The original 2008 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG will forever occupy a space in the automotive pantheon. With 451 bhp courtesy of a 6.2-litre V8 under the bonnet, that C63 was a high-revving bahn-stormer. And for consumers, it followed a very familiar hot-rodding formula – Mercedes’ largest-displacement engine jammed into its smallest car.
Since the first C63, the compact AMG flagship has gone through a few changes. The naturally aspirated V8 went away for the 2016 model year, replaced by a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre unit that still produced more power and torque despite its lower displacement. Consumers didn’t care, and they lapped up every C63 they could find. Here’s hoping buyers will be similarly forgiving of the 2024 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance, which goes even further in the pursuit of downsizing by lopping off half the cylinders – that’s right, this one’s got a 2.0-litre inline-four.
Fear not. In exchange for the displacement loss, AMG engineers gave the meanest C-Class a turbocharger with instantaneous electric spooling, as well as a rear-mounted electric motor and battery setup to add still more power. Now a plug-in hybrid, the 2024 C63 makes 671 bhp (680 PS / 500 kW) and a staggering 752 pound-feet (1,020 Newton-metres) of torque. Not only are those best-ever numbers for a roadgoing C-Class, they’re among the highest of any AMG product in history. V8 who?
The figurative heart and soul of the Mercedes-AMG C63 is its turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-four, codenamed M139. Even without the help of the hybrid drive system, the internal-combustion engine makes 469 bhp (350 kW), making it the most powerful production four-banger on the planet. As on the less powerful C43 model, the engine features an electrically driven turbocharger that reduces lag to almost imperceptible levels. Derived from Formula 1 technology, the turbocharger features a tiny electric motor between the exhaust turbine and the compressor wheel, which spins the turbo up to create boost as soon as the driver calls for it.
But whilst 469 horses might have been sufficient a few years ago, today’s super-saloon shopper demands more. That’s where the rear-mounted electric motor comes in. Working with a 6.1-kilowatt-hour battery and 400-volt electrical architecture, the motor pushes 201 bhp (150 kW) to the road – either by itself or in tandem with the petrol engine. In the former case, the C63 will be capable of about 8 miles of all-electric driving, but as AMG Chief Technical Officer Jochen Hermann said, the electrification strategy isn’t really focused on efficiency. Instead, this car is built to go fast.
With all cylinders firing and a peak 150 kW of electrons flowing out of the battery, the C63 produces that aforementioned 671 bhp and 752 lb-ft, helping it hit 60 miles per hour in a manufacturer-claimed 3.3 seconds. That’s about half a second quicker than the outgoing C63, with a top speed that nearly matches its predecessor at 174 mph with an optional AMG Driver’s package – the old C63 S could hit 180 mph, but who's counting? More important than ultimate numbers is the legendary AMG sound profile, and although the new C63 likely won't have the road-ripping bellow of its predecessor, it should still be pretty emotive.
That's because it features a number of audio tuning tricks, including a sensor in the exhaust that detects noise pressure, then enhances that through the stereo speakers for a more exciting soundtrack. Mercedes is quick to note that the sound that makes it into the cabin isn't synthesised or altered, merely amplified, so the car will still sound like a turbocharged four-banger. If it sounds anything like the bat-out-of-hell CLA 45, the C63 will still be pretty exciting to rev out.
Gallery: 2024 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance
Part and parcel of the acceleration experience is a now-familiar nine-speed multi-clutch transmission. Distinct from a dual-clutch gearbox, the AMG Speedshift MCT uses a complex, wet clutch pack instead of a torque converter, helping the C63 respond more readily to the throttle than a conventional automatic, but with better low-speed refinement than a dual-clutch gearbox. What’s more, the electric motor features its own two-speed gearbox, ensuring plenty of e-boost even when travelling at high speeds.
And for the first time in history, the hottest C-Class will offer all-wheel drive. The so-called 4Matic+ system features an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential, although the electric motor acts directly on the rear axle for near-instant response. What’s more, a clutch system allows the electric motor to spin the driveshaft as well, which in turn rotates the front wheels. That means that even when operating in pure EV mode, the C63 always has four-wheel traction.
