Throughout history, the most desirable of automobiles have had some things in common. If you are thinking it is good looks, or performance, you’re absolutely spot on, but there’s one other trait shared by almost all of the world’s most-loved cars; they all invariably have just two doors. So that makes it safe to assume that good looks, performance and two doors go hand in hand. There’s good reason for this too. One great thing about two-door cars is that those who design and engineer them aren’t constrained by mundane considerations of practicality and comfort. A coupé affords them the freedom to work on a loftier plane, channelling all their talents into getting the chassis dynamics and the engine output right. So, it might seem odd that Hans Werner Aufrecht and his team at AMG chose a modest W124 E-Class saloon to create the legendary 1986 Hammer, which went on to pound everything that crossed its path on the autobahn into utter submission. The sheer viciousness produced by the massive 360bhp 5.6-litre V8 made the world sit up and take note. Everyone wondered what AMG could do to an inherently sportier two-door coupé if they were able to extract supercar-rivalling performance from an ordinary saloon. And AMG didn’t keep anyone wondering for long, and started dropping ridiculously powerful V8s into the stubby noses of CLKs and later C-Class coupés.
Although we had seen for a decade and a half what AMG could do to the C-Class platform, the pure brilliance of the W205 C-Class saloon, which incidentally went on to be a category winner at the wheels Car of the Year awards 2015, left us imagining how good a C 63 Coupé based on that platform could turn out to be. We got a taste of it when we drove it last year in Europe, but that only whetted our appetite to lay our hands on one as soon as it arrived here. And when that happened last week, we promptly went to our favourite squiggly roads that snake up Fujairah’s Hajar ranges.
As has been the case with all AMG-badged cars, it’s the hand-built V8 under the bonnet that’s the star here. Yes, it’s a downsized mill, but any apprehensions about it having compromised its character are dispelled the moment you press the start button. It’s as raucous and booming as its larger, naturally aspirated predecessor, and the soundtrack that emanates from the trapezoidal quad pipes at start is as deeply thunderous. In the S variant we have here, the 4.0-litre biturbo has been tuned to push out 503bhp and 700Nm of torque as against the 469bhp and 650Nm put out by the same V8 block in the ‘regular’ C 63 coupé. The high output, especially the torque being sent to the rear wheels, has led the engineers to ditch the usual nine-speed automatic seen in other two-door C-Class variants including the Merc-AMG C 43, in favour of a seven-speed auto ’box. Although it’s not as new as the nine-speed set-up, it slices through cogs with impressive precision, showing no hesitation whatsoever when shifted using the steering-mounted paddles. Power delivery is remarkably linear for a turbocharged engine, with smooth upshifts and crisp, delectably defined downshifts, especially in the more hardcore Sport and Sport Plus modes.
AMG didn’t keep anyone wondering for long, and started dropping ridiculously powerful V8s into the stubby noses of CLKs and, later, C-Class coupés.
And the result of this brilliant drivetrain set-up is some strikingly high performance figures. It hurtles the C 63 S from standstill to 100kph in a blistering 3.9 seconds, and takes it all the way to a limited top speed of 250kph, putting it on a par with all its rivals, including the BMW M4 and the Cadillac ATS-V. And to make sure the rest of the car can handle this massive output, the engineers have done a considerable amount of work to the car’s mechanical underpinnings.
This includes a completely redesigned suspension with a four-link set-up in the front and a multi-link rear axle. In fact, the changes are so comprehensive that all that the C63 S shares with the regular C-Class coupé models are the doors, roof and boot lid. The track width on the front and rear axles have been increased by 73mm and 46mm respectively, while the flared wheel arches make the AMG coupé 64mm wider overall at the front and 66mm wider at the rear.
It also gets AMG-specific wheel carriers, stiffer elasto-kinematic tuning and higher negative camber, all combining to provide better dynamics.
While earlier AMG-tuned C-Class coupés were mostly straight-line heroes, the new C 63 proves much more stable and poised as you enter corners at high speeds. The C63 S Coupé comes with an electronic rear-axle limited-slip differential, as opposed to a mechanical set-up in the non-S model. It does a great job minimising slip on the inside wheel when cornering, letting you put your right foot down earlier as you come out of corners. There’s a three-stage electronic stability programme (ESP), which lets you keep it switched off, on or leave it in the “ESP Sport Handling Mode” to tweak the dynamics according your tastes. Leaving stability control off brings the tail to life, but still it feels manageable and confidence-instilling.
It’s a downsized mill, but any apprehensions about it having compromised its character are dispelled the moment you press the start button.
There are four different transmission modes as well, including a ‘Race’ mode, which is exclusive to the C 63 S, and an ‘Individual’
mode that lets you configure the settings yourself. All these different modes, including three for damping, make the C 63 S a car with widely varied characteristics from being a comfortable, compliant cruiser on the highways, to a stiff, aggressive sportscar up on the twisty mountain roads.
However, damping seems to have been set up with a bias in favour of stiffness and rigidity rather than comfort. The steering wheel also changes character perceptibly in various modes, shifting from slightly vague in Comfort to nicely weighted and responsive in Sport and Sport Plus.
Apart from the reinforcements to the foundations, Mercedes-AMG has also made changes to the C 63 coupé’s styling, with most of those playing functional roles too. The aluminium bonnet gets power bulges, which while adding to the car’s brawny appearance, gives the massive turbo V8 some extra breathing space. The large air dams and flics up front also serve specific purposes. While the ‘twin blade’ radiator grille helps lower the car’s centre of gravity visually, the front spoiler deflects air for the three air inlets and the splitter below the front apron helps reduce front-axle lift. The side profile and the rear have taken obvious cues from the S-Class Coupé, with the slim taillights and the two chrome-plated twin AMG tailpipes integrated into the diffuser looking exactly like those in the flagship two door.
The cabin is exceptionally well-crafted with plush leather and soft-touch materials all around. Seats are super-comfortable and offer great support, and getting into the perfect driving position behind the helm is quite easy thanks to the power-adjustable seats, with great visibility overall. And the fact that it’s longer, wider and taller than its predecessor with a longer wheelbase, makes the cabin noticeably roomier than before. It also comes packed with a multitude of features such as Attention Assist drowsiness detection system, Blind Spot Assist, pedestrian detection, radar-based automatic cruise control, and Collision Prevention Assist, which helps mitigate rear-end collisions.
In spirit, the new Merc-AMG C 63 is a true hot-rodding successor to the original AMG Hammer. But it is also one of the most perfect examples of how the loss of two doors can help engineers infuse so much more litheness and precision to a car’s dynamics. If you thought the C-Class saloon was intense, the coupé will simply blow you away. Overall, with its taut chassis, exceptionally composed ride, and beautifully weighted steering, to me it seems no less engaging a car than a BMW M4, and better than the ATS-V.