WAY BACK in a previous era – predating alternative facts, post truth, and before comb overs ruled the world – pointing to the ‘flagship’ of any automotive model range was simple: it was the fastest, most expensive model on offer.
These days, the water surrounding ‘flagships’ is a little murkier. Are we talking about the fastest? Or the most expensive? If it’s the latter, then you’re looking at the current pinnacle of the Mercedes-AMG C-Class range: the C63 S Cabrio. For the buyer who asks to be pointed to the ‘best’ C-Class in the showroom, then $179,900 says this is it. It’s nearly 18 grand more expensive than the Coupe, and its roof retracts in 20sec, at speeds below 50km/h.
And speaking of comb-overs, the C63 S Cabrio will do its damndest to keep one intact, providing the very best Mercedes can engineer in terms of open-top airflow management. Granted, if you go for a probe of the top speed – not quoted, but the coupe is reportedly good for 290km/h, so let’s call it 275km/h – you may end up looking like you’ve had a bit of budget Thai botox. But at around the speed that most Aussie customers won’t exceed on public roads, the cabin turbulence is more a light, playful zephyr, with little impact on conversation or enjoyment of the excellent Burmester audio system.
But back to the original quandary: the C63 Cabrio is not the performance flagship of the C-Class range. That title still very much belongs to the Coupe, which retains a noticeable stiffness advantage and, significantly, appreciably more handling precision, thanks to a 125kg weight advantage. Those extra kegs knock the Cabrio’s 0-100km/h sprint back by 0.2sec; Mercedes claiming 4.1sec against the Coupe’s 3.9sec.
But it’s really the perennial cabrio-roof engineering hurdles that the C 63 S attempts to leap that hold it back from greatness.
This AMG model gets only the stiffening and bracing measures applied to the other three models in the cabrio line-up, and while it’s sure no wobbly old decapitated Coke can, Aussie roads are still capable of delivering a shake-up that can ruffle it just a little.
First you notice the slight tremors in the rearview mirror; higher speed and bigger hits can make the header-rail quiver. Not a big deal, but not helped by the fact the Cabrio runs identical damper settings – read, very firm – to the Coupe. That means the comfort mode is decidedly, unrelentingly sporty, and the Sport+ and Race modes are like denim stapled to hardwood.
But the ‘alternative’ facts are these: this is still a relentlessly rapid performance car with a twin-turbo streetfighter’s heart.
Knock yourself out.
Weight gain over coupe; occasional body tremors; tight boot space Roof quality and insulation; ease of roof operation; still bloody quick Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Mercedes-AMG C63 S Cabriolet 3982cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, twin-turbo 375kW @ 5500-6250rpm 700Nm @ 1750-4500rpm 7-speed automatic 1850kg 4.1sec (claimed) 9.4L/100km $179,900 Now
Here are two comparative numbers no C63 S Cabrio buyer will give a flying buttress about, but we’ll share them anyway: the Cabrio will officially drink an extra 0.7L/100km (now 9.4L/100km) over the Coupe, but expect real-world consumption closer to midteens.
More relevant may be the reduced luggage space with the roof open: it’s carry-on or soft gym bags only; suitcases will need the rear seat. Roof up, capacity is the same as the Coupe.