2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe First Drive Review

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When a car is offered in both sedan and coupe body styles, it’s easy to assume the manufacturer simply removed two doors from the sedan and filled the gap to make a coupe. While that’s sometimes true, Mercedes-AMG resisted the urge to take the easy way out and instead saw the coupe-ification of the C-Class as an opportunity to improve performance. You won’t necessarily see that in the numbers, though. According to the official spec sheet, the Coupe and sedan are identical in many regards. They employ the same 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 rated 469 hp and 479 lb-ft in standard trim and 503 hp and 516 lb-ft for this S Model. Same seven-speed multi-clutch automatic transmission, same limited-slip differential (electronically controlled for the S Models), and even the same estimated performance: 3.9-4.0 seconds to 60 mph (standard versus S Model). Heck, according to Mercedes-AMG, they even weigh the same. There are some other numbers to examine, though. The C63 AMG Coupe which shares only its doors, roof, and trunk lid with the base coupe, is an inch and a half wider. Its tires also are wider, by 10mm at both ends. Continuing with the theme, the track is wider by an inch in the front and an inch and a half in the rear. Pulling this off required new front and rear suspension and subframe designs, not just revised geometry. That’s where the improved performance comes from. I suspect you’ll see a difference in skidpad, figure-eight, and road-course lap times, but between then and now, I can tell you you’ll feel the difference. Back when I tested the sedan, I wondered why it didn’t have wider tires and mused they could help quell the mild understeer in hairpins and mild on-throttle oversteer at corner exit. Granted, the sedan is a great car and the current segment leader, so these were minor nits, but valid criticism nonetheless. The Coupe, I’m happy to report, does indeed improve upon the sedan’s performance. The mild understeer found in the tight hairpins is gone. On the road, the front end of this car is glued down and won’t let go for anything. The mild on-throttle oversteer at corner exit is still there, and still as predictable, controllable, and fun as in the sedan. On the track, in this case the tight and technical Ascari Circuit near Barcelona, the differences between sedan and Coupe are more pronounced. Compared to the sedan, which we found struggled a little for grip at both ends during our Best Driver’s Car test, the Coupe is buttoned down. As on the street, the front end is more hooked up and the rear still delivers mild, predictable, controllable, and usable oversteer if you roll into the throttle hard on the way out of a corner. Getting maximum performance from the Coupe on track requires driving it by the book, though. Remember lesson one from every performance driving school ever? Slow in, fast out. That’s how the Coupe needs to be driven. Brake in a straight line, turn in with the right amount of speed, hit the apex, roll into the throttle, and track out. Try to carry even a little too much speed at turn-in and the front washes out in a mild understeer, and getting it back in line takes what feels like an eternity when your adrenaline is rushing. The good news is, if you get it right, you can go to the throttle very early and, if you roll into it properly, the car will hook up hard and launch you out of the corner. (Go too hard and you’ll get mild oversteer.) When you’ve really got a feel for the car, you can also rotate it with a bit of oversteer at corner entry by trail-braking, but it’s tricky to walk the line between trail-brake oversteer (useful) and too-much-entry-speed understeer (useless). Set up the whole corner correctly and you’ll feel like a hero, especially because you have to work for it. A top-notch chassis helps deliver hero status. The structure is rock solid and yet feels much more nimble than its two-ton curb weight suggests. The steering is thankfully linear, not variable, nicely weighted, and returns some feedback from the road surface. The adjustable dampers are among the best in the industry. They’re appropriately stiff but always handle disturbances smoothly and in a controlled manner, allowing you to do things like bounce the car off the apex curbing in an off-camber corner with the full confidence it will four-wheel drift nicely through the exit and hook right up when you go to power. Between the corners, the Coupe is pretty damn impressive, too. The thrust from that spectacular twin-turbo V-8 is immediate and endless, never seeming to suffer from turbo lag. Subjectively, the car feels considerably stronger than its 503-hp rating suggests, a testament to AMG’s tuning of the car and the driver experience. The optional sport exhaust thunders with the characteristic AMG bellow we love, though I hoped it would be louder in Race mode (AMG says it’s noise law-compliant in every mode). On the other end, the optional carbon-ceramic front and steel rear brakes are incredibly powerful in their own right and seemingly impossible to over-tax. On the track, I found myself consistently braking too early at the ends of the long straights and subsequently chastising myself for not braking later. It doesn’t seem like you ought to be able to brake a nearly 4,000-pound vehicle so late, but these binders will do it, repeatedly. In between, the seven-speed multi-plate launch-clutch automatic continues to impress with its near-as-makes-no-difference telepathic programming. The shift paddles are there if you’d like to do it yourself, but at no point did I ever feel a need to. It’s always in the right gear at the right time, and it gets to them instantly. At least, at wide-open throttle, anyway. At anything less, I found a disappointing tendency towards a slower, stiffer upshift rather than the silky smooth, near-instantaneous upshift it’s capable of. All the rest of the time, when you’re driving the car like a normal human being, it’s a very nice place to motor. The interior is no different than the sedan’s from the front. In the rear, there’s a good amount of space for a coupe and getting in and out is no better or worse than for any other two-door with a back seat. Sightlines out of the vehicle are generally good, though the rear window is quite small and the trunk quite tall, so you’ll absolutely be using the standard rearview camera when backing up. In Comfort mode, the ride is a nice as you could ask for from a high-performance sedan and it “sails” (disengages the transmission from the engine to eliminate engine braking) whenever possible to reduce fuel consumption. Mercedes-AMG doesn’t have official figures for the U.S. market yet, but promises a 20 percent improvement from the last-generation Coupe. Figure something in the ballpark of the sedan’s 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway/20 mpg combined. As quick and efficient as the C 63 S Coupe may be, the one thing it won’t be doing quickly is getting here. The on-sale date is slated for some time in the summer, a few months after the standard Coupe goes on sale. Like the fuel economy, an official price hasn’t been released yet, but we’re told to expect a starting point somewhere in the mid-$70,000 range, probably slightly more than the sedan’s $72,825 point of entry. 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe BASE PRICE $75,000 (est) VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 2-door coupe ENGINE 4.0L/469-503-hp/479-516-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8 TRANSMISSION 7-speed automatic CURB WEIGHT 3,950 lb (mfr) WHEELBASE 111.8 in LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 187.0 x 73.9 x 55.1 in 0-60 MPH 3.9-4.0 sec (mfr est) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON Not yet rated ON SALE IN U.S. Summer 2016