Motoring / Motoring News

Glen Hill
6 minute read
11 Mar 2015
1:00 pm

Treat the Mercedes Benz C63 AMG with respect

Glen Hill

South African car fans have something to look forward to at the end of May when Mercedes-Benz introduce the C 63 AMG and C 63 AMG S to the local market.

Mercedez-Benz previews new C63 AMG and C63 AMG S in Portugal. Picture: Supplied.

They gave us a preview in Faro, Portugal, last week. The highlight of the event was a couple of hot, or at least exciting, laps at the Algarve International Circuit, more commonly referred to as the Portimao Circuit. The drive started with a gentle spin from Faro to the track itself.

For this, I was in the “ordinary” C 63 AMG. With its 4.0-litre V8 biturbo engine developing 350kW and 650Nm, there was still more than enough power through the pretty Algarve countryside. Despite its AMG performance pedigree, the car is as gentle and luxurious as any of its non-AMG siblings.

It offers AMG Dynamic Select transmission modes Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and the customisable, Individual setting. Coupled with AMG Ride Control sports suspension, where the customer is able to choose between maximum sportiness and long-distance comfort in three stages at the push of a button, the C 63 is able to be something of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, if you desire.

In reality, even the most enthusiastic driver in this market will appreciate a gentle drive from time to time. But as we got closer to the hilly area that is home to Portimao, the mountain passes ensured the lure of both Sport and later Sport+ options was too strong.

Mercedez-Benz previews new C63 AMG and C63 AMG S in Portugal. Picture: Supplied.

Mercedez-Benz previews new C63 AMG and C63 AMG S in Portugal. Picture: Supplied.

As each progresses, the car transforms itself progressively towards a race car. It was a joyful drive, which had me all ready for the track itself and the C 63 AMG S. Or so I thought.

The C 63 AMG S adds 25kW and 50Nm to what is already a powerful package. It also adds an additional drive mode called, appropriately, Race. Added to the mix was multiple DTM – and champion of lots of other big races – Bernd Schneider. To make things even more challenging was the Portimao Circuit itself.

The hilly area in which it is situated was seized upon by its designer, whose previous projects must have included a roller coaster. I can’t recall the number of blind rises and tricky corners the circuit has in addition to a long straight. It is both beautiful and scary at the same time. Race mode turns the C 63 AMG S into a beast. A desireable beast, but a beast all the same. Schneider disappeared into the distance, the pace being effectively dictated for him by the journalist driver behind him.

Mercedez-Benz previews new C63 AMG and C63 AMG S in Portugal. Picture: Supplied.

Mercedez-Benz previews new C63 AMG and C63 AMG S in Portugal. Picture: Supplied.

Unfortunately for me, that was Jesse Adams, himself a race driver. I had climbed onto an express train. It did teach me how potent the C 63 AMG S really is. It took only a few bends before, without what I felt was any provocation, the rear started to break away. In Race mode the electronic driver aids are relaxed and spinning is still a real option.

I thought, however, I was going pretty fast but try as I might, the two AMGs in front of me disappeared into the distance. At Portimao the distance is often not that far, due to the extreme undulations, which makes matters decidedly more tricky.

Arriving at a blind crest and having doubts about whether it is the one that breaks left very soon after or not, is a little less fun than it sounds. Especially when you are driving a missile which believes you are its guidance system.

I was pleased to have the AMG Speedshift MCT seven-speed sports transmission, which meant I didn’t have to worry about gearshifts, and soon abandoned the steering wheel mounted paddles.

Mercedez-Benz previews new C63 AMG and C63 AMG S in Portugal. Picture: Supplied.

Mercedez-Benz previews new C63 AMG and C63 AMG S in Portugal. Picture: Supplied.

In Race mode, the gearbox even blips the throttle for smooth downshifts and, given the wonderful exhaust note, it really makes you feel like you are racing. A performance exhaust system with three selectable exhaust flaps is optionally available for both engine variants and, of course, Mercedes was showing this off for us.

Watching from the pits, the cars thundered past. At the end of that pit straight, the most treasured feature was the AMG high-performance braking system with internally ventilated and perforated 360mm brake discs all round. The grey-painted brake callipers have white AMG lettering.

In the C 63 S, however, the front discs are of composite construction with a diameter of 390mm and the red brake callipers have black AMG lettering.

A high-performance ceramic composite braking system at the front axle is available as an optional extra for the C 63 S for the first time. The ceramic discs have a diameter of 402mm, and the striking “AMG Carbon Ceramic” lettering can be found on the specially painted brake callipers.

They look great from the outside but what was most comforting was they did not fade. The S derivative claims a 0-100km/h time of four seconds and then it just gets going. It felt as if the straight had gone on forever and I would not like to have arrived at its end, or anywhere else for that matter, with compromised stopping power. It is a lot of car to put into a wall.

With all its chassis strength and air bags, I am sure I would have emerged unharmed, but nobody wants to be “that guy”. This is not to say the vehicle does not corner, it certainly does, but there are times when you simply run out of talent.

Mercedez-Benz previews new C63 AMG and C63 AMG S in Portugal. Picture: Supplied.

Mercedez-Benz previews new C63 AMG and C63 AMG S in Portugal. Picture: Supplied.

The point about the discs of carbon fibre reinforced ceramic material is that, produced in a vacuum at 1 700°C, the advanced material and production technology makes them especially hard.

The resulting resistance to extreme loads and heat extends the operating life of ceramic discs by many times compared with grey cast-iron discs. The ceramic brake discs are more than 50% lighter than conventional composite brake discs for lower unsprung mass, which helps the car through the corner rather than the kitty litter.

There is, as one would expect, a vast amount of technology and engineering innovation packed into the C 63 and to list it all is not possible. However, one that is new to the C-Class is the optional head-up display. Obviously these have been around for a while, but this one has a few added features.

Mercedez-Benz previews new C63 AMG and C63 AMG S in Portugal. Picture: Supplied.

Mercedez-Benz previews new C63 AMG and C63 AMG S in Portugal. Picture: Supplied.

It projects important information directly into the driver’s field of vision on the windscreen and does so extremely well. The system provides information on vehicle speed, posted speed limits, navigation instructions and Distronic messages. The C 63, however, also has AMG-exclusive features that include a gear indicator and Race Timer.

In the selectable AMG mode, the driver sees a coloured bar graphic prompting upshifts and an additional gear indicator. The current lap time is shown at the lower edge. There is no doubt the new C 63 AMGs will be as popular as their legendary predecessors, but be warned, if you treat it disrespectfully, it will show its contempt.