It took all of my self-control not to grab a handful of cockles as I wandered the aisles of the Atarazanas Market in central Malaga, Spain. Never mind that they were raw, and I had no place to cook. Stalls filled with Iberico pork legs greeted me in the next aisle, begging to be smuggled back to the US, hooves and all. Olives, monkfish, beef hearts, spices – the market had everything, and I wanted it all in my basket.
The wizards at Mercedes-AMG, though, had less self-control than I when building the 2024 C63. They shoved everything into this car – an electric motor, a direct-cooled battery pack, the world's most powerful four-cylinder engine, four-wheel steering, adaptive dampers, a display setting that flashes “BOOST” on the instrument cluster. I'm pretty sure there's a kitchen sink somewhere in the trunk, too.
But much as a dish with olives, monkfish, and beef heart won't suit everyone's palette, the latest C63's odd flavors just feel a bit off. The last few C63s were always a bit of an anachronism – a big, roaring V8 engine and absurd speed gave the impression that pleasure was more important than outright pace. The 2024 model is missing all that. It's quick but heavy. Agile but restrained. It will unquestionably work better in the real world and might turn a faster lap too, but the new C63 might have lost some of what made it one of our favorite sedans.
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|Quick Stats||2024 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance|
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 w/Permanently Excited Synchronous Motor|
|Output:||671 Horsepower / 752 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH:||3.3 Seconds|
|Top Speed:||174 MPH|
|Base Price:||$84,000 (est)|
Gallery: 2024 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance: First Drive
Beef, It's What's For Dinner
Much as it's done in the past, Mercedes handed the standard and very nice C-Class sedan over to AMG, which promptly ripped the thing to shreds and rebuilt it. There's still a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but the hand-built AMG engine has a larger turbocharger than even the C43, and there's an electric motor to spool it up ahead of the exhaust gas' arrival, minimizing lag. An integrated starter/alternator is on hand, and like the turbo's compressor, it runs on the 400-volt electrical system.
All told, the combustion engine alone produces 469 horsepower and 402 pound-feet of torque, which is quite a lot considering the old C63 – with double the displacement, double the turbochargers, and double the cylinders – pumped out 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. But while the output is AMG-worthy, the soundtrack is as generic as any other turbocharged 2.0-liter. There's more volume, along with some pops and cracks in the more dynamic driving modes, but the new C63's soundtrack is a substantial downgrade.
Complementing that extremely potent four-pot is the combo of an electric motor and a high-performance 6.1-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. Both mounted at the rear axle and developed with no small amount of inspiration from the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team, the pair is always good for 94 hp, but it can produce up to 201 hp in 10-second bursts.
All told, the C63's combined output sits at 671 horsepower and 752 pound-feet of torque… some of the time. That's because the electric motor's actual output is dependent on the drive mode. Comfort and Battery Hold (for maximizing the battery's all-electric range) only deliver 25 percent of the motor's oomph. Sport bumps that to 65 percent, while Sport Plus and Race go up to 80 percent. But only in Race, and only with a separate Boost mode active, will the electric motor's maximum be available. And from there, drivers need to be at wide-open throttle and push past a detent in the accelerator to deploy 100 percent of the electric boost.
That's like three steps too many, even if the effect itself is somewhat worthwhile. Intended for the track, Boost mode works best with AMG's Track Pace system to maximize the effect of the electric powertrain. Select Track Pace and one of the pre-loaded circuits and the C63 gives two strategies for managing the motor/battery. Qualifying leaves it all on the field, making max output available as long as there's juice in the battery. Endurance is more interesting, though, as it considers the layout of the track and when/where the electric motor would do the most good for the most laps.
At Ascari, the battery would take advantage of the hard braking zones on the shorter straights to recuperate energy. And then as the track straightens, “BOOST” flashes on the digital cluster to indicate that the electric motor's kick will be most effective. And in those situations, the extra torque had a palpable impact, especially exiting corners. But it all also felt like something of a gimmick. Why can't I just deploy the power when and where I see fit? It feels like the entire point of this system is to take a consideration out of the driver's hands, which is the exact opposite of what I want in a performance car.
Besides keeping the driver informed about the Boost status, Track Pace is a devil on the shoulder when lapping a circuit, keeping the driver constantly aware of their lap time and when they've gained or lost precious seconds. And that display is always in the driver's peripheral vision, urging them to go faster, carry more speed through corners, and brake later. The C63 doesn't always tolerate this behavior well, though.
