2023 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance international launch review
The Mercedes-AMG C63 has swapped twin-turbo V8 rear-drive power for four-cylinder plug-in hybrid technology and all-wheel-drive grip, requiring a reset of the mindset among hardcore fans.
- Faster than the V8
- More grip and better balance than the V8
- More technology and better fuel economy than the V8
- The party's over, no more loud exhaust for a grand entrance or departure
- Weighing more than 2.1 tonnes, it is almost as heavy as a double-cab ute
- Front tyres quickly fade when pushed hard due to the extra weight
2023 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance
The new-generation Mercedes-AMG C63 – due in Australia from mid-2023 priced about $200,000 – is unlike any other C-Class AMG sedan before it.
This is the first non-V8 version of the C63 in two decades, and the first with four-cylinder plug-in hybrid electric power.
A turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine paired to a 150kW electric motor sends power to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission.
While many Mercedes C63 fans will mourn the loss of the V8, the performance numbers are mind-boggling. The petrol engine and electric motor combined have a peak output of 500kW – or 680hp in the old money – and 1020Nm of torque.
Mercedes says the 2.0-litre engine is the most powerful of its type in the world – with V8-like outputs of 350kW and 545Nm. The 150kW electric motor has two gears – a launch gear, and another that takes over above 120km/h.
The result? A claimed 0 to 100km/h time of 3.4 seconds, compared to the 4.0-second time of the outgoing twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 rear-wheel-drive C63. More on the real-world 0 to 100km/h performance later in this review.
The downside to all this technology? It comes with a hefty weight penalty. The new C63 weighs more than 2.1 tonnes – more than 400kg heavier than the model it replaces – and is almost as heavy as a double-cab ute.
Despite its weight, the new C63 is, remarkably, faster than before.
However, as we would discover, it's a quiet achiever. Perhaps too quiet for some tastes.
How much does the Mercedes-AMG C63 cost in Australia?
Price is yet to be confirmed, but early estimates position the 2023 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG at about $200,000 in Australia, making it the most expensive model to date.
The previous Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG sedan bowed out in the middle of 2022 at $168,000 plus on-road costs, so the new estimated price represents an increase of almost 20 per cent.
As you might expect, the new model comes fully loaded, with a long list of advanced safety tech, high-resolution digital screens for instruments and infotainment, and a colour head-up display that reflects key information in the windscreen in the driver's line of sight.
Australian examples are expected to come standard with a panoramic sunroof, 20x9.5-inch wheels (265/35 tyres up front and 275/35s at the rear), and six-piston brakes up front and four-piston brakes at the rear clamping steel discs.
Carbon-ceramic brakes and matte paint bodywork are optional in Europe but yet to be confirmed for Australia.
The wagon version of the new C63 has for now been ruled out for Australia.
How much space does the Mercedes-AMG C63 have inside?
The C63 carries over from the regular C-Class range the large digital infotainment and instrument screens, and ambient lighting in the dash and doors (which have large storage pockets).
The electrically adjustable AMG front sports seats are heavily bolstered to keep occupants pinned in tight corners.
Back seat space is as roomy as the regular sedan (but the seat itself is covered in perforated AMG trim), and there is sufficient knee room and headroom for most adults, including enough space for feet under the front seats.
However, the back seat is more comfortable with two people rather than three, which is a bit of a squeeze.
Air vents and power sockets are available to the back row.
Visibility all around is good thanks to the relatively large glass area (in an era of sleek window lines) and wide-view convex side mirrors.
The new C63's boot space is conspicuously small due to the battery pack and hybrid hardware under the boot floor. Its cargo capacity of 315L compares to 435L for the previous C63 and 455L for the regular C-Class range.
|2023 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance|
Does the Mercedes-AMG C63 have Apple CarPlay?
In addition to voice commands for infotainment and air-conditioning controls, the 2023 Mercedes-Benz C63 has wired and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
This gives owners the best of both worlds: able to connect their smartphone wirelessly or with a cable depending on which offers the best connection. A wired connection also ensures the phone doesn't get too hot, as can be the case on a wireless charge pad.
Is the Mercedes-AMG C63 a safe car?
The regular Mercedes-Benz C-Class range was awarded a five-star safety score in 2022 (against the latest and most stringent criteria at the time); however, the rating does not apply to the C63 AMG, and as this article was published it was listed as unrated.
This is because ANCAP and its European affiliate Euro NCAP did not crash-test the much heavier C63, which at 2165kg is 420kg heavier than its predecessor and, coincidentally, 420kg heavier than the rest of the new C-Class sedan range.
