by Sebastian Cenizo
Mercedes-AMG and the C-Class, a symbiosis that has given us one of the finest compact luxury coupes around year after year, is rumored to completely reinvent itself with a 2021 model that will ditch V8 power in favor of something more polar bear friendly. For now, the C63 continues to battle its biggest rival, the BMW M4, with its V8 heart intact. Rear-wheel-drive and a nine-speed automatic gearbox are the order of the day, with propulsion coming from a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 469 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque in the base C63, and 503 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque in the hotter S version. Pricing starts just below $70,000, but as is trendy for Mercedes these days, you have to pay a considerable amount more to unlock the full host of safety features that the C63 is available with.
Since the C63 and C63 S are coming to the end of their life cycle with not too long to go before they are completely overhauled and redesigned, no changes have been announced for the 2020 model year.
The muscular body lines, but svelte styling, of the C63 Coupe make it one of the most handsome vehicles currently on offer from Mercedes-AMG, with only the AMG GT supercar arguably a better fit for the current design language. A long, taut hood leads to the trademark Panamericana grille, which is framed by LED headlights and enhanced by gaping air dams. The fenders feature a vent-like indentation, with the bulging arches framing 18-inch wheels on the C63, and 19s on the S. 20-inch rears are also available. Speaking of the rear, a short trunk, elongated LED taillights, and a familiar quad-tipped exhaust with fake vents and a diffuser complete the look from the outside.
Both the C63 and C63 S share the exact same dimensions, with the only difference being found in the curb weight. The base C63 weighs 4,109 lbs while the S model is a little fatter at 4,134 lbs. The length is 187.1 inches with a wheelbase of 111.8, while the width is an imposing 79.4 inches with the arches extended out further than the wing mirrors. Height is just 55.2 inches, making it nearly an inch shorter than the sedan variant.
Mercedes-AMG's versatile and capable 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 reappears in the 2020 C63 with 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. Coupled exclusively with a nine-speed MCT automatic gearbox and rear-wheel-drive, the slower C63 can get from 0-60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. The full-fat experience comes in the C63 S, though, which can do the sprint a tenth quicker. If indeed, the time of the V8 C63 is coming to an end, the S model will be a fitting swansong, its 503 hp and 516 lb-ft resonating through the standard AMG Performance exhaust with an almost N/A-like delivery of thrust. Although the figures are part of the story, the fun factor that the C63 offers is what makes it an attractive proposition. Where bigger models from both Mercedes and BMW have moved on to switchable all-wheel-drive systems for better control, the C63 and its nemesis, the M4, have doggedly remained rear-wheel-drive, at least for now. This means that you can leave the C63 in a comfortable setting when you want to cruise home and step things up by changing gears yourself through the paddles when you want to attack corners or do ridiculously smoky rolling burnouts.
The C63 lacks the absolute deftness and agility of an M4, thanks to a truly lardy 500 pounds more junk in the proverbial trunk. Nevertheless, it would take driving the two back to back for you to find a reason to complain about the C63. Despite its heft, the C63 never struggles to move, and its power is impressively managed by the adaptive AMG Ride Control suspension. With an electronic limited-slip diff in the base C63, you can still take corners sharply when attacking bends and cause the weather change from the rear tires alone when the urge for hooliganism takes you.
To cope with the increase in power and to provide an even crisper driving experience, the C63 S is fitted with a sharper tune on the electronic rear diff for more clinical cornering maneuvers. The steering is communicative and well-weighted, although in Comfort it can feel over-assisted. However, a recurring gripe on Mercedes-AMG models is the adaptive suspension that only seems to adapt your spine to a form mimicking that of Notre Dame's most famous bell-ringer. In its comfiest setting, it's acceptable and glosses over minor road imperfections, but when you need firmer damping for better response, it's excessively taut, jarring every fiber of your being and making you question why you spent all that money on a C63 when a regular C-Class would have saved you from the torture chamber that is an AMG.
Nevertheless, a C63 sedan doesn't have the wider rear track that the coupe does, and on the days that you're out on the track, the extra investment shows its value with phenomenal grip and excellent corner execution. The brakes can't be faulted, and with optional composite rotors available, you can make the most of racetrack surfaces when the suspension feels just right.
