by Jared Rosenholtz
The C-Class has been the Mercedes-Benz's most popular AMG model for a while now, by virtue of its usable performance and relatively low cost of entry to the AMG brand. While the sedan and coupe variants represent serious performance machines, the C63 Cabriolet takes on a slightly different role, pairing an AMG-developed twin-turbo V8 experience with a power-operated soft-top roof to give you a more direct line of auditory enjoyment and a more lifestyle-focused demeanor. But there's little sacrificed in the way of performance, and in C63 S guise, 503 hp and 516 lb-ft will still send the C63 cabriolet rocketing from 0-60 mph in less than four seconds. Core rivals number in the single digits, with the C63 Cabriolet duking it out against BMW's own M4 Convertible.
The AMG C63 receives a facelift and a few upgrades and enhancements for 2019. As part of its facelift, it receives a new AMG-specific Panamericana radiator grille, reshaped front bumper, and redesigned LED headlights that are now standard fit. Around the other end, the rear bumper gets a few mild tweaks, as do the quad tailpipes, now finished in high-gloss chrome. Inside, a new AMG-styled sports steering wheel is featured and a handful of new interior upholstery and trims options are made available, while on the tech front, a new drive mode has been added to the Dynamic Select system under the 'Slippery' label.
Based on the C-Class Coupe, the C63 Cabriolet retains much of the donor's design elements, such as the narrow taillights and wide haunches. The base AMG C63 Cabrio rides on 18-inch ten-spoke alloy wheels and the AMG C63 S Cabrio on 19-inch twin five-spoke alloy wheels. Both are fitted with intelligent multi-beam LED headlamps and distinctive new LED taillamps, and feature a three-layer "acoustic" soft top, quad trapezoidal tailpipes, and a black diffuser. New for the 2019 facelift is the vertical Panamericana grille first introduced on the AMG GT R.
Based on the C63 Coupe, the Cabriolet is both lower and wider than the sedan, measuring 79.4 inches wide and 55.3 inches tall. Length is comparable at 187.1 inches, while all three body types ride on the same 111.8-inch wheelbase. The Coupe was already heftier than the sedan, but with the roof removed and additional structural rigidity required, the C63 Cabriolet tips the scales at an even more substantial 4,242 lbs in its base configuration, making it 77 lbs heavier than the tin-topped M4 Convertible.
Utilizing the same hardware as the C63 Sedan and Coupe, a 4.0-liter bi-turbo engine finds a home under the hood of the C63 Cabriolet. Available in two states of tune, the base C63 develops 469 hp and 479 lb-ft, while in S guise, power is bumped to 503 hp and 516 lb-ft. Both options see power sent to the rear wheels through an AMG-tuned nine-speed multi-clutch automatic transmission. Tuning on the auto 'box is spot on - smooth on the day to day scene, but rapid and adept at selecting the right gear when hustling the C63 along a twisting back road. It deals with the immense amount of lag-free torque the V8 delivers in heaps, with the hand-crafted eight-cylinder belying the two hot-vee turbochargers' existence in granting immediate responses. Only a tenth of a second separates performance from the two trims, with the C63 S the quicker of the two, recording a 0-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds. On the road, though, there's little discernible difference in performance.
Liken the C63's power output to that of Senator Palpatine's lightning fingers from Star Wars Episode III, and you'll find yourself jeering "UNLIMITED POWER!" with every incremental input of the throttle. But there's more to the C63 than just power, as the chassis is highly capable too, striking a fine balance between performance and lifestyle driving.
Although on the firmer side, its sport-tuned suspension still manages to soak up lesser road imperfections and undulations pretty well; it's not the best for comfort driving, but adequate and reasonable enough for daily drivability. However, it's not the most adept performer when things get twisty. While the coupe doesn't suffer for its additional weight, even more weight coupled with the lack of torsional rigidity brought about by removing the roof, sees the Cabriolet lose its edge. It's not floppy, but the chassis is more readily overcome by the power on tap, and when in the midst of a corner, the forces of nature work that much harder trying to pull you off the side of the road. For that reason, you're unable to access the C63 Cabriolet's full potential, leaving it a somewhat frustrating experience.
However, with the soft-top stowed away, it becomes an exceptionally gifted lifestyle cruiser with a turn of pace and a melodious soundtrack as the V8's roar echoes off the passing scenery. With the top up, it's a serene experience, with road and wind noise almost completely suppressed by the multi-layer ragtop.
Prioritizing high-performance does mean renouncing fuel-efficiency, but even the AMG C63 S's EPA estimates of 17/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined are below average. The 2019 BMW M4 Convertible receives similar EPA estimates of 17/25/20 mpg respectively, while the substantially less powerful C43 Cabriolet is more frugal with estimates of 18/25/21 mpg. Equipped with a 17.4-gallon gas tank, judicious drivers should achieve a range of around 348 miles with mixed driving styles.
The AMG C63 Cabrio accommodates a total of four occupants in deeply comfortable and supportive seats. In the front of the cabin are 14-way power-adjustable heated sport seats with an AIRSCARF neck-level heating system, memory functions, and lumbar adjustment. The standard seats are supportive and suit the C63's lifestyle-tourer aspirations, which makes it a fruitless exercise to spend more on the available AMG Performance seats. The regular items are suitably contoured and bolstered for optimal comfort and support for both casual everyday driving and spirited jaunts; they're easy to maneuver into an optimal driving position, and with the roof down, there are almost no blind spots. Space up front is truly generous, but the rear seats are best suited for those of a vertically-challenged nature, particularly with the roof closed.
