In the German power war, there’s no doubt who has the biggest army, says Jez Spinks.
Mercedes-Benz’s performance division, AMG, offers 23 variants in Australia – more than double the number of BMW’s equivalent M models, and more than triple the number of Audi’s rival RS vehicles.
The latest is the C63 S Coupe, which expands the C-Class AMG body styles beyond the more traditional sedan and more practical wagon that have been on sale since last year. At $162,400, the two-door sticks to automotive pricing tradition to cost more than its four-door relatives (by 3-5 per cent).
However, not only is the AMG Coupe’s bodywork unique compared with the regular two-door C-Class – with only the roof, doors and boot lid carried over – but it’s also been engineered to be the sportiest C63 model.
The wheels are set even further apart – they’re an inch bigger (20s) at the back. The tyres are also wider. It’s this set-up that gets the C63 S Coupe off the line and to triple-digit speeds in 3.9 seconds – a tenth faster than the lighter sedan and two-tenths quicker than the same-weight wagon.
And when the roads turn, the Coupe feels even more planted than the four-door models, which are hardly deficient in the handling department.
With a 4.0-litre V8 employing two turbochargers as compensation for sacking 2.2 litres of engine displacement from the previous model’s V8, there’s 375kW of power and 700Nm of torque capable of quickly turning the rear end into the front end with injudicious use of the throttle pedal.
Such pirouettes aside, there’s a sufficiently balletic nature to the C63 S Coupe that makes it rewarding to drive on twisty roads – even if its 1.8-tonne kerb weight means it’s not quite the ultra-nimble sports car it could be.
It’s hugely capable on a racetrack, too, with a balance that gives the driver the option of scrubbing corner-entry speeds by lifting completely off the throttle without the car starting to hop around like it’s just popped a pill at a rave party.
Only the speed-sensitive steering disappoints slightly. While it offers the requisite precision to eliminate driver anxiety through high-speed corners, its tendency to stiffen momentarily when being turned means the steering isn’t as fluid as it could be.
The same can be said about the suspension if you have the multi-mode dampers in the firmer settings of Sport and Sport+ on typical Australian country roads. Bigger bumps can cause a sharp enough vertical movement that you start to wonder if you just might be sitting in the ejector seat from James Bond’s Aston DB5.
Select Comfort instead, via the same metallic scroller switch on the centre console, and AMG’s mid-sized coupe better rolls with the punched surfaces, without allowing the body to corner like it’s sitting on sponges rather than springs.
An Individual setting usefully allows the suspension to remain in Comfort while other vehicle settings are in sportier – or even racier – modes. There’s a Race setting, which Mercedes comically refers to in its media information as a mode “for ambitious laps of a racetrack”.
You’ll want the drivetrain in Sport or Sport+ for the road because it amplifies a V8 that remains central to the AMG experience.
It also brings the quickest paddle-flicked (or self-shifted) gearchanges from the seven-speed auto transmission.
You can also press an Exhaust button on the console to keep flaps open in the Coupe’s pipeworks, encouraging the C63 S to burble purposefully at low speeds, pop on upshifts, and provide an addictive staccato soundtrack in tandem with lag-free, pedal-to-the-carpet acceleration.
Even Porsche and Ferrari, not least BMW with its rival M4, have struggled to make some of their turbocharged engines sound so good. There’s no acoustic trickery here, either.
It just has to compete with noisy roar from those fat tyres on rougher-surfaced roads.
The front seats, positioned 14mm lower than in either the sedan or wagon, solidifies the impression you’re driving the most dynamic C63 variant.
Otherwise it’s the same Nappa leather upholstery, prominent wood trim (with optional carbon fibre as an alternative), an AMG-specific head-up display incorporating a graphic horizontal rev counter, and sliding panoramic roof.
Rear passengers will find headroom restricted, and the 355-litre boot means the Coupe’s stylish silhouette may be spoiled by a roof pod for holiday trips.
The sedan and Estate versions exist if practicalities are the priority; the C63 S Coupe’s mission is to be the sharpest weapon in the C63 S armoury. And it succeeds.