DRIVEN: There’s no V8, but new Mercedes-AMG C63 is the total sum of its parts

Published Jun 24, 2024


Let’s talk about the Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance. It seems everyone else is, especially on social media.

And judging from the amount of chatter, the V8 C63 should have been Merc’s best seller by a large margin.

The reason?

Well, Merc have slotted in a four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine, made it into a plug-in hybrid to give it a total output of 500kW and 1,020Nm and in the process dumped the V8.

This has had the keyboard warriors up in arms, the likes of which not even MK and EFF supporters can compete with when it comes to a Government of National Unity.

Traitors, sacrilege, C63 TSI (a reference to the VW Golf fitted with a 2.0-litre engine) and clowns, they shout with indignation.

Let’s give it a bit of perspective then.

Remember when the EU was passing legislation banning all forms of internal combustion engines by 2030 allowing for only BEVs, hybrids and plug-in hybrids?

Fortunately that’s changing and the date is being discussed and postponed, but at the time Mercedes-Benz management had to make a call.

Clearly the V8 wasn’t an option anymore, so something had to be done and by the time the EU was dilly dallying about the dates, the C63 as we see it today was basically finalised and the trigger ready to be pulled for assembly.

Also, in the previous generation, V8 was the defining mark of the car, the meat on the plate, as it were. Everything else was secondary to the sound.

This new one is the complete sum of its parts, all of it combining into a very special car to drive.

Thanks to the electric motor, combined with the engine when using launch control and Race Start, it will tighten the seatbelts and throw you back into the AMG Sports seats. Picture: Supplied

I get it though, a V8 is special but you’re not going to convince everyone, especially those that have never driven or owned either, but they’re AMG fans and fully entitled to express their views.

Let’s get to it then.

To make the world’s most powerful four cylinder able to produce 350kW and 545Nm is no easy task, and it’s a peach to be sure.

Essentially, if you were to put everything together needed to make a world class racing engine, that would be what's under the bonnet.

Developed entirely in Affalterbach, it features eight injectors and a production car world first electric exhaust gas turbocharger derived from their Formula 1 team.

It’s all very sophisticated, not to mention complicated, but a four centimetre electric motor is integrated directly on the turbocharger shaft between the turbine wheel on the exhaust side and the compressor wheel on the intake side. Electronically controlled, this drives the shaft of the turbocharger directly and thus accelerates the compressor wheel, before the exhaust gas flow takes over the drive in the conventional way.

Powered by the 400-volt on-board electrical system, the electric exhaust gas turbocharger operates at speeds of up to 150,000rpm.

All of this is harnessed to all four wheels via a super quick AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT (Multi-Clutch Transmission) nine-speed transmission, with a wet start-off clutch replacing the torque converter. It will get you to 100km/h in 3.4 seconds and breeze to an electronically governed 280km/h.

The real sound of the engine is piped into the cabin via a pressure sensor in the exhaust system and also modulated via exterior loudspeakers, I suppose another reason for the chit chat.

Weighing in at 89kg, the C63’s battery has a capacity of 6.1kWh and boasts a continuous output of 70kW and a peak output of 150kW for 10 seconds.

It’s positioned above the rear axle along with the electric motor that’s integrated with an electrically shifted two-speed transmission and the electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential in a compact electric drive unit.

It has a range of 13 kilometres in Electric Mode, which isn’t very far, but enough to get around the city centre or estates where loud cars are probably banned by the homeowners association.

I suppose you can also use any of the other modes like Comfort, Battery Hold, Slippery and Individual, but not Sport, Sport+ or RACE.

There’s also a cool TRACK PACE boost strategy feature. There are currently 30 racetracks stored but you can also make your own. So when Mercedes took the car up the Simola Hill, they previously slowly followed the race line and the computer then works out the boost sector and when going full tilt up the hill, it shows exactly where to deploy the electric boost and when to dial it down again.

See what I mean about the sum of all its parts and that’s really only scratching the surface of what the car has to offer.

Loaded with more tech than a SpaceX rocket, it goes like it as well.

This car is brutally fast.

Thanks to the electric motor combined with the engine when using launch control and Race Start, it will tighten the seatbelts and throw you back into the AMG Sports seats, leaving you with a hollow sensation in the pit of your stomach.

We also had the rare privilege of driving Franschhoek Pass unencumbered by any traffic. They are doing minor repairs, but Merc managed to get a pass for us to have a clear run.

In Sport+ Mode, obviously, the only comparison I have is doing the same in a Porsche 911 GTR without the rear wheel shenanigans.

In Comfort Mode, the C63 becomes a gentle everyday runabout. Picture: Supplied

Yes, it has impressive acceleration and straight line speed, but this is what the C 63 S E Performance was designed and built to do.

Bouncing from apex to apex, combining the two power plants perfectly and using every bit of the AMG Ride Control steel suspension with Adaptive Damping provided such an exhilarating drive that it was over way too soon.

With rear axle steering, hairpins were tackled with gusto and if you’re not experienced or treat it with disrespect, talent will run out long before the car does.

You can feel the brake pedal pushing back slightly when you stomp on it before heading into a turn as it quickly regenerates the battery to prepare for the next boost session.

Having switched things back to non-hooligan in Comfort Mode, the C63 becomes a gentle everyday runabout ready to collect the kids or take you to dinner in style.

The C63 S E Performance is not exactly Jekyll and Hyde but it comes close. While talking over lunch, the general consensus was that had we driven the V8 rear wheel drive as hard as we did this version, the likelihood of ending up in ICU in a Cape Town hospital was very real.

So yes, it doesn’t have a brutish V8 under the hood, but damn, when you combine everything the Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance is a helluva special and dynamic car to drive.

It comes with a two-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and a five-year/100 000 km maintenance plan.

Pricing: C63 S E Performance: R2 476 800