2019 Mercedes-AMG C63
Mercedes should have left well enough alone, we thought to ourselves when we first heard about the updates made to the 2019 Mercedes-AMG C63 and C63 S coupe, cabriolet, and sedan. The list reads like something a technophile would stash under their mattress and includes a larger standard infotainment screen, an available gigantic digital instrument cluster, nine-stage traction-control software, new AMG Dynamics chassis programs, one new driving mode, touch-capacitive nubs on the steering-wheel spokes, and little control nodules on the steering wheel that have their own miniature screens. It’s not often that extra displays or lines of code make a car more appealing to drive, especially one with the raw emotional appeal of the steroidal and brutish C63. Sigh, right?
New Stuff and Stuff
In addition to the tech, which we’ll detail further in a moment, the three U.S.-bound C63 models—there’s also a rad wagon that’s not sold here—get AMG’s retro-handsome Panamericana grille, updated fascias, new exhaust finishers, and restyled LED lights. The car still squats with fat flares over fat rubber, ready to lay waste to a favorite piece of tarmac, but the refreshed exterior—and the grille in particular—imparts greater visual sophistication. Inside, the new displays feature the carmaker’s typical clean, uncluttered, and high-res graphic execution, and they bring a state-of-the-art feel that’s welcome rather than overwhelming.
You need the screens to take full advantage of the plethora of chassis modes, settings, and features anyway. A new rain-and-snow-optimized Slippery driving mode joins Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual, and Race (S model only) on the roster of ways to alter the accelerator response, steering weight, adaptive damper firmness, transmission shift behavior, exhaust sound, and stability-control settings all at once. You can now activate these with a knob on the lower-right portion of the steering wheel, while a new pair of programmable toggles on the lower left can be used to fiddle with stuff like the individual exhaust, adaptive dampers, stability control, and transmission settings. (The knob and toggle buttons have LCD screens to display the current setting or function.) The center-console controls for these modes remain, but the new switches were added, Mercedes says, to enable easier selection of options on the fly during aggressive driving.
AMG Dynamics is new this year. It’s a piece of software tied to the driving modes that uses steering, speed, and yaw sensors to predict what the car is likely to do and then helps the driver by working the stability control and brake-based torque vectoring. Mercedes says AMG Dynamics makes the C63 more stable in Slippery and Comfort modes, friskier in Sport, friskier still in Sport+, and extra agile with a slight tendency toward oversteer in Race. We came to think of AMG Dynamics as a sort of multistage version of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control, and the car does indeed feel slightly nimbler, steadier, and more eager to turn in. Also, you should know that the AMG Dynamics modes are called Basic, Advanced, Pro, and Master and that Mercedes promises “even experienced drivers receive optimum assistance without being patronized by the system.” We didn’t feel patronized, which means that it was probably working.
AMG Traction Control: Basically Magic
The single best new thing, however, is the nine-step AMG Traction Control. The C63 is the second AMG to get the technology after it made its debut on the GT R supercar two years ago. Its existence isn’t obvious, but activating it is easy. Simply switch off the stability control with the center-console button or the steering-wheel toggle, at which point the chassis-mode knob’s screen changes to display your setting number and a segmented green, yellow, and red dial. In a nutshell, the system controls how much torque is sent to the rear tires in order to deliver optimum grip—and to prevent time-sapping wheelspin or oversteer—when getting back on the throttle in a given corner.
We found the system to be highly effective in the GT R we ran at Lightning Lap 2017, where that car came very close to setting a new overall record, and our regard remains high after driving C63 coupes and sedans at the wicked and challenging Bilster Berg track in Bad Driburg, Germany. It’s an intelligent tool for learning the car, your own limits, and/or a particular racetrack in a metered way. Having a safety net that can be progressively scaled back makes particular sense in a model that serves as an entry point into AMG’s wild ’n’ woolly lineup. It makes any fool feel like a hero as they exploit and slide the C63; the car is easy to move around and gather up as it is, but any tail-out action the system determines as going too far is dealt with quickly and imperceptibly. In short, you want AMG Traction Control. Which means you also want the C63 S model, since it’s standard there and not available in the basic C63. Our only gripes are that 1) it’s somewhat counterintuitive that intervention is dialed down as you move up through the numbers, and 2) we don’t have AMG Traction Control in everything we drive.
Also cool: the new Track Pace option for the main screen that displays racetrack maps and records lap and sector times; it also can use the head-up display to show helpful items such as upcoming corners, braking points, and cornering-speed references. Several famous circuits are preloaded, but the system will also use GPS to learn new ones. AMG has made it about as simple as possible to get up to pace at the track.
The Rest of the Thing
Retuned adaptive dampers offer a wider range of adjustment across the driving modes. That said, while Comfort mode did feel a wee bit suppler, ride quality still falls on the granitic side. You’re going to want to vote for that road-repair millage—or get a punch card from your back specialist—before handing a check over to the dealer. That check will be a bit more than last year’s, with the sedan and coupe starting in the mid-to-high $60,000s and the cabriolet at roughly $75K. Add $7000 or so for the more powerful S versions, which have not only the exclusive Race mode and AMG Traction Control but also many of the base model’s options as standard.
The engine is one of the few major components that didn’t get an overhaul. Good. The C63 packs a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 in 469-hp (base) and 503-hp (S model) strengths, and it’s a potent, sweet-spinning thing that hits like a sledgehammer. The power delivery is immediate and mighty, and stomps on the gas pedal send the car hurtling forward like Mjölnir making its way back to Thor’s hand. And the sound is as intoxicating as ever—at least in this turbocharged generation—all thunder and fury in the exhaust’s most aggressive setting.
As before, the V-8’s fusillade is sent to the rear wheels via a Mercedes Speedshift automatic transmission. That means there’s a multi plate clutch used in place of a torque converter, which makes it more responsive to acceleration requests, but it now has nine forward ratios instead of the previous seven. The additional ratios don’t make much of a difference in driving, but the new ’box now can skip more ratios in one go rather than shuffling among gears. It’s also said to shift even more quickly; the seven-speed shifted plenty quick before, and the new nine-speed shifts plenty quick now.