There was a time when a compact performance saloon wouldn’t be caught dead without a V8. BMW’s E90 M3, Audi’s B7 RS4 and of course the first C55 all stuffed their respective engine bays to the brim with eight angled cylinders, but in 2020 things are a little different. Both Audi and BMW have returned to six-cylinder powertrains, leaving just the AMG with a V8, but that might change with the all-new C63 S spied here for the first time as a body-on prototype.
Rumour has it this new C63 will drop the 4-litre twin-turbo V8 in favour of a new hybrid powertrain, combining a smaller four-cylinder engine (likely the A45’s ‘M139’ unit, although this is speculative) with an electric motor and battery pack. While the combination will be right on-trend with AMG’s recently announced plans to focus on electrification in its upcoming models, it will likely come at the expense of the V8 engine that so clearly defines the AMG package.
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There’s nothing indicating what could be under the bonnet of the prototype in these images, but it does appear to be in need of some pretty substantial cooling, with functional intakes across the typical AMG panamericana grille, and full-width lower intakes. The rest of the package doesn’t appear out of the ordinary for a C63, the car riding on a set of 19-inch wheels with standard cast-iron brakes behind, a pair of pumped-up front wheelarches above, and quad exhaust outlets with a small, but functional-looking diffuser out back.
If the C63 were to feature a version of the A45’s M139 turbocharged four-cylinder, it would be the first application of that power unit in a longitudinal placement, leaving plenty of space in the engine bay for the required hardware of the hybrid system. If Mercedes-AMG were to maintain the V8 engine, there would likely be a premium of physical packaging space left over to support any form of major hybridisation, especially if the model picks up an all-wheel-drive system, which is another current trend in this segment.
Whatever the powertrain, we suspect that its peak output won’t be dramatically up on the current C63 S’s 503bhp, with the new BMW M3 only just reaching that figure itself, and Audi’s RS4 still at 444bhp.
With the new BMW M3 picking up an all-wheel-drive variant and an estate, rivals seem to be closing in on the AMG’s turf too, meaning it’ll have an awful lot to prove in its next generation if it does indeed switch to four-cylinder power. With the standard C-class due to debut next year, we suspect it’ll be late 2021 or even early 2022 before we see the new C63 in finished form. Until then, what will power the car could remain a mystery – unless someone catches a video of it and we can hear it.