Algarve, Portugal - (Yawn) My chauffeur seems slightly miffed. “The guy behind just turned left,” he says while checking the rearview mirror. “On the straight!” he chuffs before saying something in German to a colleague over the two-way radio in his right hand while nonchalantly holding the steering wheel with his left. My German is at best rudimentary, but I imagine he said something like: ‘Sheesh these guys are slow as molasses.’
Indeed they are. At every corner, the three South African writers following the lead car are falling farther and farther behind. They’re definitely a buzzkill. The driver says to me, “It’s an easy ride, yeah?” “These guys are kind of chill,” I reply. “No, these guys are slow.”
Bernd Schnieder looks over and smiles at me before giving some words of encouragement to the follow group over a second walkie-talkie. His points are moot though. My personal “Stig” still has to put it in park to give them a chance to catch up before the long, front straightaway. Meh.
It’s not every day you get the chance to try and chase down the most successful German touring car (DTM) driver of all time on a race track in southern Portugal. But when the time comes, you’d better make sure to make the best of it.
In its 48 years of existence, the performance and race engineering arm of MercedesBenz has created some truly iconic cars. The original AMG 300 SEL 6.8 “Red Pig,” the CLK GTR, SLS AMG and AMG GT all come to mind, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. There have been many lesser, but no less incredible AMG models since the days of the hippies. But only one can have the dubious distinction of being the tuner’s most successful product to date. That is the C 63 AMG.
The outgoing coupe-only version has been integral to AMG, more than doubling its sales since 2011 says Oliver Weich, Director of Vehicle Development. “It was, quite simply, a rocket ship for the road.”
I’m happy to report that is still the case on this latest version to come out of Affalterbach. It stays true to the V8 roots, with the company’s top-line “hot inside the V” 4.0-litre biturbo direct injection engine boasting two different output levels – 503 and 469 horsepower – for the S or non-S specifications, respectively. This is the very same engine the new flagship Mercedes-AMG GT S has, and it features Nanoslide cylinder liner technology to ensure the high-performance luxury saloon will have no trouble getting you to the office as quick as you dare, or lay waste to any racetrack you put it on without fuss.
Aside from the 34 horsepower and 37 lb-ft torque advantage, the S-Model gets a number of uprated features above the base C 63 AMG. These include electronic speed limiter deletion (290 km/h versus 250 km/h), AMG performance steering wheel and suspension, rear air suspension, electronic limitedslip differential, active engine mounts, red brake calipers, sport exhaust system, eco start/stop and engine heat recirculation. The S-Model also gets Pre-Safe, collision prevention assist, a full AMG exterior and interior, plus Nappa leather, designo silver seatbelts, power lumbar support and Audio 20 CD multimedia system with touchpad.
Mercedes-Benz has chosen southern Portugal to launch the 2015 C 63 AMG and the 2016 C 450 AMG 4MATIC. The amazing roads in this part of the world, and the Autodromo Internacional de Algarve are ideal to experience the two characters of these latest AMGs. The C 63 AMG in particular.
The C 450 AMG 4MATIC isn’t a true AMG, but rather an entry point to the mark (much the like the 4 Series M Performance model for BMW is an intro to the M brand) for those still on the fence, or who think the 63 is too much car. The second new AMG sports model has a 367-horsepower 3.0-litre (non-AMG) biturbo V6, permanent allwheel-drive, and suspension technology adopted from the C 63. Along with the recently introduced GLE 450 AMG Coupe, the C 450 AMG represents the second stage of a new model initiative to bring more emotionally-inspired AMG sports models to an even wider audience.
The drive out to the racetrack in the C 63 AMG S took us through the moun- tains on undulating tarmac ribbons that twist, turn, rise and fall through the lush countryside with aplomb. Dynamic engine mounts seem to smoothen the road as it’s being driven on, and the suspension system slices and carves the turns like the sharpest of knives through the toughest cuts of meat to yield only the finest thinly-sliced carpaccio.
