It’s the 1980s all over again; hemlines are up, stripes are in and the turbocharger is king. How you feel about the clothes is a matter of personal taste but the second coming of the turbo is good news. Unlike the fashion, the cars are a little more polished second time around.
The AMG products from the house of Mercedes-Benz have, with a few exceptions, been big capacity six and eight-cylinder units for much of the last 20 years. The engine that served everything from the C-Class to the S-Class AMGs was one of the finest power-plants ever built, but those pesky emission regs mean turbocharging is now the default choice, and the latest C 63 is the last AMG to give up on natural aspiration.
So I approached the new C 63 with a little trepidation. It certainly looks the part, and although the saloon will be the most popular choice, it’s the estate version that wears the performance car trappings more comfortably. There are 18 or 19-inch alloy wheels as standard depending on the model you choose, while the imposing front grille, domed bonnet and subtle bodykit give it some aggression, but not so much you’d be dubious about being seen in it.
You can also have your C 63 in two flavours for the first time, both of which are powered by a 4.0-litre twin turbocharged V8 similar to the one found in the AMG GT. It also manages the remarkable feat of cutting emissions by 30 per cent. Mercedes-AMG says it is now the world’s most economical eight-cylinder performance car, which is a feat worth shouting about.
Turn the key and the first worry is dismissed in a split second with a blaring rasp from the exhaust as the V8 fires up. Clearly much time has been spent in perfecting the noise output, but this doesn’t sound artificial. The standard exhaust has two modes for more or less noise (an optional system adds an extra mode); regardless of which option you choose it can be reasonably subdued but still recognisably V8 in quiet mode, and full-on crackle and pop when turned all the way up. In short, it’s the best-sounding turbocharged engine in anything this side of a Pagani Huayra – and that’s an AMG engine too.
My drive included some time on track and AMG was keen to underline the fact that the latest C 63 was designed with track-seeking owners in mind. The test C 63S had the desirable £1,000 ceramic brake upgrade and they proved their worth as the cars went lap after lap at a serious pace and showed remarkable resilience. More importantly, it was a complete riot to drive, munching the straights and hitting 150mph across the start line. Through the bends the grip and balance are superb. The steering is significantly better than the standard version and, whilst not the last word in communication, you do have a clear understanding of what the car is up to. And should the mood take you, it will perform delicious and seemingly infinite powerslides at the drop of a right foot.
Don’t dismiss the rise of turbocharged performance cars like the C 63 as a sign of bad times ahead. The sheer flexibility on offer from this V8 engine means this car is more civilised than before and easier to live with, but when the conditions are right you can exploit its flip-side with very little effort. It’s as responsible as a car with 500bhp can be, and for that alone it should be applauded.
62MPH: 4.0 secs
TOP SPEED: 174mph
CO2 G/KM: 192g/km
MPG COMBINED: 34.5mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★★★☆