/ 15 June 2024

EXCLUSIVE | Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance review

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The Mercedes-AMG C63 S E puts out 500kW and 1 020Nm driving all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission.

Ah, the C63! Yes, it took the baton from the already impressive W203 C55 AMG, but instead of a 5.4-litre (270kW and 510Nm) normally aspirated engine, the W204 C63 made do with the sledgehammer that is the 6.2-litre (336kW and 600Nm), naturally aspirated V8 powerplant. 

I can vividly recall the launch of the latter in the Free State. We flew into Bloemfontein where a gaggle of Merc C63s awaited us. The plan was simple — we would drive to Welkom’s Phakisa raceway and race them around the oval track as quickly as possible to our hearts’ content. That remains one of the most memorable media launches in my career. 

Since then, I have driven just about every iteration of the W204 C63 generation — mostly blunt instruments with colossal power — culminating in the hardcore, yet sublime, Black Series (380kW and 630Nm) derivative. 

Yes, indeed, the latter model not only had more power but also had a stiffer chassis setup and a more aggressive differential that allowed lurid sideways-driving antics. 

In 2015 we had the arrival of the W205 C63 S, replete with a downsized four-litre bi-turbo V8 with 375kW and 700Nm. 

This saw a bump up in power, but mostly that torque figure, however, the engineers had one challenge — getting that signature V8 engine note fine-tuned for fans of the model. 

While the exhaust note was fruity enough, it just wasn’t as intoxicatingly guttural as the W204, which remains a firm favourite among C63 aficionados. 

So, the news that the next-generation W206 C63 would be hybridised was met with some choice words, but it was the fact that the combustion engine would go from a V8 to a four-cylinder with a two-litre displacement that caused the most consternation.  

As officially the first publication to get its hands on this latest, locally produced C63 SE Performance, we wanted to answer a few questions. Has the downsizing worked here? Does the vehicle deliver handsomely on the performance front? Moreover, would this model appeal to previous-generation owners? 

To get the answers, we took the vehicle to our test track and put it through its paces. The vehicle had been meticulously run in (for 1 500km) for us so we could exploit the full potential of the powerplant. 

Speaking of which, the model boasts a two-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with 350kW and 545Nm, augmented by a 150kW and 320Nm electric motor powered by a 6.1kWh lithium-ion battery, propelling the rear wheels. 

As a result of this, the total system output is a staggeringly impressive 500kW and 1 020Nm driving all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Merc claims it does 0 to 100km/h in 3.4 seconds but we managed a time of 3.34 seconds. That is rapid for a compact sedan (at least as far as its pecking order in the range goes) that weighs 2.1 tonnes. 

A complex car to decipher, the new C63 S E Performance has eight driving modes, five levels of electric battery recuperation, and four functions for the electronic stability control. 

While the battery pack will give you only around 13km of electric drive, it is designed mainly to supplement the combustion engine and give you extra performance, particularly at the bottom of the rev range, where the turbocharged engine is still getting into its stride. 

Dial everything up to Race mode and the ESP to Sport or Off and experience a rocketship-like performance. It bangs through the gears with alacrity and sends you down the road at quite a rate. 

Thankfully, this new C63 is not a one-trick pony as the engineers have done a great deal to the chassis tuning to ensure that it tugs through corners with poise and confidence-inspiring grip levels. There’s a neutral, delicate, yet playful nuance to the handling that runs rings around any C63 that came before. 

So, an impressive piece of kit, right? Yes, there is no discounting the C63’s breadth of talent but there’s an elephant in the room — the lack of a V8 under the bonnet. 

You see, owners of previous-generation C63s and admirers alike were drawn to the model not by its performance but by its thumping V8. But that is gone and I reckon Mercedes will need an altogether different strategy to market this model. 

It remains an impressive feat of engineering that will be spoken of in the hallowed halls of motoring in the future. However, the C63 has its work cut out for it to find its niche.

And at the lofty starting price of R2 476 800 it is R300 000 north of the BMW M3 Competition M xDrive and R100 000 dearer than the Audi RS 6 Performance, which plays in a higher segment of the market. 

We will, in due course, compare the BMW M3 Competition M xDrive to the Mercedes-AMG C63 SE Performance to see if the price difference is justifiable.