AMG beat its path to high-performance credibility with a hammer. The German speed shop’s first street car, the 355-hp 1987 Mercedes-Benz AMG Hammer sedan, set the record for the world’s fastest production four-door at 178 mph, then set the pace for the subsequent 30-year parade of raucous, tire-shredding AMG brutes.
But as of late, more civilized cars and the use of all-wheel drive suggest that today’s AMG swings its hammer a little more softly in exchange for greater chassis control and improved traction. That scares us, because—Dodge Hellcats notwithstanding—loud and brash machines like the outgoing C63 AMG coupe are increasingly rare.
The new Mercedes-AMG C63 coupe doesn’t come off as a shouter at first glance. Twin turbochargers muffle the small-displacement 4.0-liter V-8, and the exhaust terminates in a quartet of peashooter tailpipes hidden behind the jumbo trapezoids in the rear bumper. Yet pin the throttle and this more efficient engine is almost as wild as the naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 that it replaces. The high-output C63 S model packs a 503-hp sledge of an engine that pummels the concrete, while a seven-speed automatic thwacks through ratios and a bawdy, unmistakably eight-cylinder thunder blares. In true traction-be-damned AMG fashion, it sends all 516 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels.
Among its peers, the C63 remains the biggest bruiser. The C63 S holds a 78-hp advantage over the BMW M4 and a 39-hp edge on the Cadillac ATS-V. Non-S C63 models make 469 horsepower and 479 lb-ft—still at the front of the pack, but you should pass on the upgraded S only if the extra eight to ten grand would bankrupt you. Beyond the extra power, the S version adds the option of carbon-ceramic brake discs on the front axle and replaces the mechanical limited-slip differential with an electronically controlled unit. It also augments the mode selector with a Race setting to relax the stability control, stiffen the dampers, and sharpen the shifts beyond Sport+.
AMG eagerly points out that the C63 coupe is not just a C63 sedan with two fewer doors. Engineers in Affalterbach gifted the coupe a shorter final-drive ratio—3.06:1 in the two-door versus 2.85:1 in the sedan—for quicker acceleration. Helped by a 100-pound weight advantage, the C63 S coupe should tear down a straight one tick ahead of the four-door, clearing 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds.
The coupe also receives a unique rear suspension; it isn’t shared with either the C63 sedan or the less powerful C-class coupes. In pursuit of a more rigid assembly, AMG rearranged the upper links, replaced several bushings with ball joints, and widened the rear track by 1.7 inches compared with the AMG sedan. The wider rear stance should make the coupe more susceptible to understeer than the sedan, although we can’t say that’s definitively the case without driving the two back-to-back.
Even with the extra rear-end grip, the C63 S coupe does a nice job getting its front tires to bite and lead the car around a road course on fresh rubber. The steering is hefty and accurate, though largely unfeeling. But as the Michelin Pilot Super Sports heat up, the car becomes a 3800-pound pendulum, scrubbing the front tires in one corner and then swinging the ass wide in the next. If you’re a track rat logging your lap times, the BMW and Cadillac are better choices. True to its predecessor, though, the C63 makes drifting as easy as tapping your big toe.
This is still a car that feels most at home on the road, where it’s an effortless and luxurious means to driving wickedly fast well within the car’s limits. It offers thrust at any rpm and comfort in any task. Public streets also are where the differences between the new and old car are most evident. On the road, the 2017 C63 feels more refined and its cornering abilities go deeper than that of its predecessor.
The 2017 C63 is softer than the old coupe, but that’s merely a relative description. The mostly steel body rides on steel springs and adaptive dampers that can’t match the cushion of the ATS-V’s magnetorheological dampers in Touring mode. The suspension occasionally chops at imperfections in the road, though it never feels harsh. You can commute for years or road trip for a week without coming to resent the ride quality.
Compared with its predecessor, the C63 coupe has more nuance to its chassis dynamics, even if it sacrifices some of its unique character to get there. It is a tool to be wielded skillfully rather than a blunt-force instrument that anyone can do damage with. The new Mercedes-AMG C63 coupe may be more of a ball-peen hammer than a long-handled sledge, but it’s a hammer nonetheless.