By on May 21, 2008

c63_amg-img_8483.jpgWith all this media talk of a gas electric plug-in hybrid clean diesel hydrogen fuel cell future, someone forgot to tell Mercedes that the horsepower war is over. Sure, the new BMW M3 has a 414hp V8, trumped by the Audi RS4’s 420hp eight pot. But who gives a shit? The new automotive arms race: building and selling enough small, high-mileage, low-profit vehicles that various government agencies will let you sell large, low-mileage, high-profit vehicles. Meanwhile, the Mercedes C63 AMG.

Four-hundred fifty-one horses. That’s the headline number produced by the 6.2-liter V8 crammed into the 3993 lbs. C-Class' snout. It sure doesn’t look lunatic. Yes, there are some tacky pieces of body kit, including a gaudy bumper that speaks of Honda Civics down at the 7-11. But the C63 is a butch little bastard whose hunkered stance and müde autoreifen convey more solidity than Brando at the end of Streetcar.

c63_amg-img_8533.jpgAside from my test car’s porno-quality cream-colored leather seats and door panels, the C63’s cabin adds nothing to the sense of occasion– which may or may not be the point. A mere three grand buys you hyper-bolstered sport seats, completely unsuitable for anyone who’s ever eaten a deep fried mozzarella stick.

Drive the C63 around town and you'd never know a murderer lives just beyond the firewall. Burbling around the Best Buy parking lot (where DO the ultra rich hang out these days?), the mini-Merc seems like a normal, albeit brisk, shrunken S. In town, the C63’s sublime suspension  tackles all; this ain't no hard-edged tooth-chip express.

c63_amg-img_8532.jpgToggle the AMG’s transmission from C (for Comfort) to M for (Manubetterbereadyforthis), grind the gas pedal into the carpet and the C63 parachutes into Afghanistan with the Tenth Mountain Division, all guns blazing. As you’d expect from a combat-ready sedan, time suddenly slows down. The C63’s massive meats shriek and hop around as they desperately try to do something, anything with 443 ft.-lbs. of torque (torque is more modest 369 lb ft from 2000-6250 rpm). You can hear the V8 nuking gasoline; the mega-motor is screaming like a pissed off bear with a megaphone. HOLY SHIT!

Time resumes its normal pace. It has been exactly one second since mashing the gas. The tach needle rockets around. The LCD in the center of the speedo flashes "UP! 2" Pull the damn shift paddle! Second gear is gone before it arrives. The engine is doing a passable imitation of a jet exhaust. At 4.3 seconds, we’re passing sixty. I need to upshift again. Third gear at 5000 pm and the deep, throaty roar indicates V3. I’m mainlining sex, and power, and drugs into my arms. And I like it.

c63_amg-img_8536.jpgAfter 9.2 seconds, we're in triple digits. The C63 crests 100 miles per hour on its way to Mach 2. And get this: it was totally an accident. I just was just trying to ingest a little more of that engine bellow, the closest approximation to crack/cocaine money can buy, and probably a lot more dangerous. But it's not my fault.

There's so much power lingering about, it's a wonder the C63 AMG doesn't simply implode when you nail the throttle. The only problem: trying to power out of corners in third or fourth gear. With the torque closer to its peak, the wheels can't deal with all the activity. Yes, we're going sideways– in spite of an optional $4k limited slip differential lock. Lift a little off the gas and everything is jake again. You can absolutely massacre corners at arbitrarily chosen speeds.

c63_amg-img_8501.jpgThe suspension is miraculous. If every car was like this, we'd never bother to fix potholes. I swear you cannot feel them, in spite of the low profile tires and 18" wheels. And the huge brakes scrub off enormous speed in less time than it takes to yell “radar!” And thank God for that.

The C63 AMG is not cheap. The $54,565 sticker competes squarely with the legendary BMW M3, not to mention a regular E350. Oh, did I mention my tester punched out at $70k? And the C63 won't get any love from the Prius people, what with single-digit mileage. But this, my chain saw-wielding, carbon positive friends, is a bargain.

c63_amg-img_8495.jpgThe biggest problem with the C63 AMG: many of the C63's virtues are available in, gulp, a regular C-Class.  I'm not saying buy a C300 instead. I'm saying you the C63 AMG needs a lot of lebensraum. Otherwise, you’ll spend your life in that special place called “time exposed to danger,” blasting past the guy in a Lexus RX350 who's blocking "the windy road" to work (at 60 mph). But if you can afford the C63 and all the depreciation that AMG implies, and you have the context in which to drive it, the C63 proves that all's fair in love and war.

