Our colleagues at the British magazine Autocar have taken a first drive of the new Mercedes-AMG C 63 S E Performance, the first AMG C-Class to ditch the V8 engine in favor of an electrified 4-cylinder. And as expected, the impressions are not very favorable.
History records the Mercedes C 36 AMG as the first C-Class AMG. But it wasn’t. The Mercedes C 36 AMG was just a C 280 that was disassembled, and then the AMG body kit, brakes, suspension and 6 inline, 3.6 liter engine were added in Affalterbach. The first genuine C-Class AMG was the C 43 AMG in 1997, equipped with the 4,266 cc (260.3 cu in) V8 engine. If it weren’t the V8-powered C-Class AMG, may be AMG wouldn’t be the success it is today.
But, like it or not, another page in AMG history has now been turned. The C-Class AMG with a V8 engine is dead, and the successor is the new Mercedes-AMG C 63 S E Performance 4-cylinder. Autocar’s editor believes the decision to ditch the V8 is linked to new emissions regulations and costs. If Mercedes could afford to keep the V8 and add a hybrid system in the case of larger limousines, increasing the price and profit margin, this was not possible with the C-Class AMG. It sells in higher volumes, and a price increase would be problematic.
But when you experience how directly the V8 drop influences the dynamic appeal of such a car designed for driving enjoyment, you can evaluate the true cost of this decision. It’s not pleasant to come to such a conclusion but an AMG model like this without a V8 engine seems a strange and meaningless thing, like a clock without hands.
Mercedes has fitted the new C 63 S E Performance with the best of its powertrain and drivetrain to compensate for the lack of a V8. But no system manages to replace the V8. Unfortunately, we live in times when a company like Mercedes-AMG has to take drastic measures to keep such sports cars on sale.
Although Autocar has a transient conclusion: Those who make the most significant changes and take the biggest risks should be applauded, only if the stakes are calculated.
The Mercedes-AMG C 63 S E Performance uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine which features an electric exhaust gas turbocharger to eliminate any turbo lag. The 476 ps (469 hp) and 545 Nm (402 lb-ft) are transmitted for the first time in the C-Class AMG to all four wheels via an nine-speed AMG Speedshift MCT automatic transmission. The all-wheel drive system includes a limited-slip rear differential, torque vectoring function and integral steering.
An electric motor is then coupled to the rear differential via a two-speed transmission and the electric motor can add 204 ps (201 hp) and 320 Nm (236 lb-ft) on top of what the combustion engine delivers via the PTO shaft.
The battery developed by Mercedes weighs 80 kg and is placed above the rear axle, has a small capacity for a PHEV, only 6.1 kWh, and offers an electric range of only 13 km (8 miles).
On the track, driving the new AMG C 63 S E is a very different experience from the old model. The Track Pace app tells you when to use the Boost function on the track to get the best lap time. You select the track you’re on, and the app locates you and tells you where it’s best to use the Boost function. Next, you switch to Race mode, and when the word Boost flashes on the digital instrument cluster, you press kick-down. A stopwatch and indicator bar shows you how long Boost is available.
But beyond these things, which are great fun, the question is how much of the traditional AMG values can the new C-Class AMG deliver? Unfortunately, not much. With the electric motor running at full power, the AMG C 63 S E Performance is a fast car. If you use the other drive modes (eight in total, including Electric and Battery Hold but not including Drift mode), you’ll enjoy the power of the electric motor without having to press kick-down. If you switch gears manually and use a higher gear, the torque available at medium revs allows effortless driving.
But as the revs increase, you realize the limits of the 4-cylinder engine. The engine doesn’t revs as easily as a larger, multi-cylinder engine and doesn’t have the ferocity expected above 5000 rpm. The engine also lacks the characteristic V8 sound. It sounds ok but not like a motor of a car that costs over 100,000 euros ($106,000).
Drift mode is spectacular, but the torque vectoring function and rear lockable differential don’t show their benefits. The large 2.1-tonne kerb weight is felt on the track where the AMG C 63 S E Performance tends to understeer persistently through the faster corners. Unfortunately, the new C-Class AMG feels like a big, heavy car, and the extra dose of grip and agility that its predecessors offered over their bigger siblings is gone. Want to cause an oversteer? Unless you’re in drift mode, forget it.
The loss of driving charm is a much bigger issue than the weight and agility aspects. And this loss will not be mitigated by engineers.