Despite the C63 and C63 S having a difference of 34 horses and 37 lb-ft, their EPA economy figures are identical. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 returns 18/26/20 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. By comparison, both the BMW M4 CS and the Lexus RC F manage a combined mpg rating of 19. With a 17.4-gallon gas tank, this translates to an average range for the C63 of around 348 miles between fillups. But while the figures are impressive, they hinge on your ability to resist flattening the loud pedal, which often proves to be an impossible task.
The C63 is a four-seater officially, but as with pretty much every vehicle of this type, the rear seats should be reserved for your youngest offspring, particularly since climbing into the back is a bit of a tricky exercise. The front seats on the other hand, whether they're looking after a six-footer or not, are exceptionally comfortable and easy to access. Thanks to 14-way power adjustment and a low mounting point, headroom is breezy, legroom is generous, and the view out is easy to perfect. An optional set of AMG Performance seats can be specced for more lateral support and a racier look, and although we've bemoaned their firmness on other AMG products, they make sense in an M4 rival and complete the aggressive intonations that the styling gives off.
It seems that automakers in this segment must have had some sort of conference to discuss how much stuff a person can take with them. The Lexus RC F has 10.1 cubic feet of trunk volume, with the C63 barely any better at 10.5 cubes. The BMW M4 is almost an RV in comparison, with a whopping 11 cubic feet. Nevertheless, these cars are all roughly the same shape and size, so their cargo areas that can only hold a couple of medium-sized suitcases each are no surprise. If it's space you need, the C63 sedan will be a little more accommodating, with 12.6 cubes. If you don't want to sacrifice the style of a coupe, at least the seats fold in a 40/20/40 split.
In the cabin, there are a pair of decent door pockets that can hold large water bottles, while the center of the cockpit houses a pair of cupholders, a medium storage bin, and a spot for your phone too. The back also has a pair of cupholders, but the side pockets are considerably smaller than those affixed to the front doors.
Both the C63 and C63 S feature keyless entry and the ability to perform remote starts through an app on your smartphone. Each is also fitted with a panoramic sunroof and an IWC Ingenieur analog clock, while a more precise method of measuring your improvements on track comes by way of a standard lap timer. Also included is heating for the front seats, both of which are 14-way power-adjustable with lumbar support. Dual-zone climate control, an electronic trunk closer, and an AMG-specific cluster are also standard. Options include a 12.3-inch digital cluster, as well as ventilated front seats, a surround-view camera, and an automatic parking assistant. Standard safety features include a drowsy driver warning, crosswind assist, blind-spot monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, and a rearview camera. Also available are adaptive LED headlights with auto high beams, active blind-spot assist, lane-keep assist, active lane-change assist, adaptive cruise control, and autonomous emergency braking. The C63 S is also standard with a steering-mounted AMG drive mode selector Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Slippery, and Individual modes, the latter of which can be fine-tuned to your personal preferences.
Mercedes' partnership with Burmester continues in the C63, with a 13-speaker surround-sound system fitted as standard. What you hear through the standard system is manipulated either via a console-mounted controller or the steering wheel's touchpads, while you can see what's going on by means of a dash-mounted 10.25-inch screen. Through this, the infotainment system can give you access to SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple and Android smartphone connectivity, and HD Radio. A pair of USB ports is supplemented by support for Bluetooth too. Wireless charging with NFC pairing, as well as COMAND navigation with TomTom live traffic updates, TuneIn Radio, and a Wi-Fi hotspot, is optional.
The 2020 C63 Coupe has a great quality and reliability score of 82 out of 100 from J.D. Power, and thus far, is recall-free. However, the identical 2019 model suffers two recalls: one for a potentially faulty active brake assist system and another for a locknut on the steering rack that could fail. Should there be any issues, Mercedes does provide four years/50,000 miles of limited coverage, along with roadside assistance and powertrain coverage for the same period. No complimentary scheduled maintenance is offered, but you can add service packages that start at $1,490.
