AMG fans were skeptical, to say the least, when Mercedes-Benz’s performance division announced that the top-of-the-line C-class would lose the V-8 and would subsequently be powered by a plug-in-hybrid four-cylinder. Yes, the new powertrain is very powerful with 671 horsepower and 752 pound-feet of torque. But that makes the C-Class heavy too: 4654 pounds, according to AMG, much heavier than its tough competitors, which include the BMW M3 and Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing. To give us an idea of what the chubby player feels like, we were invited to the passenger seat of the new C63 S, driven by AMG’s chief technical officer, Jochen Hermann.
Within half an hour at one of Daimler’s test sites south of Stuttgart, Hermann took us to winding roads and decent-sized tracks; we drove well to triple digit speeds and experienced each of the C63 S’s various driving modes.
At the tame end of the scale, Full Electric mode delivers impressive acceleration—and all-wheel drive—even without any assistance from the petrol engine. “We’re not a hindrance,” Hermann said, grinning, as we climbed the hill with minimal effort. And we’re talking about the new car’s wider bandwidth between comfort and sportiness. AMG’s customers are a demanding group and want a more comfortable car without sacrificing anything in terms of performance. The larger diameter silencer helps a smooth ride, and even when the combustion engine is running, the sound can be suppressed effectively. Silence on the first and last mile of a journey is a relatively new customer requirement, Hermann said.
When he switched the drive mode selector several levels, the new C63 really came to life. With nearly equal front-to-rear weight distribution, standard all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering, the C-class is set to deliver traction and agility. The new structure also offers a significant increase in torque and lateral stiffness, always an advantage for suspension setups. Ceramic brake is optional. But the story here is the plug-in powertrain, especially the battery.
The C63 is programmed to store some charge even when the battery is nominally depleted, so that extra torque is always available. And when the power is low, it only takes a few minutes to restore it. The car allows recovery even during very hard braking, and a full electric boost is available for 10 seconds, which is enough to get you in deep legal trouble anywhere but the autobahn. Top speed is set at 155 mph or 174 mph, depending on the package.
So that you don’t think AMG has been completely pragmatic in its transition to hybridization, there’s a drift mode that shifts torque entirely to the rear axle. They are less complicated and more accessible than BMW-like systems. From the right side of the seat, the performance is truly impressive. But you can feel the weight of the C63, even as a passenger. AMG doesn’t want to talk about race track numbers yet, but the added mass of the battery and electric motor can be a deficit in corners and braking zones, even as they improve straight-line performance.
Power is transmitted to all four wheels via an AMG nine-speed wet clutch MCT automatic transmission. And the M139l engine, which is used in conjunction with the C43 AMG, is powered by an electrically assisted turbocharger—which is more powerful here because the high-voltage system allows for a bigger electric boost. From the passenger seat, the thrust is relentless, as is to be expected with 671 horsepower. But because of the weight of this car, it didn’t completely blow us away.
Neither does the electronically enhanced sound, though we don’t hate it. Artificial sound effects are transmitted into the cab and voiced through external speakers, enhanced by exhaust hoods. It’s definitely a four-cylinder sound, but really aggressive. We can live with it, just as we can live with the sound of the CLA45 AMG. That doesn’t sound like a V-8, to be sure. But it’s the best four-cylinder hybrid we’ve heard—long term.
“We took out four cylinders, but we added a lot of other things,” said Hermann. That’s true, and many are really good, resulting in the most forward-looking modern car in its segment. The technology transfer from the limited edition AMG One is seen everywhere.
Do we like this future version? Sure, it looks and feels good to us. But don’t blame us if we shed tears for a lost and purer past, when all you needed for “boost” and “drift” modes was a V-8 and your own right foot.
Performance of Mercedes-AMG C63 SE 2024
Vehicle Type: front engine, rear motor, all wheel drive, 5 passenger sedan, 4 door
Basic: Premium, $85,000; Exclusive, $95,000
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4, 469 hp, 402 lb-ft + rear AC motor, 201 hp, 236 lb-ft (combined output: 671 hp, 752 lb-ft; lithium-kWh 6.1- ion battery)
Transmission, F/R: 9-speed automatic/2 speed automatic
Wheelbase: 113.2 inches
Length: 190.3 inches
Width: 74.7 inches
Height: 56.6 inches
Passenger Volume: 94 feet3
Trunk Volume: 13 feet3
Restraint Weight (CD approx.): 4660 lb
SHOW (CD EST)
60 mph: 3.3 seconds
100 mph: 7.9 seconds
1/4-Mile: 11.4 seconds
Top Speed: 155-174 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMICS (CD EST)
Combined/City/Highway: 23/20/26 mpg
Combined Gasoline + Electric: 35 MPGe
EV Range: 10 miles
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