Road Tests

First Drive: Merc C 63 AMG (2019) has nine hooligan modes

Is this a C 63S.5?

In Golf speak, yes. A few soft but thoughtful changes have trickled down from models like the AMG GT-R and C63 AMG GT 4dr to Merc’s best-selling AMG until the all-new model gets released. But essentially the recipe remains four-years old; big V8 up front, rear-wheel drive, swollen arches, interminable extras to make it look meaner still and a thunderous soundtrack which isn’t far off the old 6.2-litre V8.

Quick recap

The C 63’s USP is still a V8 while its competitors use either a V6 or straight six. The 4.0-litre V8 with the glowing turbos cradled inside the V now gains a little extra provenance from its partnership with Aston Martin so those 375kW are exactly the same as the ones you’ll unleash in the new Aston Martin DB11. The C 63 does produce a bit more torque than the Aston with 700Nm versus 650Nm. The updated model range is still available in four-door, coupe and convertible.

What’s new then?

The gearbox on the 2019 C 63 AMG is now the MCT 9-speed version but the two extra ratios don’t sharpen the car’s straightline performance so 0-100kph remains 3.9 seconds through a simplified, robust launch control. The electronically limited top speed is still 290kph. The gearbox promises extra snap to each shift speed and will tolerate multiple downshifts but there’s no claimed improvement to fuel consumption or carbon emissions.

Hanging off the chunky flat-bottom steering wheel are the car’s key differentiators. In AMG’s Formula One speak we’d call them the Party Modes. Here you’ll notice two flimsy displays; the rotary one on the right changes the car’s dynamic settings in seven stages from Slippery to Race while the one positioned on the left controls the ESC and suspension. Switch the ESC off and the dial switches function to a 9-speed traction control with stages 5 and below preventing a crash and everything above requiring varying degrees of opposite lock.

Yes that also means further button redundancy because the dynamic selector is still on the centre console but it’s definitely the preferred shortcut and just tapping the button’s face will engage your pre-selected Individual settings. Nearly as effective as BMW’s famed M1 and M2 settings.

Presuming that this will be the swansong to the rear-wheel driven C 63, Mercedes-AMG has pulled out every trick with the car’s electronically-controlled differential. Under the banner of AMG Dynamics, the programme collates information from speed, the steering angle or the yaw rate and from these inputs, will deliver a level of torque vectoring through the ESP. On top of that there are four stages (Basic, Advanced, Pro and Master) to experiment with. We recommend a big empty space.


C 63 pricing has rocketed while the car’s cheap interior (which is painfully adrift of an A-Class) has stood still. Consider that this car first launched with a base price of R1 171 000 and just two years ago you could pick a new one up for R1 360 250.  The 2019 C 63 at R1 728 700 is around R200 000 more than the BMW M4 Competition Pack and Alfa Romeo QV. But the new ESP and differential control is a true revelation, metering out the grip with great precision, thereby restoring some welcome finesse to the handling. The C 63 now plies multiple stages of grip as well as an Alfa Romeo Giulia and crucially, more effectively than the BMW M4.  Andrew Leopold

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