Mercedes-AMG C63 review – A proper Affalterbach hot rod - Ride and handling
Available as a Saloon, Coupé, Cabriolet and Estate, the C63 offers massive performance and your choice of style or practicality
Ride and handling
The C63 is no typical Mercedes. Yes it’s trimmed nicely and the interior is very premium feeling, but there’s not the plush, cosseting, limo-like ride the marque is know for. This is an AMG, where much of the luxury has been scrapped in the pursuit of involvement and control.
The ride is firm and slightly fidgety, but this usefully transmits information about the road surface and how the car is reacting. A very good thing, especially considering the nicely weighted but numb steering.
However, on demanding UK roads the C63’s chassis can struggle. With the dampers in their most comfortable mode it feels tense, never relaxing to allow the car to react intuitively to the road. This does instill the C63 with a huge sense of control, because although the suspension might not allow any flow or smooth-out any of the road it does keep the body’s position exactly where you expect it to be. The next firmer damper setting increases the sense tautness, yet the ride doesn’t seem to suffer terribly. The stiffest setting, however, does make the C63 feel very bumpy, both transmitting more shocks through the chassis and making the body pogo over bigger ruts. It’s a setting best used on track.
There is a certain amount of weight and push to overcome at the front on turn in to tighter corners; the Coupé’s front-end is sharper than the Saloon and Estate, but it still requires patience.
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At the exit of a corner when you’re able to get on the throttle, all your attention switches to the rear of the car. The C63 S’s electronically controlled diff makes the transition of the Michelin SuperSports through grip and into slip pleasingly smooth and easy to control. The transition from grip to slip is rather more abrupt in the standard car (with the purely mechanical LSD), requiring sharper initial steering correction to catch the slide. Once the car is balanced, however, the feeling of security, control and connection you get with the mechanically locked diff is arguably greater.
Perhaps surprisingly, oversteer isn’t an any gear affair, with more grip on offer than you might expect. However, once you get into a rhythm and keep the revs in the meat of the torque it’s easy enough to unhitch the rear tyres from the tarmac out of any corner you encounter.
With identical an wheelbase and front and rear tracks, the wagon’s handling is also all but a carbon copy of the saloon. If anything we think the mild absurdity of an oversteering estate is more appealing.
As for the Coupé, it's clear that it’s a hugely desirable car, both in looks and character. Its all-new rear axle brings more precision and the wider track improves the steering response and a sense that there’s more outright grip to lean on. Although AMG has tweaked the dampers it rides much like the saloon, and has the same resolutely tied-down body control.
The C63 Cabriolet shares the same wider front track and revised rear suspension of the Coupé. Received wisdom suggests that, because it doesn’t have a roof, the Cabriolet will be a heavy, wobbly mess by comparison. It’s true that its heavier, a whole 200kg more than the Coupé but thanks to the C63’s prodigious performance, the extra heft has only dulled the performance slightly. The drop-top C63 S is only 0.2sec slower from 0-62mph than the Coupé with a time of 4.1sec, and that’s hardly noticeable from behind the wheel.
Sadly, the extra bracing that makes up the bulk of the added weight hasn’t completely compensated for the lack of roof. You can feel the steering wheel move laterally in your hands, and if you select one of the firmer damper settings the motion is exaggerated even further. When the roof is up, there’s also the occasional squeak and rattle where it meets the top of the windscreen. In lesser C-class Cabriolets with smaller engines, like the C43 and C220, the body copes much better and they doesn’t exhibit either of the C63’s structural shortfalls. But the retractable roof isn’t all bad as it allows you much better access to the exceptional noise the C63 emits from its exhaust pipes.
The Cabriolet might not have the rigidity of the Coupé but it does have the same lairy, hooligan-like low speed character. With enough throttle it will light up its back tyres out of slow corners, and the combination of the tightly wound e-diff and some quick steering mean that any resulting slide is effortless and controllable.
The mass of the C63 is sometimes evident after sustained braking. Although the actual retardation wasn’t significantly reduced, the pedal did begin to soften and complain disconcertingly. The S actually has bigger brakes than the standard car but still wilted nonetheless, so the optional carbon brakes might be an expensive but worthwhile box to tick.