“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” – a concept as old as motorsport itself.
If there’s any truth to it, then there is something to be said for Lewis Hamilton winning his seventh Formula One world championship in 2020. Breaking record after record, Hamilton is undoubtedly the best F1 driver of his generation, and arguably among the best of all time.
While his talent seems to know no bounds, Hamilton hasn’t been able to get the credit he deserves because Mercedes-AMG knows a thing or two about building engines and putting a winning car together. The performance brand’s roadgoing vehicles may not exactly share the same parts with Hamilton’s race car, but research and development extrapolated from racing has a way of trickling down into mass-produced high-performance vehicles.
Connecting F1 innovation to a Mercedes-Benz C-Class may seem like a stretch, but then the 2020 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S is not your everyday C-Class.
Fuel Economy: 6.5/10
It likely won’t come as any sort of shock that this car’s 4.0L twin-turbo V8 is thirsty, particularly when piloted – shall we say – enthusiastically. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) lists fuel consumption numbers as 13.9 L/100 km in the city, 9.2 on the highway, and 11.8 combined.
Over the course of a week with the vehicle, it saw a mix of city traffic, some rural corner carving, and several long highway stretches. During that time, I averaged 12.8 L/100 km. Projected numbers are often way off from what you experience in the real-world, but this surprisingly wasn’t the case.
Equipped with an engine start/stop function that shuts the engine off at idle to reduce emissions, I admittedly opted to turn it off most of the time. Unlike a quiet, fuel-sipping four-cylinder, the V8 roaring to life was obvious and even a bit abrupt at times.
A six-figure price tag for a C-Class will immediately turn some people off, but they aren’t the sort this car is built for to begin with. The C 63 S was painstakingly assembled for the kind of person who truly appreciates driving dynamics over comfort and wants to fly under the radar. Outfitted in a dark matte finish dubbed Designo Graphite Grey (a $2,500 option), certainly many lines can be drawn to a past AMG known as the Hammer.
Boasting a tuned, big-bore V8 stuffed into a limited number of black midsize coupes and sedans in the mid-1980s, the package included a widebody kit and an automatic transmission. The Hammer was capable of roasting tires with reckless abandon, spanking Ferraris with ease, and yet it didn’t appear to be anything out of the ordinary to all but a few AMG enthusiasts.
The C 63 S revives this grand tradition with the help of modern engineering and technology in a manner that is incredibly cost-effective based on some very fast, informal math. Car and Driver tested a Hammer sedan in 1986 that carried a price tag of US$137,000. Taking inflation into account, that would be comparable to Mercedes-Benz charging $325,485 in 2020 – and that’s before converting into Canadian funds. So, while $110,450 isn’t an insignificant sum, you get a great deal of value for the money.
I may be dating myself, but it doesn’t seem too long ago that if you wanted a performance coupe packing north of 500 hp that was capable of doing 0–100 km/h runs in under four seconds, you were limited to a handful of vehicles on the planet that were out of reach but all for a few wealthy and well connected individuals. 2020 has indeed had more downs than ups, but one of the benefits to being alive today is the abundance of options for (relatively) affordable performance.
The 255 hp put out by the Mercedes-Benz C 300 coupe’s turbocharged four-cylinder is more than adequate for most people. But you’re not most people, are you? Churning out 503 hp at 5,500 rpm, the peak 516 lb-ft of torque is available at as low as 2,000 rpm. Thanks to all that torque, 100 km/h can be reached from a standstill in 3.9 seconds. Robust acceleration and tire shredding power never feel remotely out of reach no matter what gear you’re in.
Driving Feel: 9.5/10
Sliding behind the AMG Performance steering wheel ($650), it immediately becomes evident that performance and driving dynamics take top billing while comfort gets the figurative back seat. Brushed aluminum, leather, and carbon fibre abound, the cockpit is purpose-driven but refined, with a substantial feeling of quality. Steering is quick, responsive, and direct while the suspension is firm, bordering on harsh – even in the softest settings.
Noise from the optional sticky and staggered 19- and 20-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires transfers into the cabin loud and clear. These characteristics will likely divide the crowd, as some will lament while others will appreciate. If you’re searching for a performance-oriented coupe that doesn’t skimp out on the creature comforts, you’d likely be better served by an Audi RS 5 or Lexus RC F.
The C 63 S is a thoroughbred that requests – nay, demands – the driver’s attention. The ability to scroll through various driving modes on the centre console or steering wheel can be augmented by making ad hoc adjustments to suspension and exhaust sound, or to change gears via the paddle shifters. The brakes are incredibly responsive without feeling too touchy. Massive AMG carbon-ceramic brakes are available as an upgrade. They reduce weight and stopping distances with higher fade resistance when pushed hard, but come with a $6,900 price tag.
Often credited to his famous character Morticia, Addams Family creator Charles Addams is quoted as saying, “What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” How you see this car depends entirely on your prerogative. For those expecting a cutesy coupe that will get them to yoga or grab groceries with a bit of extra panache, it will be abrasive and terrifying. However, these same attributes will have true driving enthusiasts cackling maniacally with glee.
For those with a trim waistline, the AMG performance seats ($2,300) are wonderfully supportive, while those of larger stature will find them tight and uncomfortable.
