Behind the Wheel
2020 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Review: Speedy, comfortable sedan but all that glimmers isn’t gold
When a model wears the AMG badge, it's a signal that it is a driver's car. The 2020 Mercedes-AMG C63 S is no exception to that rule. But, driving is about more than just having a competent engine. It's in these small details where the model falters.
The looks of the C63 S are rather standard fare for a Mercedes sedan. It's smart, buttoned up, ready to take you where you want to go. It fits in nearly everywhere but doesn't quite stand out.
The profile of the model reveals a strong and confident design.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes has installed a handcrafted AMG 4.0-liter V8 engine under the hood of the car. It produces 503 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. That's more than plenty. When you get on the throttle, in any of the car's drive settings (Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual, Race) it roars to life (more so if you push the button for the more aggressive exhaust note).
The nine-speed automatic transmission delivers smooth shifts and opting for the full paddle shifter experience is equally as smooth. What isn't smooth is the automatic stop-start functionality. Thankfully the quick push of a button on the center console turns that off ASAP.
Though the car's steering is spot on, its limited slip differential is less limited in its slip than is comforting when pulling out quickly from a stop. Off the line, it's a gem but turning the corner from a stop is another story. One could argue that getting on it in corner isn't what you're going to do on a daily basis if you own the car, but one doesn't simply buy a C63 S to take it easy.
Even when driving in Comfort mode, the driver's information display can showcase the car's power output and camber of the road. Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz
There's some cool features that you won't see on any model outside the Mercedes lineup in the U.S. The high beams turn on in a pattern similar to drawing back a curtain, and reveal a fantastic amount of illumination. A dial on one side of the AMG Performance steering wheel quickly and easily turns to adjust the drive mode while buttons on the other side allow you to easily adjust the suspension and exhaust.
That steering wheel comes made of half carbon fiber (from 10 to two and four to eight) while the remaining sections are covered in Dinamica suede. The suede bits are fine, but when the summer sun heats up that carbon fiber, it feels like a plasma cutter to the hands (and legs if you happen to bump it while wearing shorts).
This isn't aided at all by the air conditioning, which requires the car to be in gear and running (preferably in a forward motion) before it even thinks about dispensing cool air.
The car's seats are equal parts comfortable and sporty.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz
The C-Class is a compact car. It's interior is spacious for the first row passengers but the second-row seats can get a bit squished if you're tall. The AMG Performance sport seats are comfortable enough for everyday use but also hold you tight enough that should you choose to carve some corners you won't have to worry about wiggling around in the seat.
The car's safety technology works as advertised except that the traffic sign reading function has a hard time telling the difference between 55 mph and 65 mph at night. Active Speed Limit Assist is part of the Driver Assistance Package ($1,700 upgrade) on the model and while the issue shouldn't stop you from getting the package, it's something to be aware of.
The rest of the C63 S is as expected. Handing is engaging, fuel economy isn't fantastic, and upholstery and appointments are equal parts attractive and appropriate for the car's price point.
The back end of the model is rather status quo for the company's model line.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz
About that price point. The tester came in a shade over $96,000 – the base MSRP is $75,700. That's a price for someone who really wants that car. They're not in the market to comparison shop and there's nothing wrong with that.
For the price of the C63 S as tested, you can get a fairly nice Porsche 911 or a BMW M2 Competition and a vacation. The biggest advantage the C63 S has over those is a a second set of doors and a usable back row – and that is quite the advantage for many buyers.