Do you think, when governments around the world demanded reductions in global emissions, they knew they were condemning some of the world’s greatest cars to massive weight gains? Regardless of complicity, that’s the fate we’re now facing: decreasing displacements paired with increased mass. Somehow, in the case of the new Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-PerformanceS, it still works out just fine.
Full Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz wanted me to drive the new AMG C63 S E-Performance so badly, the company flew me to the south of Spain, put me up in a posh hotel in Malaga, and waved so much tapas under my nose that I wished I’d packed pants with an elastic waistband.
The latest, littlest Mercedes-AMG 63 in the U.S. has received the E-Performance treatment and it’s hard to know where to begin, because all the numbers are eye-popping. Power seems like a good place to start: 671 hp and 752 lb-ft of torque. That’s a lot for what is a reasonably small sedan, but it’s doubly impressive when you consider that power comes courtesy of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
Yes: Gone is the beloved 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 found in the outgoing C63 S, replaced by what is, per Mercedes, the most powerful production four-cylinder on the planet. On its own, stripped of the plug-in hybrid system, the little closed-deck 2.0-liter four-banger still pumps out 469 ponies at 6,750 rpm. That’s remarkable.
It’s also turbocharged, with a snail so big it might ordinarily deliver ‘90s-level lag. Here, though, there’s virtually none: Turbo spool-up time is nearly eliminated thanks to little electric motors that spin the compressors up to 150,000 rpm, powered by the car’s high-voltage electrical system. Combine that with the instant torque of the 201-hp electric motor adding power directly to the rear axle, and you have a system that is remarkably, blissfully free of delay.
Now, despite that electric motor at the back (powered by a 6.1-kWh battery pack that forms an unsightly hump in the trunk) the rear motor can still drive the front wheels through the C63’s all-wheel-drive system. It’s a plug-in hybrid, so even when you’re running in emissions-free pure-electric mode, this is still an all-wheel drive car. But with only eight miles of battery range, you won’t do it for long.
Clearly, that battery wasn’t optimized for range. Instead, AMG gurus designed this hybrid system for rapid charging and discharging. The maximum output from the electric motor is only available in 10-second bursts. The rest of the time it delivers a more reasonable 94 hp.
That motor has its own two-speed transmission to keep it torquey at all speeds, while a nine-speed gearbox transmits the combustion engine’s power. As is true with many AMG performance models, instead of a torque converter, this gearbox has a wet clutch, like a sequential transmission on a motorcycle. But don’t be fooled — while it delivers lightning-quick paddle shifts, it’s still an automatic.
That is an awful lot of moving parts for a single car, and I haven’t even talked about the adaptive dampers or the rear steering. But let’s not worry about tomorrow’s maintenance woes. Instead, let’s live in the now and appreciate the magic this sedan delivers on the track.
The Ascari circuit, about 20 minutes outside of Malaga, is not for the faint of heart, an endless string of crests and off-camber turns, frequently with Fenway-sized green walls just off the paved surface. It’s also not a place for understeer, something you might expect from an all-wheel-drive sedan that weighs somewhere north of 4,600 pounds.
That’s the final eye-popping number when it comes to the C63 S. It’s gained somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 pounds over the previous model, making it very nearly as heavy as the outgoing AMG S63. Modern engineering can do some marvelous things with suspension and stability control to make a car feel light on its feet, but just like my tapas indulgence made my pants a little more constricting, you can absolutely feel the extra mass on the new C63 on track.
The C63 S has a fair amount of body roll as you pitch it into turns, and it isn’t long before the optional 265/35ZR-20 front tires start loudly expressing their displeasure (19-inch wheels are standard). None of that dampened my fun, though. Many times I thought I was sure to plow off the track in a torrent of understeer, only to turn the wheel a little more and have the car pull itself through. Adding more throttle aided further in getting the nose to come around, and the trick rear differential and rear-axle steering surely helped. Every time it felt like I’d long run out of grip, the car still had plenty in reserve to get me where I was aiming it.
And the power? Woof. The C63 S absolutely rockets forward. In Race mode, when you push the throttle all the way down (past Mercedes’ traditional downshift detent), you get the full thrust of the rear-axle motor for up to 10 seconds. It’s a remarkable, addictive feeling, and yes, all the Formula 1-derived turbo tech works wonders. There’s virtually no lag.
Out on the open road, I wasn’t able to truly take advantage of all that power, but even there the C63 S felt poised and playful. The sport seats are perhaps a bit punishing for long road trips, and the suspension might be a little bouncy even on its softest setting, but this hybrid super-sedan was always engaging and fun.
And the sound? It’s safe to say the car has lost a bit of its character going from eight cylinders to four. But AMG engineers have done a great job of mixing authentic sounds from the sport exhaust with a little Auto-Tune action through the speakers to create a harmony that’s evocative and fun.
So the new C63 S has put on a little weight — okay, a lot of weight — but who among us is immune from the effects of holiday overindulgence? What’s important is that the car has seen an even greater increase in technology and thrust, resulting in a sport sedan that’s a little less raw, a little less engaging, but still an absolute hell of a good time.