AMG’s adaptable and highly-capable ride control sport suspension offers adjustments to the dampers in three preset stages (comfort, sport and sport plus) plus a customizable (individual) one, and the 10-way power adjustable seats are comfortable for everyday driving and supportive enough for track outings. The speed-sensitive electromechanical steering is tuned to perfection. The car has excellent turn-in response, and its cornering grip through the sleepy hillside villages – the narrow, curvy roads, blind corners and all – that our route passes through is tremendous.
The beautiful, lux’d-out interior of the C 63 AMG benefits from all the comfort, convenience and tech of the standard C-Class, and then some. Features such as the innovative touchpad to control all infotainment functions, the large (seven- or 8.4-inch) colour display, Burmeister surround system, Internet capability (via Bluetoothenabled phone with data) and more provide a business-like atmosphere. There are countless buttons and settings to help you stay in your lane, prevent collisions, see better after dark and more. The car will even park itself without the driver having to operate the gas or the brakes.
The C 63 AMG can indeed change its character on a whim, and its seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission is a thing of beauty with smooth and fast gear changes. Dynamic select drive programs allow tailoring to suit any number of situations, including the race track. Combined with the transmission’s manual shift mode and race start function, it knows how to boogie.
The upgraded AMG composite brakes are powerful, and easily reign in the 1,839-kilogram car at the end of the long, front straightaway, albeit with a bit of wiggle in the rear to keep drivers on their toes. This could be attributed to smaller rear discs (360 mm versus 390 mm in the front) and fewer pistons (six-piston calipers in the front versus one-piston in the rear). Carbon ceramics are available for those planning for more track duty.
The electronically-controlled AMG shocks and other suspension parts help the chassis stay flat and composed in high-speed corners, while the rear axle locking differential ensures you can put down all 516 lb-ft of torque exiting the turn.
Rocket ship? Good Lord this thing is fast! It does 0-100 km/h in 3.9 seconds while the non-S is four seconds flat. The variable dual AMG sports exhaust system boasts quad tips, and the car sounds stoically similar to those being flogged by Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg throughout the Formula 1 season. Like those F1 cars, this AMG has bite to back up its bark.
It had become clear the C 63 AMG was up for the task within a few laps. It’s easy to control near its limits, which makes it predictable as well as capable. It’s unfortunate that my group runs at the track had much slower drivers in them, because this thing is anything but slow. It turns out that Mr. Schneider likes to drift, too, as he so aptly demonstrated to me during my stint riding shotgun. He was either feeling sorry for me or bored. My guess is the latter.
There’s no doubt in my mind the C 63 will continue on as AMG’s top-selling car for years to come. It’s quite attainable and, as long as it stays in production, it will be a thorn in the side of BMW’s M3 and Audi’s S4. Of course, neither Audi nor BMW are in Formula 1 these days. Coincidence? Not. Bring on the Black Series Mercedes! Bring it on!
2015 Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG S-Model
By the Numbers
$164.81/HP (CALCULATED W/MSRP)
8.2 L/100 KM (AUTO – COMBINED)
BASE PRICE: $82,900
ENGINE: 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8
HORSEPOWER: 503 hp @ 5,500-6,250 rpm
TORQUE: 516 lb-ft @ 1,750-4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
DRY WEIGHT: 1,839 kg
FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (NEDC CYCLE; COMBINED): 8.2 L/100 km
WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000
NOTABLE OPTIONS: PREMIUM PACKAGE - Parktronic w/ active parking assist, COMAND online navi w/ MB Apps, Burmester surround system, KeylessGo; INTELLIGENT DRIVE PACKAGE ($TBA) - Distronic Plus, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, CMS rear, BMS Plus w Cross Traﬃc Assist, Pre-Safe Brake, Advanced Driving Assistance package; PREMIUM REAR SEATING PACKAGE - rear window sunshade, Thermotronic automatic climate control; metallic paint; designo upholstery; head-up display; passive lane keeping assist; power trunk closer; air balance package; 19-in. AMG 5-spoke wheels; AMG performance seat; AMG carbon ceramic brakes.
ALTERNATIVES: Audi S4, BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V, Inﬁniti Q70, Lexus RC F, Volvo S60 Polestar
Story & Photography by Shaun Keenan