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46 Comments on “2008 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Review...”

  • avatar
    Alex Kambas

    It’s weird you thought the suspension setup wasn’t stiff. My feeling is that the M3 is actually softer.

    Then again it’s possible the US spec C63 is softer than the Euro car, or even more probable that roads in the US are smoother than around here.

    Too bad this car costs x3 here in 3rdWorldLand (that’s 100.000 euro that is.

    Great review.

  • avatar

    Soooo, which sounds better (and feels better? The C63 or the Audi RS4?

    You seem pretty high/addicted to the C63, while Jonny loved the RS4. Meanwhile, I haven’t listened to either (although the 2005 RS6 Twin-turbo V8 I heard yesterday was pretty sweet too!).

    Thanks for the highly entertaining review!

  • avatar

    Roads in the US smoother? Not really. Decades of underinvestment have reduced large parts of the US freeway system into the tarmac equivalent of the Verdun countryside. In 1918.

  • avatar

    The classic traditional muscle car isn’t dead. Heavens no. It’s just German now.

    I love this car so very dearly. Dragon-style, perhaps. They sound amazing, this visceral living thing under the hood. For a German car, uncharacteristically emotional.

    Anyone miss the C32, by the way?

  • avatar

    We’ve become nonchalant about RS4s, M3s, and C63s, but one day we’ll look back on these cars as the pinnacle of the performance era.

    CAFE rules and $150/barrel crude are going to kill the Horsepower Wars, and soon.

    Just as in 1973, we’ll wake up one day soon and wonder where all the ponies have gone.

    Smoke ’em while you got ’em.

    Excellent review. Wonder what’ll happen when RennTECH gets through with it.

  • avatar

    I think the cars now a days are made to kill us purposely.

    Just imagine pushing those Blue tooth,NAV system,volume control,change channel,speak/don’t speak button,increase button speed and set coast,step on the breaks or gas pedal on 70 miles per hour.

    At least Mercedez got the brain to put those buttons on their steering wheel.

    See any controls or buttons on their stick? nope
    I think only Audi does that.
    (see previous Audi review)

  • avatar

    Still a car with an engine that its chassis can’t handle is not a great sportscar to me.

    Fun…probably yes, but then, danger oftentimes is…

    In the US it’s so cheap I can see people buying it as a muscle car and not worry to much about the handling shortcomings. If they don’t take it to a track they probably won’t even notice those too much anyway.

    But in the rest of the world, with its ecoterrorist governments coupled to more winding roads, I think people still willing to shell out the tax-inflated prices are expecting to get a more refined product, where all the components are purposefully designed and brought together to create the best possible overall package, like the M3 or RS4.

    Like it basically says in your conclusion, the C63 is just a regular C-Class with a big engine. Maybe that’s ok, but it’s definitely not great in my book.

  • avatar

    Aren’t the seats’ side bolsters power-adjustable? This is turning out to be the only way to keep everyone happy.

    We need some audio clips of the engines in the M3, RS4, and C63. I personally found that the BMW didn’t sound nearly as sweet as the Audi, but haven’t heard the Mercedes.

    I’m sure some people will find the suspension too stiff. Impressions vary in this area.

    Reliability might not be bad. In TrueDelta’s Vehicle Reliability Survey, the regular 2008 C has managed a better than average repair rate–so far. I wouldn’t be surprised if it increased with each update, though. BMWs often start low then increase as the cars age. Might be true of this Mercedes as well. With prompt quarterly updates, the survey will track these cars closely as they age.

  • avatar

    Ed: the torque of the 6.2 in this application is 443 according to the MB website.

    3649 lbs is likewise the curb weight of the car(MB website).

    the E63 weighs 4035 lbs, makes more hp and torque and is much more spacious and practical. and yes, considerably more expensive!

