Mercedes-AMG C63 review: Can this muscle car disguise itself as a sophisticated saloon?

 
Tim Pitt
The Mercedes-AMG C63 hurtling along the road

Price: £60,060
0-62mph: 4.1secs
Top speed: 155mph
MPG Combined: 34.5mpg

★★★☆☆ | Design
★★★★★ | Performance
★★★☆☆ | Practicality
★★★☆☆ | Value

Elvis Costello famously said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” – and he had a point. I could tell you the Mercedes-AMG C63’s soundtrack is like a Wagnerian opera, or a gut-punch of rib-rattling German techno. But you still wouldn’t understand.

Press the starter button and the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 bursts into life with a theatrical bark, then settles down to a chugga-chugga idle. Hit the throttle and it coughs and growls like a TVR with tonsillitis. Test the acceleration and: braaaap! The AMG awakens with a roar as its multi-clutch transmission grabs the next gear. Braaaaaaaap! BRAAAAAAAAP!

I’ve spent two whole paragraphs on this because that sound is such an integral, all-consuming part of the AMG experience. Overlook those four square tailpipes and this could be any rep-spec Mercedes-Benz C-Class with a bodykit. But there’s no mistaking the V8 rumble, or the Porsche-baiting performance.

Let’s talk numbers. The C63-AMG develops 476hp and blasts to 62mph in 4.1 seconds. Splash out another £7,000 on the 510hp C63 S and you can trim that by a tenth of a second. Find an Autobahn and both cars will hit a (limited) top speed of 155mph. Pretty fast, then.

Sending all that oomph through the rear wheels could be a recipe for backwards-into-a-hedge calamity. Fortunately, the C63 comes with a full armoury of electronic stability systems, so you don’t need the skills of the Stig to drive it. It’s exhilarating, but not intimidating. Nonetheless, on wet roads, the frequent flickering of the traction warning light is a reminder of the epic battle between tyres and tarmac.

Enter the sports saloon

Escape the city and you soon discover the C63 is an accomplished sports saloon. The automatic gearbox shifts intuitively and its weighty steering fizzes with feedback, allowing you to attack corners with confidence. On a racetrack, you can, of course, provoke tyre-smoking powerslides on demand. But it was on the road that the muscular Merc surprised me most. For the first time, its handling feels on par with the benchmark BMW M3.

Firm suspension is a compromise you’d expect in a car of this type, but you may find it harder to live with the C63’s thirst for super unleaded. Ignore the official figure of 34.5mpg – we managed closer to 20mpg in a mixture of town, motorway and “enthusiastic” B-road driving. On the plus side, annual car tax (VED) isn’t too extortionate, at £490 in the first year and £265 a year thereafter.

Beneath all the sound and fury, though, the C63 is still a C-class. And that means a stylish, beautifully built interior, advanced safety equipment and a wide range of very tempting options. We’d splash out on the surround camera system and Driving Assistance Package, which includes active steering and lane-keep assist. Oh, and we’d have the louder AMG exhaust. Obviously.

The Mercedes is short of direct rivals, with the Audi RS4 and Jaguar XER both yet to hit the road. It could be considered against sporty SUVs, such as the Porsche Macan Turbo, while the C63 Estate (which costs an extra £1,200) squares up to the Volvo V60 Polestar.

However, there’s only one rival that really matters: the BMW M3. Has Affalterbach finally bested Munich? I think it has. Both cars offer an equally fluid and immersive driving experience, but the C63 – with its voracious V8 and thunderous soundtrack – provides an added dose of theatricality and good old-fashioned fun.

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