Mercedes-AMG is the new name of the three-pointed star’s performance division, while at the luxury end of the brand sits the Mercedes-Maybach nomenclature. This, says the company, simplifies and redefines its sub-brands to include both the name of the marque and the subdivision it comes from. However, it was all about AMG when we travelled to Portugal to drive perhaps one of the most eagerly anticipated models, the second generation C63 AMG sedan, which goes on sale in SA in May. It is intriguing to learn that, globally, the previous generation model sold about 40,000 units since its launch in 2007, making it the bestselling AMG model to date. In SA, AMG sales jumped by an impressive 63% in 2014 compared to 2013, spurred on by the introduction of the A45 and CLA 45 AMG models.
The previous generation C63 was something of a Germanic hot rod in that it would out-drag any of its competitors in a straight line, but somewhat fell apart and was left wanting in the corners where it simply became a handful against the then E90 BMW M3. The ride quality was also atrocious in the old C63, which manifested in a suspension so taut it lacked the compliancy befitting the marque. Enter the latest C63 AMG, which we will only get in sedan form as Mercedes SA says it will not be bringing in the estate model. Cosmetically, it perhaps lacks the visual venom of its predecessor, instead opting for subtle changes in the form of dual ridges on the bonnet, a more aggressive front valance and an AMG emblazoned twin slat grille. In addition, wider front fenders have been employed to accommodate a wider front track for better stability and handling.
At the rear is an AMG bumper replete with a diffuser and home to quad exhausts that belt out a rather fruity V8 note. The interior is similar C-Class architecture with bespoke AMG seats, dials and a different centre console housing suspension, traction and exhaust valve flap settings. It gets a compact and ergonomically steering wheel festooned in leather and Alcantara, replete with a centre marker to show where the front wheels are pointing. It has a comfortable interior, with electrically adjustable front sport seats. The new model features a smaller 4.0l V8 powerplant, but now aided by two turbochargers that sit in-between the cylinder banks to produce 350kW at 5,500r/min and 650Nm at 1,750r/min, delivered to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission, essentially a carried over gearbox from the previous model when it was updated in 2011.
While reasonably quick in changes, it does lack the dexterity of a twin clutch set-up, particularly at slow speeds where the box is hesitant to engage gears. There is an S variant pushing out 375kW at 5,500r/min and 700Nm at 1,750r/min. Aside from the notable jump in power in the S, it also comes with an electronically locking rear differential instead of the mechanical item in the regular model, which works a treat when scything through a mountain pass or driving around a racetrack. Performance figures are impressive, with a 0-100km/h of 4.1 seconds (4 for the S) and an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. You can raise the latter figure to 290km/h with the optional AMG driver’s package (R36,000 for the C63 AMG and R13,500 for C63 AMG S). Fuel consumption is claimed at an optimistic 8.2l/100km, with carbon emissions at 192g/km.
What made the previous model popular was its signature V8 growl and according to Oliver Wiech, director of vehicle development, it was paramount in the development of the new model to retain that V8 sound. Using a labyrinth of valves in the exhaust system, the engineers have done well as the engine snarls and belches in a way that will appease fans of the outgoing model. Then there is the performance, which is savage in its delivery and needs to be treated with respect. Throttle response is worth a mention because, for a model with turbochargers, pushing down on the pedal — even a gentle caress — unleashes instantaneous bouts of torque more akin to a large displacement naturally aspirated engine. On the road, I was impressed with the way it steers.
Gone is the understeer that afflicted its predecessor as the new car displayed prodigious amounts of grip and will easily keep up with the brilliant F80 BMW M3. And it is here that the inevitable comparison between these two sedan titans comes into play. The Affaltebach team seems to have addressed all the anomalies that plagued the old C63 AMG and kept all the glorious elements that made it such a hit. Around the track, the M3 is likely to remain king but as an everyday, useable performance sedan with aural splendour to boot, the new C63 AMG simply reigns supreme.
C63 AMG: R1,012,395
C63 AMG S: R1,171,495