selector into its loud setting, in which case, the performance soundtrack of the C63 S takes centre stage. At full throttle, the sound mimics automatic gunfire and fireworks, and drenches the cabin richly with a snort that’s more Detroit than Deutschland. Click for an upshift, and there’s a pronounced snap between each gear. Click for a downshift, and loud, wholesome and satisfying pops are blasted into the C63’s wake.

“BRAP BRAP BRAP!!!” Third.

“BRAP BRAP BRAP… SNAP!” Second.

The sound makes you imagine fire licking out of the exhaust pipes.

And it’s so smooth, even a click down into first gear that sends the tachometer to its 7,000 rpm redline doesn’t cause any axle drag. This transmission knows what’s up, and it doesn’t mess around.

Take all of this to mean that the C63 is built for maximum return on investment for the owner who will partake in weekend motorsports: track school, lapping, time-attack days, and the like. You won’t get anywhere near the capability of this machine on a public road – so hit the track.

While doing so, an underlying character trait shines through: this is a confident hot-rod.

Confident, in the sense of its tremendously high limits, which more novice weekend-lapping drivers have access to plenty of from the get-go. But there’s a sensation that the car is a step above you at all times, and isn’t spoon-feeding you everything it has right off the bat. Some of the capability stays in reserve, making you dig a little and build up your skill level. It’s not as instantly flattering a car as, say, a Cayman, 911 or Stingray.

And it’s a hot-rod, in the sense of the nearly excessive V8 soundtrack, the massive on-demand torque, and the slippery, squirmy rear-end that frequently darts around on full throttle, with minimal overstepping of the traction control system, depending on the drive mode. Traction control off, this one will vaporize its tires, virtually on command.

A comparable Porsche, or a Corvette to a slightly lesser extent, has a great way of never feeling like it’s working too hard when pushed. The C63 does feel like it’s working hard – and it’s more entertaining, more overwhelming, and in some ways more rewarding for it. Where a 911, Cayman or Stingray makes you feel like a rock star from the get-go, the C63 makes you work at it. You always feel like there’s room to grow into this one.

As such, you have two jobs at track day in your new C63.

The first is matching the drive mode realistically to your skill level. Use Sport to start, and build from there. Rushing into Race mode and killing the traction control is not advised, since the traction control isn’t there to slow you down, and if you feel it engaging at all, it’s probably because you’ve made a mistake. Further, the C63 isn’t as forgiving as many in its competitive set. Big torque. Rear-wheel drive. Shocks that, in Sport mode, have scarcely more give than an iron girder. Turn the electronics off and get a little too ballsy, and the C63 can get ugly, fast.

Your second job at track day is to keep a step ahead of the car, at all times. You need to pre-arrange where and when to apply the throttle, and this car rewards gentle but firm inputs with the smoothest performance and fastest laps. Keep your eyes up, stay the course through small skids, always know where you are, and always have your next move dialled in. Get it all right, and the grin on your mug will be visible from orbit.

A few notables.

First, the brakes. They’re massively powerful and durable, though the feel at the pedal falls short of the precision and fine-tuned action you’ll feel in some competitors. More precise brake feel like you’ll find in, say, the BMW M4, inspires more confidence, but the C63 feels a measure less touchy and abrupt on braking when you’re just putzing through city traffic.

Second? The steering. Drive modes alter the steering feel a measure, but even at its most sporty, it’s a lighter and more feisty character than you’ll find in something with a heavier and more locked-on dynamic. This feels ideal for the driver who prefers to slip and slide a little, issuing quick and easy steering corrections as the car dances over the tarmac, rather than clamping onto it.

And third? Like any good car with multiple personalities, you can switch off all the aggression when you’re finished with it. Spend the day at a track in Sport or Sport+ mode, and the C63 will light your face on fire, all day long. Engage Comfort mode, and you’re gliding home in slightly stiff, quiet and laid-back comfort. While cruising the highway in no particular rush, it’s highly reasonable on fuel, too. This one’s track-day ready, long-haul touring ready, and everything in between.

A final note: be sure to compare this C63 to its arch-rival, the BMW M4. With the AMG, you’re getting sound effects, power output and thrust at a higher level, and enjoying a more raucous sensation when driving the thing hard. Even on noise alone, the C63 blows the M4 out of the water. The interior of the C63 is a measure more upscale and classy, too – adding value for the shopper who wants a car that’s as luxurious as it is silly-fast.

Oh, and give the ATS-V a try, as well. Though its dated interior is a light-year behind the C63’s, the dynamics and powertrain and precision feel of the Cadillac make it another personal favorite of mine, and a fantastic driving machine, and a fantastic highway cruiser, worthy of consideration.

It’s always nice to have choices.

Competitors:

Cadillac ATS-V BMW M4
2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe
Engine Displacement: 4.0L
Engine Cylinders: V8
Peak Horsepower: 503 hp @ 5,500–6,250 rpm
Peak Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 1,750–4,500 rpm
Fuel Economy: 13.8/10.1/12.1 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 355 L
articles_PricingType 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe
Base Price $85,800
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,495
Price as Tested $99,085
Optional Equipment $10,690 – Diamond White Metallic Paint $1,600; Intelligent Drive $2,700; Premium Package $4,800; AMG Night Package $1,000; 360-degree camera $590
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.9
9 Styling
9 Powertrain
9 Quality
7 Comfort
7 Practicality
8 Drivability
7 Usability/Ergonomics
7 Fuel Economy
8 Features
8 Value