  • avatar

    Great review, love the lebensraum drop!

    I recently saw a new C-class in the flesh and I think it is pretty good looking and imposing for a fairly small sedan. Just how a Teutonic iron horse ought to be.

  • avatar

    It’s really good to see the level off swear words on the increase.

    Swearing is a tasteful way of making a point.

  • avatar


    It’s really good to see the level off swear words on the increase.

    Swearing is a tasteful way of making a point.

    I blame Autoblog.

  • avatar

    “….M for (Manubetterbereadyforthis), grind the gas pedal into the carpet and the C63 parachutes into Afghanistan with the Tenth Mountain Division, all guns blazing.”

    JL better watch out – Justin’s gainin’ on him, prose-wise! ;-)

  • avatar

    Justin – brilliant review! Thanks for the vicarious drive this morning in the C63, and more, more, more!

    I hope you enjoyed the Top Gear episode where they compared the C63, M3 and RS4; your review was a great bookend to that episode.

    For those of you who haven’t, enjoy:

  • avatar

    Great looking car – Hard to believe that Merc out designed BMW for this size car.

  • avatar

    I saw one last week by my house in that burgundy color at sunset. Looks a bit less tacky in person. Just a bit. Lots of little chrome strips everywhere.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Yes, the C63 is absolutely bonkers. The only problem is that if you drive it like it was meant to be driven, you’ll do exactly what Jezza did to it: shred the tyres (er, tires) in 40 miles.

  • avatar

    Did I just read a review of a 409 Chevy with a four on the floor?

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    For the first time in a long time I long for a Mercedes that’s not a 300D.

  • avatar

    Not for nothing but 451hp and 369 lbs ft for a 6.2l DOHC 48V engine is not that impressive today!
    Considering that those boys over at GM can make a 6.2l OHV 16V engine produce 436 hp and over 400 lbs ft I have to ask is this the AMG engine?

  • avatar

    You’d think that perhaps M-B didn’t get the memo that horsepower war is over (at least in this class).

    I too thought the C63 suspension was less compliant than the M3’s but then again, butts differ greatly. The C63, in my mind, is just overpowered and not as svelte (!?) as the M3. I’d prefer to hear a V8 zinging to its redline than to hear the big bore guttural bellow of the 6.2 in the C63. I’ll buy the Camaro/Charger to hear those noises.

    Lookswise its very um….

    Yeah, I think I prefer the BMW.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    Why on earth would you want more power? Take a lesson from Goldilocks.

  • avatar

    Excellent review and great writing style, Justin. Reading about this car is very entertaining. Thanks for taking those of us who could never afford to touch this car along for the ride.


    Swearing is a tasteful way of making a point.

    I’d say that swearing CAN be a tasteful way of making a point. When it works (as seen above) it works wonders. When used in most everyday parlance, swearing loses its effectiveness, but that’s just one man’s opinion.

  • avatar

    compared to the Audi and BMW this car feels like the dad that is trying too hard to be hip and cool and hope his kids friends like him. he would get more respect if he just acted his age.

  • avatar

    whatdoiknow1, you’re right 369 lb*ft torque isn’t much. In fact, it is less than the 5.5L engine it replaces.

    I’m sure Justin will correct that figure to 443 before the day is done. :-)

    Also, this engine is slightly detuned from the one in the larger cars. The E-class 6.2 makes figures of 507 and 465. Even so, the 4.3s acceleration figure is probably easy to beat under good conditions.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz


    Corrected to reflect 443 lb ft. The 369 number hung around during copy-paste editing, where it had originally referred to the torque from 2000-6250 rpm. That 443 lb ft number is max torque, only coming at 6800 rpm.

  • avatar

    so this is just a detuned version of the 500+ hp 6.2L in the other AMG cars?

    How do you jack it up to 500+ hp? Or is it just under-rated from the git-go?

  • avatar
    Alex Kambas

    Apparently the differences in the output of the 6.2 engines between the cars it’s used in has to do with the available space for the intake and exhaust manifolds in the engine bay.

    At least that’s what they say, but 451 hp is enough to put them ahead of competition -and- keep consumption/emission a bit lower.

