Mercedes-AMG C63 has a smaller engine but is bigger in performance

Latest AMG bestseller has a smaller engine but is bigger in performance

Many people are familiar with the latest Mercedes- Benz C-class, which has been praised for its classy interior and on-road refinement. Not surprisingly, it is currently the most popular premium saloon in its category.

In Singapore, the C-class is available in three engine variants, all with four cylinders, with a single turbocharger and under 2 litres.

All that is about to change. Meet the brand new Mercedes-AMG C63. It is not a 6.3-litre car as the badge suggests and does not even sport the 6,208cc of the previous C63.

Instead, it is powered by a brand new 4-litre V8. This engine was most recently seen in the Mercedes-AMG GT.

While it loses more than 2,000cc in engine displacement compared to the last C63, it gains two turbochargers. The result is an engine with 476bhp and 650Nm - 19bhp and 50Nm more than before. More significantly, while the 6.2 V8's peak torque of 600Nm is attainable at 5,000rpm, the new car promises its meaty thrust from as low as 1,750rpm to 4,500rpm - the range that matters most in real-world driving.

The S version churns out even more - 510bhp and 700Nm. The new engine is said to use 32 per cent less fuel than its predecessor.

Anyone lamenting the demise of naturally aspirated AMG V8s will be wasting tears. This engine is a real peach, incredibly linear in its response and uncannily lag-free. It catapults the C63 and C63 S from a standstill to 100kmh in 4.1 and 4 seconds respectively.

Four tailpipes provide all the wonderful aural drama that one has come to expect from AMG. The C63 S even has a button that opens the diverter valve in the exhaust for the full orchestra treatment all the time.

In addition to more power and torque, the S version comes with an electronically controlled limited slip differential and a driver-selectable Race mode. On the Autodromo Internacional Algarve racing circuit here, the C63 S in Race setting behaved like a thoroughbred track car.

Power, as they say, is nothing without control. A powerful braking system is the first element of control you discover because when you floor the right pedal, the C63 S approaches the corner ahead with monumental ferocity.

Electro-mechanical steering, which, according to some cynics, is inferior to the traditional hydraulic model, works brilliantly in the C63 and is actually sharper and has more feel than in the old car.

AMG's SpeedShift MCT 7, which is a seven-speed automatic with a multi- plate clutch instead of fluid-based torque converter, shifts gears instantly, whether automatically or manually via paddle shifters. It even does a double-clutch throttle blip by itself.

Through the corners, the car rolls very little, understeers mildly only in extreme situations and has plenty of grip, thanks to its electronic differential, which maintains traction on both rear tyres at all times - as long as you do not get too greedy with the accelerator pedal.

Even then, when the tail does start to step out, the car responds expertly to throttle inputs and steering corrections. An experienced drifter would simply love this car.

But how does it behave in a softer setting on normal roads? Actually, quite impressively. Both AMG cars can attack mountain roads at an alarming pace. Compact C-class dimensions contribute to nimbleness on narrow, twisty roads. But what really makes this a driver's car is the way it communicates and responds.

It is easy to drive quickly, easy to access its power reserves and easy to keep it planted on the tarmac. Its electronic stability program can be switched off, but that is not advisable unless you are on a skid pad. It is best to leave the car in ESP Sport when it is dry and ESP On (the default) when it starts to rain.

The suspension, too, can be tuned to three different levels of damping. For most roads, the car rides and behaves well enough in the Comfort setting, but it is also surprisingly usable even in maximum stiffness.

Looks-wise, the new AMG has its own front end, comprising a deeper bumper with an almost full-width air intake, a bulging bonnet and slightly wider fenders with a C-shaped recess for the V8 Biturbo badge. What most people will see, however, is the thin boot spoiler, finned rear valance and a quartet of parallelogram-shaped tailpipes, disappearing into the horizon.

The excellent C-class interior gets a few AMG tweaks, such as a three-spoke steering wheel, instrument faces with carbon-fibre accents, additional menus on the multi-function display (including boost pressure and even a lap timer), and sports seats. As always with Mercedes- Benz cars, the options list can be quite a burden when you need to take your pick. This car's base price is likely to be upwards of $450,000.

You can have your C63 or C63 S as a saloon or a rather handsome station wagon, which is slightly heavier but takes only 0.1 seconds more for the 0-100kmh sprint. Whatever the body style, it is one of the finest five-seater supercars of all time.

stlife@sph.com.sg

The writer is a regular contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.