x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Mercedes C63 Coupé is a full-sensory experience

Road Test The Mercedes C-Class coupé's seven-speed gearbox may be a chore, but this car's true charms lie below the bonnet.

The C63 Coupé may go slower into a corner than the lighter C250, but the AMG version will tear out of the bend faster thanks to its V8. Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz
The C63 Coupé may go slower into a corner than the lighter C250, but the AMG version will tear out of the bend faster thanks to its V8. Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The AMG hotshop isn't known for tippy-toeing around delicate problems. It's known for stuffing standard Benz bodies full of outrageous V8 engines, monster brakes and tyres and gearboxes that struggle to keep up with it all.

Part of the blame for that reputation lies with Benz, because prior to the arrival of the C-Class Coupé, AMG never had to worry about losing the handling sparkle from its donor Benzes.

But the company had to think the C63 AMG Coupé through with unprecedented care, and there are a few key numbers that prove the point.

For starters, while Benz has gone up in rubber size to 18-inch wheels, AMG has actually reduced the width of the front tyres from the standard car while widening the rear ones. It keeps the same ratio even if you option up to the larger, 19-inch wheels, too, so it clearly regards the tweak as key to handling.

With a thumping big lump of 6.2L V8 sitting up front, it's an effort to bring the handling balance back to the exquisite compromise of the C250. And, to a large extent, it's worked.

Even though the engine weighs 195kg, the entire car is almost 180kg heavier than the lightest petrol-powered C-Class Coupé and 115kg more than the C350.

That indicates how much more equipment sits inside the AMG version, as well as the weight of the engine, so it's taken some delicate juggling of the suspension to retain the handling prowess. It has wider tracks at both ends, runs more negative camber all around, uses its own three-link front suspension, a stronger version of the standard rear suspension, and adds bigger anti-roll bars.

But realistically, most AMG buyers won't see any of that. They'll be looking at the added V8 thump. While the 6.2L V8 has been largely superseded across the rest of the AMG range in favour of a twin-turbo V8, its peakier power delivery feels right at home here.

It's not just that it throws the two-door C-Class to 100kph in just 4.4 seconds, either. The sound it makes - a deep, spine-wobbling burble at idle and an urgent snarl at its 6,800rpm peak - is fantastic, but it doesn't deliver its 600Nm of torque until an unusually high 5,000rpm.

That gives it a fundamentally linear character that stretches the already balanced chassis and turns it into a hard-core machine for hard-core drivers (hard-core payers, too, at €72,590, or Dh390,000, in Germany before tax). It's the linearity of the engine that begs you to lift your commitment and drive the C63 hard, because this isn't the C-Class Coupé you can drive around on part-throttle and expect it to give its best.

The engine likes to be deep into its rev range before it really gets raging, but when the fireworks start, it's an impressive, full-sensory experience. It's a bellowing, crackling, popping, snarling monster of a thing, even if it's toting about 1,730kg in the relatively small C-Class body.

While it doesn't quite offer the same beautifully nuanced steering and chassis feedback of the C250, it compensates with far higher levels of outright grip and, of course, a far higher ability to punch out the far side of any corner.

Where the C250 is alive with information and dances with each subtle change in steering input or road surface, there's a blankness to the C63's steering on turn-in that no amount of power can compensate for. More grip or not, most people will be faster at the front half of a corner in the standard car just because it's easier to get to.

Fire it into a longer corner and it's a different story. The weight of the chassis quickly sits over the outside rear corner on throttle and you can alter the loaded wheel easily, depending on your inputs.

It's on corner exits that the C63 comes together, though. With the seven-speed gearbox paddled back for maximum effort, the combination of the V8 bellowing at high revs, the less-laden front end finally giving detailed feedback and a rear end squatting hard into the bitumen, it turns an OK experience into a pretty special car.

The grip on offer is tremendous, but the impressive thing is how easy the grip is to access. It's not a daunting car, like some AMGs. Rather, it's probably the most user-friendly of them all. Its biggest hiccup is the seven-speed transmission.

This is a gearbox nearing the end of its use as a stopgap between AMG's old five-speeder and a more-modern double-clutch unit, and the simple expedience of fitting a clutch pack to the back of a strengthened Benz seven-speed auto is wearing thin.

It can be caught out on part-throttle upshifts, taking its time before jerking your head in the change, and it's generally slower than you want to shift and you find yourself waiting for it to fit into the slickness and integration in the rest of the car. It never does.

Its brakes are, as ever, stupendous and cleanly good-looking inside their 18-inch wheels, while the interior features a few new trim bits that AMG would like to boast about instead of a clinically ergonomic driving position. Not that it matters, because this is a car whose main charms lie below decks, not above.

As ever, the C63 AMG Coupé isn't the fastest version you can buy, because there's also a performance pack with more power and more speed. With 29.5hp more power at the same 6,800rpm, the performance pack is enough to shove the little coupé to 100kph a tenth quicker, at 4.3 seconds, than its sibling.

It's a little lighter in the engine (strangely, AMG quotes it as 3kg lighter), but the car has the same overall weight and it also has the same 600Nm torque peak, presumably to keep the transmission alive.

AMG insists about 20 per cent of its global sales come with the performance pack, and with no downsides (not even fuel economy) to ordering it, it's tough to see why you wouldn't, assuming you can afford the extra €7,116.20 (Dh38,200) it will cost in Germany before tax.

The C63 Coupé will be available here in July, though prices have yet to be set.

 

The Specs

Base price N/A

Engine 6.2L V8

Gearbox Seven-speed automatic

Power 480hp @ 6,800rpm

Torque 600Nm @ 5,000rpm

Fuel economy, combined 12L/100km