Strike A Pose
The C63 makes a mean impression well before you power it up, though. For starters, it features a wider front track, resulting in an overall width that’s up 3.0 inches over the standard C-Class. The front wings/fenders have been punched out accordingly, with flared arches that are about 50 millimetres (2 inches) broader. The car is also 784 mm (3.3 inches) longer overall than lesser C43 and C300 models, and the wheelbase is up 10 mm (0.4 inches). These incremental size increases give the C63 a planted and imposing stance, yet limited styling changes help it feel subtly muscular, instead of brash and shouty.
The alterations up front are most obvious. An inverted trapezoid grille opening makes space for Mercedes-AMG’s signature Panamericana grille and its attendant vertical bars – a throwback to the 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racer and a hallmark of AMG products since 2016. Yet another vintage styling cue is the double-domed bonnet, although the 2024 C63 features an exclusive rear-facing bonnet vent between the twin bulges to help expel hot air in the engine compartment. Predictably, the C63 has the boldest front bumper treatment of any other C-Class, especially with the optional aero package’s aggressive chin splitter.
A set of gills on the wider front wings/fenders are the biggest clues in the C63’s side profile that you’re looking at something special. There are also deeper side sills, as well as standard 19-inch or optional 20-inch wheels. Around back, an aggressive rear diffuser and 63-spec trapezoidal exhaust tips join a sculpted boot lid spoiler. Otherwise, the AMG C-Class is subtly styled, with a just-right balance of visual aggression. In contrast to the BMW M3, Mercedes’ entry in the compact super-saloon class is less shouty, which some buyers will appreciate.
And speaking of that rival, Mercedes will offer a C63 Estate to go against the long-roof M3 Touring.
Inside, there are the usual AMG-specific refinements to the infotainment system, including a track pace timer and a steering wheel–mounted drive selector with dedicated buttons for the exhaust and suspension. A new, optional AMG sport seat includes more aggressive bolsters than the standard chair, as well as cutouts in the backrest and bolsters for better ventilation and some incremental weight savings. Unfortunately, the standard C-Class’ plasticky door panels remain in the AMG, but the automaker will offer a variety of upholstery colours and finishes, including leather, microfiber suede, and contrast stitching.
A Tame Beast
Long gone are the days when AMG would drop a big, muscly engine under the bonnet with only minor updates elsewhere – the 2024 C63 S E Performance features plenty of upgraded hardware to help keep the torque-rich powertrain in check. For starters, the suspension features adaptive damping and four-corner steel springs to help provide good, consistent handling without sacrificing much ride comfort. A variety of drive modes allow the person behind the wheel to tailor the suspension, throttle and brake response, steering, and propulsion noise to their tastes. Presets include Electric, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race, Battery Hold, and Slippery.
A rear-axle steering system allows the rear wheels to turn out of phase with the front wheels by 2.5 degrees at speeds below 62 mph, giving the C63 a tighter turning radius and more responsive handling on curvy roads. Above that speed, the rear wheels turn in phase with the fronts by up to 0.7 degrees, improving straight-line stability.
An AMG composite braking system is standard, with six-piston fixed front callipers for better response and stronger clamping force. In addition to conventional friction brakes, the electric motor is also capable of quickly recuperating energy at a rate of up to 150 kW, with a few driver-selectable rates of regen ranging from one-pedal driving to throttle-off coasting.
The stout braking package isn’t just a favour for AMG customers. Due to a fairly prodigious, 318 kilogram (700-pound) weight gain since its last iteration, the C63’s impressive stoppers are a must-have. Mercedes says that the four-wheel steering and regenerative braking help compensate for the new C63’s estimated curb weight of 2,087 kg (4,600 lbs), and we hope they’re right – the old V8 model felt responsive and light on its feet, and it would be a shame if that quality went away.
Raise Your Hands
The Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance will go on sale in global markets early next year, likely as a 2023 model. However, Americans will have to wait until the 2024 model year to get their hands on the four-cylinder AMG super saloon, with deliveries probably starting there in September or October. Expect pricing to be announced closer to market launch.
Although the E Performance system’s added weight is a bit troubling, AMG engineers seem to have spent the time needed to ensure the 2024 C63 is every bit as exciting to drive as its V8-powered predecessors. It should also serve as a good foil to the BMW M3 Competition xDrive saloon, which is about as fast to 60 mph in spite of weighing much less. That vehicle’s relative simplicity does have its own appeal, but the 2024 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance proves (on paper at least) that a downsized, electrified future will be just as exciting as the petrol-guzzling present.