Mercedes-AMG C63 S

FIRSTDRIVES

GLENN BUTLER

Many things have changed, but one stays the same

SPECS

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Mercedes-AMG C63 S 3982cc V8 (90į), dohc, 32v, twin turbochargers 375kW @ 5500rpm 700Nm @ 1750-4500rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1655kg 4.0sec (claimed) 8.6L/100km $154,900 July

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

PROGRESS is a bitch, relentlessly steamrolling its way towards Ďa better future for allí, whether we want it to or not.

Sure, progress has its good points: we live longer, eat better and have more toys on which to fritter our higher disposable incomes. But progress must also take the blame for killing some of lifeís little pleasures. Mix tapes.

Love letters. Football all-ins. Idle moments. Sunday roasts. The free-breathing V8 engine.

With the new-generation Mercedes-AMG C63 sedan and wagon launched internationally in February, AMGís brilliant 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 is all but gone. Only one model survives, and thatís the low-volume C63 Coupe, which is on death row ahead of an all-new turbocharged model later this year.

The W205 C-Class-based C63 sedan and wagon are the first mainstream Benz models to get the mighty new 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 from the recently launched AMG GT super-coupe. And in full GT 375kW/700Nm tune, too, in the case of the potent C63 S, which is the only model weíll see because Mercedes-Benz Australia has no intention of importing the 350kW/650Nm Ďbaseí C63. The GTís M178 engine and the C63ís M177 version are not totally identical, but theyíre close: The more extreme GT employs a dry-sump set-up.

Benz has not only thrown one of the worldís great V8s under the wheels of progress, itís had the temerity to retain the badge, even though the numbers 6 and 3 bear even less relevance with the new engine. Why? Because ĎC63í has built market awareness too great to sacrifice. In short, naming the new car ĎC40í would have resulted in lost sales.

So, old badge for a new engine in an all-new car.

Another hand-me-down from the AMG GT are the dynamic engine mounts, which Benz says can soften to reduce vibration and stiffen to improve vehicle dynamics on demand.

Straight-line performance is the most obvious beneficiary of AMGís engine largesse, even though the old V8 was no slouch.

The C63 S accelerates from standstill like no C-Class AMG before it. Officially, Benz claims a 0-100km/h time of four seconds flat, which is faster than even the fastest last-gen C63, the 373kW Edition 507 (4.2sec).

Typical of modern turbo engines, the 4.0-litre V8 generates peak torque across a wide rev range, in this case from 1750 to 4400rpm. This manifests as always-ready acceleration, regardless of the selected gear or vehicle speed. It certainly helps if the driver primes the engine with a gear that lands it in the 4000-5000rpm sweet spot, because thatís where it feels the most relentless. But at anything from 2000rpm, the C63 S surges with vitality and vigour.

Itís louder, too. A lot louder, and not with the windy whoosh often found with twin turbos. Mounting the turbos inside the vee instead of below the cylinder banks helps those delectable V8 notes dominate the hurricane aurally.

The result is a thunder-filled soundtrack whenever the throttle is pressed in earnest with Sport mode selected.

Then thereís the 21-canon salute that welcomes every full-throttle gearchange, and the now-customary AMG burble, gurgle and belch on overrun.

Itís an aural accompaniment wonderfully in tune with the carís ballistic capabilities, although it does feel a touch contrived.

But thereís no denying it adds immensely to the enjoyment, and thatís surely the point.

For less enthusiastic motoring miles, the C63 S can be suitably demure, but thereís always a hint of V8 rumble.

Visually, the new C63 is too understated, despite a road-eating front spoiler and black alloys. The rear looks more muscular with its quad tailpipes and bootlid lip-spoiler. Overall, though, the exterior is a reflection of the C63ís duality. Yes, it is bought because of the way it pulverises the tarmac, but most times itís gliding through peak-hour traffic.

It straddles those opposing worlds as well as can be expected.

The suspension has some bumpsoaking abilities, but this is a sports sedan and body control is paramount, so the ride is firm and at times overly reactive to surface changes, especially hollows and more aggressive undulations.

The steering is light and easy, and provides decent feedback on front-end load.

But for me the C63ís best asset is the one I expected to like least before driving it: the engine.

This new twin-turbo V8 is a monster, no question, yet itís a refined and responsive beast that reacts precisely to throttle inputs, and that helps the driver get the most out of rear-end traction. Itís easy to obliterate the tyresí grip on the tarmac with an exuberant push on the throttle, but itís also surprisingly easy to feel when the rear is reaching its limits, and keep it just shy of smokiní and slidiní.

Part of that rear-end finesse is due, no doubt, to the electronic locking rear differential unique to the S Ė the base C63 gets a slower mechanical rear diff Ė which helps get power down earlier and more confidently out of corners.

But itís equally due to AMGís adroit tuning of engine response.

This is a twin-turbo application that closely mimics the best characteristics of its naturally aspirated predecessor, while outperforming it in both realworld mumbo and fuel efficiency.

On that last point, Benz claims the C63 S uses almost 40 percent less fuel than the M156 C63 (8.4L/100km v 13.5), according to European laboratory test standards. The saving may not be as big as that in the real world, especially once owners discover the delights of this new engine, but it will still be substantial.

So not only is the C63 S a thoroughly engaging performance sedan to drive, its respect for the driver being paramount, itís also kinder on the wallet day-to-day and Mother Nature. Hard not to like that.

In fact, thereís very little to dislike with the new C63 S, even the price. At $154,900, itís not what anyone would call affordable, but it is justifiable.

Itís also exactly what this carís distant ancestor, the C36, cost two decades ago.

Thatís commendable, given the huge advances the C63 makes over its immediate predecessor, let alone the 1995 C36.

Maybe progress has some redeeming qualities after all.

PLUS & MINUS

Reactive ride; tyre noise; styling too understated Searing performance; throttle response; soundtrack; handling; price

Itís a lot louder, wonderfully in tune with the carís ballistic capabilities

Reserved, or not

VISUALLY, the C63 S is a sleeper, with only smokey 19-inch alloys, extended body skirts and quad exhausts advertising its dynamic abilities.

The interior takes cues from other Benzes Ė most notably A-Class dash styling and S-Class door-mounted seat controls and speakers Ė and makes more of the sporting theme. Heavily bolstered leather front seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel set the tone, and thereís plenty of carbonfibre throughout.

Benzís $7900 Edition 1 package adds red highlights to the alloys and front grille, and chromes the exhaust tips.

You also get red seatbelts, which may or may not buckle up faster than the standard black belts.

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