Given such a significant weight disparity could impact a crash test result, the safety authority has to date elected to not apply the five-star rating to the C63 variant.
The C63 has the same safety systems as the rest of the range, including a suite of eight airbags (two front, two side, two 'curtains', a centre airbag between the front seats and a driver's knee airbag).
|2023 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG|
What safety technology does the Mercedes-AMG C63 have?
Crash-avoidance technology includes autonomous emergency braking (car-to-car, pedestrian and cyclist, junction assistance, and rear AEB) as well as lane-keeping assistance, lane-departure warning, radar cruise control, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, a 360-degree camera with high-resolution displays, plus front and rear parking sensors.
The lane-keeping assistance wasn't particularly overzealous on our preview drive, but we will reserve final judgment until we test the C63 on local roads.
The blind-zone warning and rear cross-traffic alert systems worked well.
A handy feature: the navigation system projects large arrows over a live camera view of the road ahead to make it easier to follow directions.
How much does the Mercedes-AMG C63 cost to maintain?
The cost of routine maintenance for the 2023 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG will be announced closer to Australian showroom arrivals mid-2023.
Insurance ratings will not be available until closer to the on-sale date, as insurers do not yet know the price of the vehicle and have not yet assessed the C63's typical crash-damage parts.
|At a glance||2023 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance|
|Warranty||Five years, unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 20,000km|
|Driving range claim (WLTP)||13km (electric motor only)|
Is the Mercedes-AMG C63 fuel-efficient?
The fuel consumption average of 6.9L/100km is thirsty for a hybrid, but fair given the C63's performance. However, all bets are off when the potential of the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine is exploited.
The consumption figures on this test were not indicative of real-world commuter driving because the preview drive was on a race track and winding back roads.
The numbers we saw revealed V8-like performance delivers V8-like consumption – and the gains of the more fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine and hybrid technology were blunted by the 2.1-tonne-plus mass.
Fuel Consumption - brought to you by bp
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||6.9L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||Not recorded|
|Fuel type||98-octane premium unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||60L|
What is the Mercedes-AMG C63 like to drive?
Drive was invited with other international media – at the expense of Mercedes-Benz – to attend the preview of the new C63 in Europe, where we sampled the new model on the road and track.
The new C63 is now such a complex vehicle – and so different from any C63 before it – it takes time to digest all the changes.
When you first get into the new C63, you could be forgiven for feeling underwhelmed. It's a lot quieter around town. It has lost its V8 muscle-car roar and, in the daily grind, feels docile. You wouldn't think this is a 3.4-second car.
A telling observation: the air-conditioning vents on the cars we sampled were unusually noisy. It was a first-world problem, but to illustrate how loud the fans were, we had to switch off the air-conditioning to complete our in-car videos. Previously, the rush of air would have been drowned out by the noise of the V8.
There was a lot of road noise from the tyres (the trade-off for grip), and the low-speed ride was a bit busy (though better than before).
The completely redesigned suspension uses technology borrowed from the AMG GT Black Series and Mercedes’s GT3 customer motorsport program.
As we would discover, while improvements to comfort in urban driving are subtle, the suspension overhaul has delivered epic gains on lumpy back roads at cruising speeds, ironing out the worst of the bumps. It's one of the highlights of the car.
Before we get to the other fun stuff, here's a quick rundown on some of the science behind the new C63.
The electric motor has a special boost mode that unleashes a bigger burst of electric power for up to 10 seconds. In this mode, the electric motor’s regular 70kW output more than doubles to 150kW.
The 'push to pass' mode can be used on the road or track, and a display on the dash highlights when the boost is available and in use. A digital countdown bar shows when the extra power is about to run out.
On the track, drivers have the choice of 'qualifying' or 'endurance' modes, delivering more power in shorter bursts, or a more even spread of power over a longer period of time – automatically programmed to be unleashed on sections of track that deliver the biggest benefit.
The liquid-cooled 400-volt, 560-cell battery pack is designed for fast power delivery and draw – rather than longer range – so it can recover energy quickly under heavy braking on a racetrack.
A special coolant keeps the battery at a constant 45 degrees Celsius when in use – regardless of the ambient temperature.
When the new C63 is not exploiting its potential, one of its eight driving modes enables silent running on electric power alone.
On a full charge – but with light throttle – the C63 can be driven up to 13km before the petrol engine takes over. In ideal conditions and in the right mode, the C63 can be driven on electric power up to 125km/h.