Much of that fact has to do with the weight. At around 4,600 pounds – 700 more than the V8-powered C63 and nearly 800 more than the six-cylinder BMW M3 Competition xDrive – this is a very, very heavy compact sedan. And that weight is plain as day on a track. Through two lengthy sessions at Ascari, I found myself having to slow my corner entry speed way down and avoid trail braking to get the car to cooperate and stay on my intended line. The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, 265/35 fronts and 275/35 in back, don't always feel up to handling the weight either, squealing early and often through corners.
With the three-stage adaptive dampers at their most aggressive, the C63 still feels soft when pushed around the track, rolling willingly from corner to corner and exhibiting a surprising amount of dive under hard braking. And while there is standard four-wheel steering, which allows up to 2.5 degrees of rear angle, the car never feels all that agile or entertaining on the track. There was just no getting the C63's sheer weight out of my head while I lapped the track. Instead, the entire affair works better on the road.
Surf And Turf
Exiting seaside Malaga and bound for the mountain roads northeast of the city in Electric mode, it was easy to forget I was driving an AMG. Silent running and swollen wheel arches are awkward bedfellows, but the C63 won't go very far on electrons alone. The C63's 8-mile range is modest at best, but for densely packed European cities like Malaga, I understand both its presence here and the appeal. There was enough juice for me to escape town, and I did so with the windows down, taking in the sounds of the city.
The C63's range doesn't scream EV, but the three levels of motor regen mirror the all-electric EQS and EQE. The default Level 1 setting is unobtrusive, while Level 3 approaches full one-pedal driving, and drivers can deactivate regen altogether if desired. Cycling between them should be more straightforward though – it took me nearly 30 minutes of driving to figure out that the mode dial on the steering wheel doubled as the means for changing regen – and I'd like to see the regen status on the digital cluster.
As the buildings thin, the elevation increases, and the road grows twisty, the C63's versatility comes to the fore. In Comfort, the ride quality remains excellent and the steering well isolated, while the interplay between the electric motor and gas engine shows excellent tuning. There was nary a stumble when the two powertrains were working together.
But Sport and Sport Plus are the C63 at its best. The gap between suspension firmness in Sport and Sport Plus feels narrow, but the four-mode AMG Dynamics system makes up for it with a sizable gap between Advanced and Pro. The steering, which feels too isolated and lifeless in every setting, is at least more responsive and weightier, and the car feels ever so slightly more eager to move about. In short, it's simply more involving. That doesn't mean faster, though.
In fact, while running through the mountains it was hard to ignore how this 671-hp AMG felt nothing like the thought “671-hp AMG” conjures. Mercedes cites a 3.3-second sprint to 60, which is only a tenth up on an all-wheel-drive, 503-hp M3 Competition. Yes, there's strong low-end shove here and the power builds in a predictable, linear manner – the gas engine and electric motor really are an example of powertrain refinement and precision – but that breath-catching, heart-in-the-belly acceleration is just not there.
Breaking the rules and selecting Race and Boost mode solves that problem. There's a reason Mercedes hid the addicting kick-down that calls on max motor power behind modes and other settings, but after deploying it on the mountain roads outside Malaga, I can't say I agree with the reason. Using Boost in the real world to stitch together corners, electric motor and turbocharged four-cylinder surging the car ahead, takes it from gimmick to practical driving tool. Moreover, Boost made the C63 feel alive in a way it hadn't during my time at the helm.
The C63 is a 2024 model and won't arrive in North America until the end of 2023, so the lack of precise pricing and fuel economy info isn't much of a surprise. Considering the roughly $75,000 starting price of the last C63 and the sheer amount of hardware in this new model, a price between $80,000 and $85,000 isn't out of the question. Anywhere in that range would be a match for the BMW M3 ($83,595 in Competition xDrive form) and Audi RS5 Sportback ($79,295).
But the AMG should be quite a bit thriftier. In Europe, it returns the equivalent of 34 US miles per gallon – I doubt such a lofty figure is possible with EPA testing, but I'd bet my bottom dollar the C63 will still be the most efficient vehicle in its class, and by a large margin (if buyers of $80,000 sports sedans care about such things).
What those buyers will care about is performance and character, which the C63 has only part of the time. The charitable explanation is that this car is better balanced between comfort and performance than ever before (and by that logic, there's definitely room for a more unhinged Black Series model in the future). The C63 should be a wild child, a menace, a bit of a lunatic, but above all, an indulgence. For 2024, this monster has grown too darn sensible.
AMG C63 Competitor Reviews:
2024 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance