Review: 2010 Mercedes C63 AMG
From the surface, the C63 looks like it has the goods to compete with the big boys in the Euro performance club. Boy racer styling? Check. Monstrous V8? Check. Ginormous tyres? Check. Manual transmission? Not so much. Also not along for the party is a coupe or convertible version of the C63. Mercedes’ decision to make the C63 auto-only is perplexing enough, but the fact that they also decided to ignore the rest of the M3 portfolio is truly baffling. Consider the competition: the M3 coupe and convertible [combined] outsell the M3 sedan almost five to one. This halfhearted approach to a hotly contested and prestige-generating segment truly defines the experience with the C63: you constantly feel like this could have been a great car.
When reviewing a car I often find it useful to read other reviews on the same car, usually to see what likes and dislikes other reviewers had, and then see if those same issues bother me at all. When the C63 AMG was dropped off on my doorstep, I have to admit I was giddy, not just because it looks like a mini-me version of the E63 that I routinely park next to, but because every review I have read waxes poetic
about it being the answer to the M3.
Starting off inside, for a $66,500 (as equipped) car, the cheap plastics and lack of features are startling. The same options – or lack thereof – that greet you in a base C300 rear their heads in the C63. If you don’t opt for the $3,300 multimedia package, then you are stuck with a pointless microscopic screen tucked under a manually opening storage cubby. The screen shows a digital tuning dial for the radio and provides a display for the built-in Bluetooth, but it’s so small that you might as well dial on your phone. When you opt for the $375 iPod integration kit, the screen becomes an oddly placed paperweight since the iPod can only be controlled via the steering wheel.
This is good if you don’t like your passenger’s to decide what tunes to listen to, but bad if you would like to use the screen in the center of the speedo for something else like the AMG mode where you see oil and coolant temps and an alternate gear indicator. This feature is so counterintuitive that when reading reviews like Autoblog’s review of the C63, they never even worked out how to use the iPod interface
and instead disconnected the iPod and manually changed songs and playlists! Our press car didn’t come with the uplevel sound system or keyless drive, a feature found on Kias these days. Electronic shocks aren’t even an option.
I drove the C63 for two days, then re-read a number of reviews on the car. I figured there must be something wrong: they must have been driving a different car. The front seats in the C63 are epically uncomfortable yet no other review mentions this; they were apparently designed for someone less than 5’10” tall and less than 8” from shoulder to shoulder. I had no less than 15 random people try the seats, nobody found them pleasant to sit in. Six feet tall and with an average build, I was incapable of finding a comfortable seating position because the upper portion of the seat is so severely bolstered that the only way my upper back could touch the seat is if I hunched forward and curled my shoulders. Otherwise it felt like I was being groped by the side bolsters, and not in a good way. Sadly
Mercedes offers no alternative seats. The front seats alone are reason to avoid the C63. Don’t get me wrong, I love side bolsters, but they need to be adjustable or sized for 85% of the populace.
The C63 is a deeply conflicted car; it has the engine of a world-class sports car and an exhaust note that makes teenagers cream their shorts, yet it possesses the most dimwitted automatic I have ever experienced in a sports sedan. The C63 doesn’t get the E63’s new automatic-with-a-clutch. Instead it gets Mercedes’ “Speedshift Plus” 7-speed automatic. The name suggests that this transmission shifts quickly. It doesn’t.
The C63 may very well be faster than the M3 in a straight line at a drag strip from a stop, but in reality when you are on the freeway next to one and compete for a freeway exit, the M3 is off the freeway and on the ramp before the C63 has even shifted. Speaking of those shifts, cars like the M3 or even the portly (in comparison) XFR will queue shifts: i.e. if you are in 6th and want 2nd hear, just flip the paddle four times and most performance cars will shift directly from 6th to 2nd blipping the throttle only once in the process. The AMG will not. You have to flip the paddle once, it blips, the transmission engages 5th, once in 5th you flip the
paddle again, it blips again and engages 4th rinse and repeat for gears 3 and 2.
By the time you get to 2nd gear, you have run over the bicyclist in front of you, careened over the cliff or forgotten why you wanted 2nd gear in the first place. When I asked about this annoyance, I was told that all you have to do is hold down the down paddle and “the transmission will shift to the lowest gear available.” Sounds good, right? Wrong. The transmission still blips and shifts sequentially all the way down from 7th to 2nd (that’s five blips, five gear changes) making you sound like some knob that can’t drive a stick, plus you can never summon 1st gear in that fashion, that is always one more paddle pull away.
What makes the transmission all the more infuriating is how the car handles. There is zero drama at speed. The electronic nanny reels in the fun at all the right moments and, should you tell the nanny to pack it in for the day, you can burn out and do doughnuts to your heart’s content. This car is fast, seriously fast. The forums are alight with complaints that Merc didn’t keep the 518HP tune from the E63 in the C63, but it doesn’t really matter because there isn’t enough grip to use all that power from a stop anyway. My best accelerometer tested 0-60 time was 4.8 seconds, and that was (by necessity) easing up on the throttle around 3500-4500RPM to keep from burning out in first gear.
At the end of the day, the M3 remains the better car. The BMW’s ride is more compliant, thanks to electronic shocks. Its dual clutch transmission is neck-breakingly fast. And, perhaps most significantly, its interior parts quality is light-years ahead.Every person who got into the C63 was surprised that they were not surrounded by luxury. If Mercedes ditched the M3 wannabe seats, spent some cash making the interior a better place, and softened the suspension a hair, it might just be the perfect compact Euro sports sedan. Until then it’s playing third fiddle to the RS4 [a car that is no longer even sold new] and M3.
Mercedes-Benz provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review
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Ya know, I've been pretty happy over the last few years with a BMW 335 and most recently a 135, but I'm a greedy bastard, and one who believes that if a lot of horsepower is good, then a sheisse load is even better. That nagging little demon in the back of my head is always saying that 0-60 in five seconds or so is all fine and dandy for mere mortals, but doesnt a guy like me deserve to do it in four and half? Hmmm, you know, maybe it is time to move up to the next echelon of performance, yeah............... Naturally, the M3 is the logical choice for someone like me whos been chugging the Kool Aid from Munich for a while now, but I'm pretty open minded really, and the juice from MB in the form of the C63 is lookin' pretty tasty too. After reading about the baby AMG for some time, I stumbled upon one at a Porchse dealer while looking at a Cayman S of all things. What the heck. Might as well drive it. While I'm here, you understand. Good god. The things like the Josef Mengele of motorcars, a squirming pyschopath in impeccable clothing. Err, no, what did Jeremy Clarkson say of it? Oh Yeah. Its an axe murderer with headlights. In fact, I'm pretty sure it had a button right there on the dash that actually said that..........Look - right there. Axe Murderer Mode. I found my driving becoming decidedly antisocial withing minutes of turning the key, weaving in and out of traffic and pinning my self to the seat with every glimpse of an open lane. All the while cackling manically to myself and muttering incoherently, doing little to reassure my fellow motorists that I in fact was not an axe murderer accomplice, but merely a mild mannered car enthusiast being held against my will and momentarily O'deeing on torque. Hmmm, maybe this more power things not such a good idea. Wait a minute. Yes it is. Interior - I dont care. Bolsters on the seats that rub up against the windshield - Bring it. Gas mileage that would make BP oil exec blush - well, ok then. Its a seriously fun car. The exhaust note alone would induce me to treat myself to speeding tickets weekly, say "thank you officer", and mean it. It's Germanys answer to the muscle car, only with respectable quality and handling. Not quite M3 handling, but pretty decent thank you very much. I'd buy one of these in a heartbeat, but sanity will most likely prevail and I can see ending up with an M3 - it really is the better allaround car. But having said that, I have the sneaking suspicion that all it would take is a bad day at work and I might do something..................rash.
Old thread, but still wanted to provide an alternate view for anyone considering purchase of a C63 and reading this review. Of course, the C63 comes in different flavors now, so the point regarding the lack of a coupe version is moot. I also want to add that a few years (from orginal review date) has shed some additional light on the relevance of this car. Now, it is the only model that one can still get the same (mostly) engine as in the SLS. One ECU tune later and the stock 451hp engine (non development package) is pushing 480 and headers and a stage 2 tune and it makes 510hp and 508tq (crank). That is seriouly stout (yes I have dyno sheets). This engine is just awesome, imo, and if muscle cars are your thing, then this is hard to beat. Regarding refinement: The quality is not up to Audi and BMW standards, but it is close. Get the extented leather package and get closer still. Get the multimedia package; it is the only reasonable way to outfit the car. Are these expensive? Yes. If that is a problem, you are looking at the wrong car. Seats: I am 6'3" and 215. The seat suit me very well and are the best (including a aftermarket race seat in my old Evo) for track days that I have ever used. The adjustment on the side are critical for fine tuning the fit, however. The ride: I like it firm, so much so, that I installed stiffer springs after a year of ownership. This car makes sense at higher speeds. At low speed/rough roads, it will beat you up. If you don't like that, again, this is not your car. I have driven M3's; they strike a better handling/comfort balance. The C63 is not that car. Tranny: It took a while, but I have grown to like it. It takes knowing what it will/won't do and living with it. Does it shift as fast as the DCT in the M3, no. Does it shift as fast as my Father's XK-R, no. It will bang off the rev limiter and and fire off up/down shifts faster than a manual, however, so it gets down to preference. In the end, there is no other engine sold today that does what this one does. You either like that or you don't. I drove the M3, walked next door to the MB dealer and drove the C63. Two years later, I still get excited everytime I get to head out in the Merc. The platform is solid and easy to throw around, though rear tires get expensive. I have had a blast at the track, amazed the other drivers in their Lotus, Vipers, gutted M3's driven it home, washed it and taken the family out for dinner. Hard to beat if you ask me.