For a convertible, trunk space in the AMG C63 Cabrio is relatively good, one could fit a week's worth of grocery bags in its 8.8 cubic feet of trunk space, bearing in mind that volume is limited by a partition that creates space for the soft-top roof to tow away. The rear seats are 50/50 split-folding which can expand trunk space for larger items of cargo. The doors each boast sizable pockets, while rear seat occupants also get fair-sized storage bins. There are two cupholders up front, a sizeable center armrest console, and a moderately sized glovebox. In the rear cabin are two cupholders and a small center console located in the backrest between the two seats.
Both the C63 and C63 S are kitted with an array of features aimed at comfort and convenience, with a touch of performance befitting the AMG badging. Featured as standard in both Cabrios is the AIRSCARF neck-level heating system, AIRCAP automatic virtual wind blocker, and a removable rear cabin wind blocker. Both models are also equipped with an illuminated entry system, a Smartkey with keyless-start, an ECO start/stop system, seatbelt presenters, extendable sun visors, HomeLink garage door opener, high-resolution multifunction display with analog gauges, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Both also feature a three-spoke sports steering wheel with touch control buttons and mounted paddle shifters, while optionally available is an AMG head-up display and ventilation for the AMG Performance bucket seats to go with the standard heating. Mercedes offers a broad range of advanced driver-assist features as well, ranging from adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous steering functionality, to blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a surround-view monitor.
Yet to make the transition to MBUX, the C63 Cabriolet range boasts the last generation COMAND infotainment interface, linked to a 10.25-inch central display screen resting atop the dashboard. Sound quality is courtesy of a 13-speaker Burmester surround system, while inputs are made via the steering wheel or a rotary controller on the center console. The system boasts full AM/FM radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD radio, and Bluetooth media inputs, while also catering fully to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. Navigation isn't standard but can be added optionally, with live traffic updated courtesy of TomTom.
The 2019 C63 Cabriolet is affected by the same two recalls as its coupe sibling, with one pertaining to a potential failure of the active brake assist, while the other relates to a locknut on the steering rack that may fail and affect the ability to steer the vehicle. J.D. Power nevertheless gave the 2019 AMG C63 an industry-average predicted reliability rating of three out of five stars. Mercedes covers the AMG C63 with a standard four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty with extension options of up to 100,000-miles.
Neither the NHTSA nor IIHS has evaluated the crash-safety of the C63 Cabriolet or the related C-Class Coupe. Despite the lack of safety ratings, there are numerous features that should keep you safe, such as a class-leading ten airbags (including dual front knee airbags and rear side airbags), blind-spot monitoring, high-performance brakes, a rearview camera, and pop-up roll bars in the event the C63 Cabrio flips over. Additional collision avoidance measures are available, including lane-keeping assist, lane change assist, and automatic emergency braking.
The C63 Cabriolet is a strange mix of luxury and performance but somehow struggles to excel at either. While the open-top experience might enable you to enjoy the V8's growl, the excess weight and reduced rigidity that accompany it compromise the C63's sporting intentions. Not only is straight-line performance hampered, but the weight and body flex when cornering means you're never able to access the full potential of the V8 under the hood. As a luxury open-top tourer, the weight and the overly-firm ride aren't as luxurious as one might expect. Yes, the C63 Cabriolet is highly equipped and luxuriously decked out with the finest materials and latest technology, but it's neither a true performance car nor a wafting GT car. Instead, it's overpowered for what it is, making it difficult to recommend over the softer, real-world performance offered by the cheaper C43 Cabriolet.
For 2019 the Mercedes-AMG C63 Cabriolet carries a starting MSRP of $76,100, while for the C63 S Cabriolet, prospective buyers can expect a starting MSRP of $83,800. Prices exclude tax, registration, licensing, and Mercedes' delivery, handling, and processing fee of $995. Independent dealers may offer dealer-specific incentives and pricing structures, and options quickly add to the overall price tag.
Here's the thing - you shouldn't really buy a C63 Cabriolet at all, instead, go for the C43 Cabriolet. But, if you insist on getting your fix of drop-top V8 noise, we'd recommend opting for the base C63. There's really no noticeable difference in performance between the base and the S, and the $7,000 savings will enable you to equip optional niceties like ventilated front seats, 64-color ambient interior lighting, wireless charging, and an AMG head-up display. These add to the already extensive amount of equipment which includes AIRSCARF, dual-zone climate control, and the COMAND infotainment interface, but forgoes the performance-focused extras equipped to the C63 S like RACE mode and dynamic engine mounts.
It's not often that a junior model is better than the halo of its range, but it's almost certainly the case for the Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet. It might boast two fewer cylinders and nearly 100 hp less than the C63, but it's this softer semi-AMG persona that makes the C43 Cabriolet such an exceptional luxury cruiser. It may weigh around the same, but with standard all-wheel-drive and less power on tap, the power is more usable, and there's never the same sense that you'll overwhelm the chassis. The suspension is softer, too, making the ride more comfortable on a day to day basis, and with a price tag some $13,000 less than the base C63, the C43 is a true bargain and the sensible lifestyle option.
A tale as old as time, BMW vs Mercedes-Benz, M vs AMG, but in this case, the M4 and C63 have had their teeth blunted by the removal of their roofs. It evens out the battle substantially as no, neither are particularly suited for track-day use. In the real-world, the C63 still feels more luxurious, and with more power and a better soundtrack, it's still the more evocative of the pair. But the BMW's ace up its sleeve is the retractable hard-top roof, which although adding weight, sees it being stiffer with the roof closed, and as a result, it's the more dynamically talented of the two. It's generally more pliant as well, largely due to less weight than the C63, while the power deficit also weighs in its favor, making it more usable with less fear of imminent death around every turn. It may be slower, but the M4 suits the Convertible body style much better than the AMG.