  • avatar

    I still think that Mercedez Benz are for Baby Booomers especially for the retired ones. If I drive on of these I will feel awkward getting off the car and feel like I stole my mother’s car.

    Yes! it is a German car but where is the thrill of it when I need to to put some after market parts. Like carbon fiber side mirrors, carbon fiber hood or just a simple Fujita F5 SRI.

    Fast ya sure. 500 hp doesn’t really make any difference if the car hauling its 4,000 body weight and with a V8 engine a Boston to New York trip will cost me $200 buck just for gas especially CT and NY traffic on 95 South.

    We need more economical cars and Horsepower now a days is passe.

  • avatar

    Thanks Justin B, but now I have to correct your correction. :-)

    Power = torque * rotation speed * magic constant. When power is measured in horses, torque is measured in pound*feet and rotation speed is measured in revolutions per minute, the magic constant is 1/5252. So, plugging in your numbers from your correction 3 posts above, 443 lb ft * 6800 rpm / 5252 = 573 horses, implying the engine cranks out 573 HP at 6800 RPM. I think your 6800 rpm figure should probably have read 4800, since I can believe 443*4800/5252=405 HP at 4800 rpm.

  • avatar

    As a baby boomer, I’d have to say I’m not old enough yet for a Mercedes (am nearly 60 and still drive a BMW) and when I reach the age where I’m no longer interested in the handling edge, I’ll probably just buy a Lexus and be done with it.

    I agree with many posters who question 400+ horsepower. The 335 will do sub-5 second 0-60, 155 mph and get 19-20 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the road. I can’t use the 300 hp I have.

    Finally, the comparison of the base Corvette V8 and this one is interesting. The 48-valve, DOHC Merc motor has a similar power output to the 24-valve OHV Corvette of the same size. I’m guessing that the Corvette engine is a whole lot easier to maintain, and lighter to boot.

  • avatar

    Edgett, with respect to the “24-valve OHV Corvette”… It’s 16 valves (2 per cylinder, not 3). The MB has 32, not 48, for the record. Anyway, the official marketing figures for this iteration of the MB engine are 451/443 (horsepower/pound*feet torque) whereas the Corvette’s figures are 430/424 all according to Plus the C63 gets the “detuned” version of the engine; the E63 is marketed as 507/465 and the CL63 is marketed as 518/465, closely matching the figures for the Corvette 7.0L.

    Also consider that, I believe, Corvette’s own marketing department quotes 0-60 time of 4.3–same as Mercedes (and probably both quite conservative). However, the Mercedes is front-heavy and weighs about 25% more. So, those extra 21 horses must be very big ones indeed. Alternately, don’t believe the marketing figures!

    With respect to having 400+ HP for legal driving, I’m with you on that one that there is little point.

  • avatar

    “I’m mainlining sex, and power, and drugs into my arms. And I like it.” Sign me up! This car is made for someone like me.

    The fact that it won’t get any love from the “Prius People” is a plus!

  • avatar

    Sunnyvale beat me to the punch in correcting Justin and edgett. Justin….I would love to ride in a Benz with 443 ft lbs at 6800 rpm!

    To be exact, the C63 makes 443 ft lbs at 5000 rpm.

    In regards to Edgett’s corvette comparison, SunnyvaleCA wrote:

    Corvette’s own marketing department quotes 0-60 time of 4.3–same as Mercedes (and probably both quite conservative). However, the Mercedes is front-heavy and weighs about 25% more. So, those extra 21 horses must be very big ones indeed. Alternately, don’t believe the marketing figures!

    The last line says it all…but the DOHC C63 probably has more torque bandwidth than the Vette.

    0-60 times are useful metrics for 200 HP minivans, but are a poor measure of performance in the 400+ HP range, since traction/weight transfer is variable, and driver skill is paramount. However, quarter mile trap speeds, which are more indicative of power/weight ratios, support the idea that the C63 is underrated.

    The C’s blistering 116 mph trap speed in C/D is identical to what they achieved in the LS3 Vette.

    Since the Vette is much lighter, the C is probably underrated, but it also probably has more area under its torque curve, since the 4 valve heads continue flowing air efficiently to 7000 rpm, when the Vette’s 2 valve layout starts showing some weakness.

