We head Down Under to (attempt to) take the top off the latest convertible Mercedes
Road test: 2018 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Cabriolet
The Mercedes-AMG line-up has mushroomed over the years, to the extent that there are now no less than five Affalterbach-tweaked drop-tops in which you can get your bouffant wind-bashed until it reaches Trump-like proportions – not that this would be the desired outcome.
The latest al fresco addition to the range is the compact yet brawny AMG C63 S Cabriolet – a menacing, rumbling rag-top with visual machismo that is more than capably backed up by the titanic twin-turbo V8 motor stuffed within its aggressive snout. With outputs of 510hp and a stump-pulling 700Nm, the C63 S has power to burn, bolting from standstill to 100kph in 4.1 thunder-filled seconds. It could potentially have been even quicker if all that grunt didn’t overwhelm the tractive capabilities of the rear wheels.
Although the oily bits are as per the C63 S Coupé, the Cabriolet obviously gains a fabric top, which can be electrically raised or lowered in 20 seconds. But the loss of a key structural element (ie the metal roof) means the Merc boffins had to add strengthening to the chassis to prevent it from being rendered a floppy blancmange – in the process, bloating its girth by 125 kilograms over the coupé.
The roadster’s added weight and lost rigidity, even with the chassis-reinforcing measures, means it is not quite as dynamically sharp as the coupé. You can feel the car flexing slightly over corrugated surfaces, and its handling responses aren’t as sharp as the hardtop. It is still plenty quick, though, dispatching twisty back roads with great rapidity and panache.
For the majority of my five days with the car, I happen to be in Australia’s capital of Canberra – a bitterly cold and wet place in the southern-hemisphere winter. This means there are no opportunities to drop the roof (even with the neck-warming Airscarf system) and the damp tarmac has the car squirming for grip everywhere. Even light throttle applications prompt wheelspin – regardless of whether the electronic driver aids are activated – making it an unruly beast in these conditions. This wouldn’t be such an issue in UAE climes.
The other chink in the steroidal Cabriolet’s armour is a suspension set-up, which offers all the compliance of a bullock cart. OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but the C63 S roadster does ride with a greater degree of harshness than would be acceptable for many drivers – even with the dampers in their so-called “Comfort” setting. Again, though, this is not so much of a problem in the UAE, where most roads are billiard-table smooth.
In any case, these gripes are largely diminished by the C63’s breathtaking straight-line performance and spine-tingling soundtrack – press the button with the exhaust logo to get the full pyrotechnic effect. The cabin is also impeccably laid out, with an ambience that manages to be both sporting and cosseting. What’s more, the rear seats aren’t there for show only, providing decent accommodation for a pair of sub-1.8-metre-tall occupants.
The Cabriolet isn’t without its shortcomings, but I can’t help warming to its intoxicatingly brawny twin-turbo V8 and raucous bad-boy persona. Had the weather been more cooperative, the fun factor would have been even higher, with the top down.
It may not be as dynamically as its coupé sibling, but the C63 S Cabriolet is a sound choice for sun-loving, attention-seeking extroverts.