The IIHS and NHTSA have not rated the C63 coupe in their respective crash tests, but the IIHS did award the mechanically related C-Class sedan with a Top Safety Pick + award in 2019. This applies to models with the optional adaptive LED headlights. In addition to a drowsy driver warning, blind-spot monitoring, crosswind assist, and Pre-Safe collision preparation, the C63 also has eight airbags with dual front, dual side, dual knee, and dual curtain airbags as standard. Adaptive LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, automatic parking, active lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and full-speed automatic emergency braking are all available.
Taste is subjective, and the war between Affalterbach and Munich has been so fervent over the years that Mercedes-AMG and BMW M's respective followers have defaulted to choosing 'their' brand's offering regardless. Nevertheless, that hasn't stopped each company from pushing the envelope and honing their cars to the point that fence-sitters have a tough time making a decision. The C63 has become just as exciting a vehicle as the M4, and with a wealth of available safety options, the AMG monster's abilities are more accessible than ever before. With a choice of either 469 or 503 hp, the C63 provides rocketship acceleration while its interior swathes you in comfort. Its wider rubber and more aggressive rear track make it a better performance car than its sedan sibling, and with classy yet imposing styling, it's hard to say no to. The suspension is a little off-putting, but this isn't a GT car and the fact that you have the ability to get from 0-60 in under four seconds makes the ride an acceptable sacrifice. We'd be more than chuffed if one of these ended up in our office car park.
Pricing for the base C63 starts at the not-inconsiderable sum of $69,900 before a $995 destination charge and other taxes. This earns you the 469-hp variant with Mercedes' version of a leatherette. The C63 S is a more aggressive beast with 503 horses under the hood and Nappa leather upholstery, as well as some improvements in handling, with dynamic engine mounts and electronic LSD. This model starts at $77,500, but getting carried away with the extensive options list can take that figure well north of $100,000.
If your focus with the C63 is performance, and we think it should be, then you may as well go for the C63 S. With more power and the option of 20-inch rear wheels wrapped in extreme performance rubber, this is the most capable C63 you can get. We'd opt for the adaptive LED headlights, the exterior carbon accents, and the AMG Aerodynamics package with its deeper front spoiler and optimized rear diffuser. We'd also add ventilated front seats for a little more ease of use in day-to-day life and add navigation too. Then we'd spec the Driver Assistance package for its semi-autonomous aids that can take the strain out of traffic, and opt for the Parking Assistance package too, which allows for automatic parking and adds a surround-view camera. With the uprated ceramic composite brakes added too, you have the most capable C63 available for just under $100,000 but the standard stoppers are good enough if you'll seldom see the chequered flag on your neighborhood racetrack.
When it comes to outright performance, each of these vehicles has their own USP. The Mercedes is a more powerful option with at least 469 hp, while the M4 is only capable of 425 as standard or 444 with the Competition Package. However, the M4 is over 500 lbs lighter, and with a manual gearbox as standard - something the C63 isn't even available with - the M4 is still the better driver's car. While the C63 will out-accelerate the M4 in a drag race, the Bimmer will have the Merc for breakfast in the corners without breaking a sweat. Ultimately, the choice will lie in what the coupe will be used for and how easily one acclimatizes to being in the driver's seat. Both can perform insane drifts and both are suitable for daily driving, but for a car that will be more fun to drive, we'd have the BMW M4 without a second thought.
The Lexus RC F is one of the most underappreciated vehicles on sale today. Its styling is controversial, and without the assistance of turbocharging, its 5.0-liter V8 can seem a little average. It still produces a respectable 472 hp, but the torque figure is only 395. Coupled with a curb weight of 3,902 lbs, it only manages the sprint from 0-60 in 4.2 seconds. On the road, the C63 will batter it badly. However, its suspension is well-sorted, making for a more comfortable daily companion, and although its interior isn't as lavish as that of the Merc, it's still an ergonomic and stylish place to be. Let's also not forget that the RC F is one of the last remaining cars that doesn't use a turbo and is, therefore, a much sweeter sounding machine. It's tough to call between the two cars, but if elegance and style are more your thing, the Merc is a better choice, whereas the Lexus is for those who don't conform and want to experience the sensation of a naturally-aspirated V8's rumble and raucous revving.