    I suspect the 451 HP number is more marketing than anything…to keep from stepping on the more expensive E63’s toes. The E, which trapped at 115 mph in C&D is rated at 507 HP…which is probably what the two ton C63 is making to trap at 116. BTW…C&D posted 0-60 in 3.9 for the C!

  • avatar

    Is this car really 4.8 seconds quicker to 100 mph., than my C43?
    The Tampa dealer had one last week. It sold in an hour.

  • avatar

    William442, our cars bench about 14 seconds and 100 MPH in the quarter mile. (Yes, I said “our” cars. Mine has the black/silver two tone seats, by the way. :-) Anyway, the C43’s biggest handicap isn’t the engine horsepower but instead the combination of the transmission gearing and low torque converter stall speed causing slow launches because the engine is out of its torque band until about 20 MPH.

  • avatar
    Scorched Earth

    3993 lbs?! How did Dr. Z manage to make an entry level sedan as porky as my dad’s Jeep Grand Cherokee??

  • avatar

    Hmmm, would that engine fit under the hood of a Miata? A Teutonic/Japanese riff on the classic 427 Cobra.

  • avatar

    NickR – run with the idea. I’ll buy one in a second. I think the front end will do a killer “Event Horizon” impression with that much power, but if going through space and time in a Miata is the only side effect, I’ll take it.

    Or the front end will look like a 20 year old Lincoln with the rear shocks/air bladders that gave up the ghost a long time ago. Avoid speedbumps…

  • avatar

    The Miata would be better off with a Corvette LS3 under the hood….more physically compact than the AMG motor despite having the same displacement…and with a little head/cam work, it will make more power as well.

  • avatar
    Martin B

    “the C is probably underrated, but it also probably has more area under its torque curve, since the 4 valve heads continue flowing air efficiently to 7000 rpm”

    Looking at the graphs in a motor mag, the torque falls off quite steeply after 5000 rpm, so the power rises fast to 5000 rpm, and is almost flat thereafter.

    I can’t believe the price. The C63 is $93k here in South Africa. You lucky Americans!

    Oh, and I enjoyed the review.

  • avatar

    Here is a video featuring the wagon.
    The guy drives with an open tailgate for sound reasons.

  • avatar

    There is still one problem? Mercedes Benz is engineered by Daimler Chrysler! Ever since they were acquired by them and there mass production ways, I feel a little bit of quality went down in Mercedes Benz but I think they are getting some of it back but if you want a true excellence in Auto engineering, purchase the BMW M3 or Audi RS4 and if you really want to drive an F1 Sedan buy an M5!

  • avatar

    I drove the C class and it was quick, but for more practical reasons, I bought the E class. As phil pointed out, it has more room, is more comfortable, has a better ride, and is far less seen around these parts than the C class.

    I especially like the paddle shifters on the smoothest transmission around. The seven speed is a joy. Always managing to keep the car at just the right torque level at all times. This tranmission along with the massive amounts of torque, make this car far quicker than the horse power ratings suggest.

  • avatar

    I have been eye-balling this car for a while, and decided to take one for a test drive yesterday… Well, it is everything desrcibed. The only real draw-back, other than the fuel mileage, is that the back seats really are quite small. As with Wescott above, I think that the E class might be a little more practical, considering that one with 50,000 km on it can be had for maybe even a little less than a new c63.

    Getting in the c63 is a little tight. The seat bolsers are huge, requiring me to squeeze past the steering wheel, but it is worth it. Those bolsters really hold you in place, too, and are adjustable. I don’t think this car is for the obeise or body builder on steroids, though, and I don’t think the seats would be wide enough, and getting in would be tough.

    I still want to look into the s4, as it does have much better fuel economy, it is built lighter with a smaller engine, but would likely still give the c63 a good run for its money.

  • avatar

    Just wanted to comment on the DOHC vs. Corvette single OHC.  Just speaking in generalities, the reason Corvette went back to the simpler design was two fold. One, to lower production costs and weight. Two, and probably more importantly, a flatter torque curve. A lot to be said for both reasons but from a performance standpoint, Chevrolet is able to produce an almost flat torque curve compared to most DOHC designs while saving money and weight.

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