The word “tuner” conjures up one of two reactions among automotive enthusiasts: excitement or horror. These disparate responses can be explained by examining how the label has been applied over the years.
To some, operations that cram over-boosted, 1,000-horsepower engines in Toyota Prius Liftbacks (they exist, I promise) fall into the same category as legitimate performance divisions. That’s a problem. Certainly, Fast and Furious vehicular concoctions have their place within the gearhead fold. But equating the application of an ECU tune, or a ground effects kit to the engineering brilliance of an in-house tuner is criminal.
Legitimacy is built on more than maximum output. The greatest distinction between a rag-tag tuner and an operation like AMG is durability. Pulling 500 horsepower from a low displacement engine is relatively easy, but engineering reliability for years to come is arduous. That’s what makes the hand-built engine nestled beneath the hood of the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe so special.
Composure and Chaos
Four liters of displacement, two turbochargers, eight cylinders; these are the ingredients that make up AMG’s latest masterpiece. Smooth, seemingly endless power flows from the front-mounted engine to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The standard C63 develops ample grunt, but an S addendum denotes 34 additional horsepower for a total of 503, and 516 lb-ft of torque. From a dig, the S Coupe finds 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds before moving the needle all the way to 180 mph.
Traveling quickly in a straight line is fun, but there are cheaper ways to break every speed limit known to man. The C63’s validation is found in its handling. As hardware goes, AMG fits the S Coupe with adaptive dampers, a limited slip rear differential, variable engine mounts, Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, high-performance brakes, and a sports exhaust system. Our tester also features the Edition 1 package, which levels up the tires to Pilot Sport Cup 2s and the front brakes to carbon ceramics.
As with most modern sports cars, software makes an equal impact on performance. AMG’s Ride Control system includes several driving modes to adjust damper stiffness, throttle response, and steering weight. In some cars, the difference between drive modes is imperceptible; in the AMG, it’s impossible to ignore.
There are numerous ways to characterize the C63’s driving dynamics, but we prefer the term “taut.” Turn-in, power delivery, steering feedback, and braking; each performance element communicates balance and composure. Right up to the limit, AMG’s potent two-door affords ultimate control to the driver. The C63 S’s nimble behavior is even more impressive when you take a look at the spec sheet. At 4,100 pounds, the AMG Coupe is heavier than both of its main rivals: BMW’s M4 and Cadillac’s ATS-V Coupe.
Does this mean AMG, the same division responsible for the W124 “Hammer,” has eschewed its loony heritage? Not quite. There’s another side to the C63 S Coupe that only the brave (or foolish) will encounter. After you’ve crossed yourself a few times and said a brief prayer, you may disengage traction control completely. When you do this, you are, in effect, overriding the coupe’s programmed precision to engage in gratuitous hooning. We’re not here to tell you how to you use your $75,000 German sports car, but if you don’t mind replacing tires every few months, driving thrills don’t get much better than an AMG off its leash.
Among the BMW M, Audi RS, and Mercedes-AMG contingent, AMG is the least restrained when it comes to exterior drama. In certain paint colors, with certain wheel options, the C63 S Coupe can blend in, but the Edition 1 adapts to its surroundings like an Eskimo in Nevada.
Every C63 S Coupe features flared fenders, 19-inch forged wheels, quad exhaust ports, and a trunk lid spoiler. Those with “bold” stamped across their foreheads can equip the Edition 1’s 19-inch front, 20-inch rear black 5-spoke wheels, chrome exhaust pipes, yellow exterior and interior accents, an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel, and performance seats. For more coin, a matte grey paint job will set your ride apart from anything else on the road. Once the initial shock subsides, you may come around on the Edition 1’s dazzling design.
Yellow accents or not, the C63 S Coupe beautifully blends aggression and grace from all angles. A menacing front end is countered by a swooping roofline. Prominent, trapezoidal exhaust tips sit beneath a subdued spoiler. You might panic at the sight of a C63 bearing down on you at the track, but swoon when you see one parked in front of a nice restaurant.
The C63 S complements its performance and design successes with a premium cabin. Everything we love about the standard C-Class has been enhanced with touches like carbon fiber trim, a Burmester sound system, panoramic sunroof, Napa leather seating surfaces, and a slew of semi-autonomous safety features.
Mercedes-Benz’s Command infotainment takes center stage on the C63’s ornate dashboard via a 7-inch or an optional 8.4-inch monitor. Earlier versions of Command were nothing short of confounding to operate, but the latest iteration is intuitive, quick, and robust. Mercedes-Benz has yet to incorporate touch controls within the display itself, but the combination of control pad inputs, steering wheel buttons, and voice commands permits access to every feature.
Though the C63 Coupe has a pair of rear seats and adequate rear legroom for adults of average height, headroom is limited. Put another way, your friends won’t volunteer to squeeze in the back for trips longer than a few minutes. Front passengers, however, enjoy snug, ergonomic seats that can adjust to whichever position is most comfortable. Even in its most supple suspension setting, the AMG Coupe transfers some bumps to the cabin, but ride quality never approaches uncomfortable.
Mercedes-AMG’s latest creation is a shape-shifter; all luxury performance vehicles must be to some degree, but none pull off the transition quite as well as the C63 S Coupe. If you want a faster, more alluring two-door, you’ll need far more than the AMG’s $75,000 asking price.
BMW M4, Cadillac ATS-V Coupe, Lexus RC-F, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quad Coupe (when it comes out), Audi RS5 (when it comes out)
503hp, 516 lb-ft of torque
4L twin-turbo V8
7-speed automatic with paddle shifters
$75,000 ($925 destination) for coupe
$72,800 for sedan
0-60 in 3.8 seconds
180 mph top speed
18 city/24 hwy
Photo Credit: © 2017 Autoweb /Miles Branman