Unlike some brands where an S badge denotes little more than an appearance package, the C 63 S has serious substance. The wonderfully boisterous handcrafted engine can be heard from the cockpit, and the rear wheels can be cracked loose in virtually any of the nine gears. It is unapologetically loud and brash, somewhat approaching supercar territory. Taking it on a long drive was actually more comfortable than I would have expected, depending upon road quality, of course.
Boasting $24,250 worth of optional equipment, the C 63 S I tested came well equipped to say the least. The $1,900 Technology package adds steering-responsive LED lighting with automatic high-beams and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The $5,500 Premium pack features active park assist, the centre console touchpad controller that operates the 10.25-inch infotainment display, 360-degree camera views, voice control, a premium sound system, power trunk with foot activation, integrated garage door opener, wireless phone charging, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.
User Friendliness: 7/10
Unlike the other C-Class trim levels, there’s no all-wheel-drive option on this AMG version. Traction control and dynamic stability electro-nannies do their part to limit slip at various points based on driver selectable modes, but winter driving may not be of interest to most buyers. The chassis, while taught, is supremely well balanced. It’s easy to find a suitable driving position and adjust the power heated and cooled seats with buttons conveniently located on the door. Digital instrumentation is easy to read, and the infotainment system is relatively intuitive.
My usual gripe about the location of the Mercedes gear selector remains, as it happens to be where most companies place their windshield wiper stalks. The rear seating area is not cavernous by any stretch, but the back seats will accommodate children, or even average-sized adults for short periods of time.
The wireless charging pad is a welcome addition, however, its location leaves something to be desired. Once a device is in place it can be difficult to retrieve, and when cupholders are in use the compartment becomes completely out of reach.
The C 63 S may not have the same supercar mystique as the AMG GT, but it also doesn’t come with the price tag, either. And it has four seats. It may share some body panels, underpinnings, and interior bits with the C 300, but this is a very different car. The AMG’s wider stance, bigger wheels, added aero, and carbon-fibre goodies inside and out create a great deal of distance between the more sedate and civilized C-Class models.
High sales numbers of the C-Class could be considered as something of a double-edged sword for the automaker. On the positive side, it drives revenue through sales, aftersales, service, and certified pre-owned; but the downside is that a C-Class has become such a ubiquitous sight in most Canadian cities that it has lost all its exclusivity. The AMG brings that feeling of superiority back through its menacing styling cues and added performance prowess, but doesn’t appear to be that dissimilar to the C 43 to the untrained eye for those who care about that kind of thing.
On one hand, the C 63 S is a high-performance rear-wheel-drive coupe, but on the other hand it’s a performance car with style and substance that also has a back seat capable of accommodating passengers with legs, and a trunk large enough to allow more than a briefcase. And unlike most vehicles bordering on supercar territory, it offers enough comfort and ground clearance to be a daily driver.
While driving a high-performance vehicle may initially feel intimidating for some, there’s something to be said for being engaging and responsive. By its very nature, you can hear and feel what the car is doing at all times. Sharp steering and brisk acceleration combined with big honkin’ brakes allow a higher level of agility and control. The optional Intelligent Drive package ($2,700) adds an array of driving assist features to keep a safe distance from other vehicles and stay in your lane. Active and evasive steering assists are part of the package, as are lane-keeping and lane-change assists, active braking, emergency braking, and cross-traffic functions. Active speed limit and traffic sign assists are accompanied by route-based speed adaptation.
There are a number of highly capable models in this segment, all of which feature base pricing and packaging that are within a stone’s throw of each other. The BMW M4 makes similar horsepower from its turbocharged inline-six-cylinder but is way down on torque. It may be available with all-wheel drive, but it has one less gear, and let’s just be honest – the new front-end styling is horrendously bad.
Once boasting a soulful, high-revving 4.2L V8, the Audi RS 5 is now powered by a 444 hp, twin-turbocharged 2.9L V6. It, too, is mated to an eight-speed transmission. The power output may be the same as its predecessor, but it just doesn’t have the same presence as the former V8. Sometimes there’s no replacement for displacement.
The Merc’s engine, on the other hand, has personality to spare. A compelling argument could also be made for the Lexus RC F with the optional Track pack, but its trackpad infotainment system is reason enough for it to be removed from the list of vehicles I’d recommend.
The 2020 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S somehow strikes a keen balance between raw and refined. Granted, it may be too harsh for some, but those who appreciate the single-mindedness of its purpose will take pride in knowing that they’ve made the right purchase. If you’re looking for a winning pedigree, you can’t get much better.
|503 hp @ 5,500–6,250 rpm
|516 lb-ft @ 2,000–4,500 rpm
|13.9 / 9.2 / 11.8 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
|2020 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe
|Price as Tested
$24,250 – Technology Package, $1,900; AMG Night Package, $1,000; AMG Aerodynamics Package, $1,500; Premium Package, $5,500; Intelligent Drive Package, $2,700; Designo Graphite Grey Paint, $2,500; Matte Black 19- and 20-inch AMG Forged Cross-Spoke Wheels, $2,000; AMG Carbon Fiber Trim, $1,500; AMG Performance Front Seats, $2,300; Climate Comfort Front Seats, $1,200; AMG Performance Steering Wheel, $650; AMG Head-Up Display, $1,500