Even if you don't charge the C63 overnight, the hybrid system will still deliver an electric boost as it recovers energy when on the move, in the same way Toyota hybrids recoup battery power while driving without needing to be plugged in.
Drivers have the choice to plug in the new C63 overnight if they want the first 13km of their daily commute to be petrol-free.
The technology is a bit overwhelming at first, and the absence of the previous model's gruff V8 snarl requires a hard reset on how to approach the new model.
Over a two-day preview on the road and track, we were able to peel away the facade and begin to gel with the new C63.
On the right stretch of road – in this case, undulating and winding tarmac on the outskirts of Malaga, Spain – the C63 starts to flex its muscle. It might be heavy, but the balance is superb. AMG says it has 50:50 weight distribution front to rear, give or take a per cent.
It generally sits flat and feels neutral, though when you get into a really tight corner, the weight starts to feel more apparent. The advantage this time around, the C63 has all-wheel-drive grip to claw its way out of trouble.
It is a forgiving car to drive. The grip seems endless.
The other surprise with the C63 is how good the brake pedal feels. It doesn't have the dead zone typical of a lot of hybrid cars.
The handover from electric to petrol power is almost seamless. The only time the C63 does develop a little bit of a stutter is at 120km/h when the electric motor switches from one gear to the next. AMG says it is already working on a solution to deliver a smoother transfer from one electric motor ratio to the next.
There are so many modes to play with – including what we've dubbed 'push to pass' boost mode – it's a computer geek's dream machine.
With launch control engaged (Sport Plus mode on, stability control switched off, brake pedal pressed, throttle floored), we recorded a pair of 3.7-second 0 to 100km/h times on our VBox testing equipment. That was with two people – and luggage – on board, so there’s likely some time left in it, but it wasn’t a bad first effort.
Our 3.7-second time compares to Mercedes-Benz's 3.4-second claim for the new C63, a 4.0-second claim for the previous V8 model – and, for additional context, the 3.5-second claim for the upcoming Kia EV6 GT electric car.
From behind the wheel, the C63 is faster than it feels – or sounds. Even in its loudest mode, the new C63 sounds muted compared to the previous V8-powered C63. It's even quieter than the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG and Audi RS3 hot hatchbacks.
On the road, the new C63 generally hid its weight well, even though it is almost as heavy as a Toyota HiLux. However, after a few fast laps of a racetrack, the 2.1-tonne-plus weight of the new C63 began to take its toll on the front tyres.
We were told after our test drive Mercedes technicians were fitting new front tyres every two days during the 10-day international media preview.
All road tyres turn to mush on a racetrack, but the C63's front tyres dropped off much sooner than we were expecting. That said, this observation is null and void if you don't plan to become a weekend track-day warrior.
To sum up, it's fair to say while the new C63 has lost its V8 roar, it delights the senses in other ways.
As much as I miss the previous C63's V8 sound – and as much as the bros might not go for the silent treatment of the new model – the numbers don't lie. It's quicker on paper and quicker behind the wheel.
On the right stretch of road, the new C63 is on another level.
I just wish it sounded a bit angrier. If AMG can find a way to liven up the exhaust, it could win new fans and avoid alienating current owners.
|Key details||2023 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol with plug-in hybrid electric system|
|Power||350kW @ 6750rpm petrol
|Torque||545Nm @ 5250–5500rpm petrol
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Nine-speed wet-clutch multi-disc automatic
Two-speed electric drive (above and below 120km/h)
|Spare tyre type||Tyre repair kit|
|Tow rating||None listed|
Should I buy a 2023 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance?
Most iconic performance cars are easy to sum up in a few words, but there isn't a straightforward answer for this complex vehicle.
When asked about the new Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG back in the office, I responded with a large intake of breath and a long pause before reeling off a list of bullet points on the way to an answer.
In many regards, the new C63 is an engineering marvel. In other ways, it's a flawed genius (the hybrid system delivers startling performance but comes with a hefty weight penalty).
What is undeniable: the C63 has evolved into something different from the car we have grown to know and love.
Whereas the previous C63 was a brute of a muscle car – with handling that at times was a bit of a handful – the new C63 has gone to finishing school, and its bandwidth of ability has expanded to include things the old one could not do.
For all its merit, the new C63 will require a reset of the mindset of hardcore fans.
Is the new C63 better than the V8? On paper and in performance, yes. But we can also see the outgoing V8-powered C63 becoming an instant classic.