Suffice to say, my mood is high as I head for Bilster Berg driver resort and the opportunity to fully explore the changes made to this updated C 63. In the metal and on paper, these are seemingly minor. The 2019 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe to which I've been assigned has gained the vertically slatted "Panamericana" grille seen on the GT and other recent 63-series AMGs, a coat of matte black paint and an optional AMG Aerodynamics Package. It's absolutely menacing.
And if that doesn't do the trick, the thunder coming out of those quad exhausts gets the message across loud and clear. Has anyone else made such a success of translating the classic, big cube V8 sound into the turbocharged age? Tina Turner has a set of lungs on her, but even she's struggling to make herself heard over this.
Looking at the specs, the powertrain engineers seem to have had an easy time of it. As before, the standard AMG C 63 has 469 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, while the S gets a bump to 503 hp and 516 lb-ft, with active engine mounts as standard. If it ain't broke and all that, the AMG 4.0-liter is still the C 63's defining feature, packing a hefty power advantage over the sixes in the equivalent BMW M4 and Audi RS5 while leaving naturally-aspirated V8 rivals like the Lexus RC F punch-drunk.
Prices have yet to be confirmed, but we're told the C 63 coupe and sedan will start "just under" $70,000 while the S versions of both will be in the "mid-low $70,000s" range. Expect the premium for the Cabriolet to send the S beyond $80,000. Options, for which prices are to be announced, include the Exterior Carbon Fiber Package (Coupe and Cabriolet only), the Aerodynamics Package (Coupe only), ceramic front brake rotors (S only) and an active AMG Performance Exhaust System in place of the standard Sport one. Tick all these boxes and you'll rapidly be closing on six figures, going by a comparative configuration on the existing model.
Sure, there's plenty of V8 American muscle to give it a run for its money. But at this price the C 63 S Coupe is playing to a rather different crowd. And while the Shelbys, ZL1s, and SRTs offer more bang for the equivalent buck, AMG has a proven knack for combining the best of that spirit within the upscale surroundings Mercedes buyers expect. Mature would be going a bit far. But you'd be as welcome at the country club as you would the quarter-mile.
Certain changes do, however, indicate a pressure for AMG to keep pace. The previous seven-speed transmission has been replaced by the nine-speed unit from the E 63, the signature 'MCT' wet lock-up clutch replacing the torque converter found in regular Mercedes. The gearbox alone accounts for the tenth off the 0-60-mph sprint, which the C 63 S Coupe now accomplishes in just 3.7 seconds against the 3.8 of the previous version.
Elsewhere the much-derided, tablet-style 10.25-inch main screen remains center stage, but as an option you can replace the analog dials with a 12.3-inch configurable display. New Touch Control buttons on the wheel — familiar from other recent Mercedes — permit swipe control for the instrument cluster with your left thumb and a miniaturized duplication of the main touchpad for your right. It's a little fiddly to begin with, but with time it becomes more instinctive and enables control all the car's major systems without moving your hands from the wheel. And while perhaps not as expansive as Audi's Virtual Cockpit, it does look suitably classy and premium.
The AMG display is a buzzword-heavy expression of the additional configurability engineered into the car. Under the umbrella term AMG Dynamics, the driving modes are overseen by broader themes described as Basic, Advanced, Pro and — exclusive to the S — Master. These tweak throttle response, gearshifts, steering weight and other parameters, though the right to describe yourself as Master only comes in Race mode and with the ESP set to Sport or off entirely.
AMG Dynamics also adapts the electronically controlled locking differential, which is now standard on all models. The track at Bilster Berg permits a more socially responsible exploration of its function, and the new nine-stage AMG Traction Control system adapted from the GT R.
For my first track session I switch to the C 63 S sedan, which highlights some important differences between this and the Coupe. While they share the same powertrain and functionality, the Coupe has its own chassis settings and a wider track — a whole 1.8 inches broader at the rear thanks to bespoke AMG rear suspension hardware shared with the E 63. Accordingly they have a noticeably different character, the Sedan offering a more all-round vibe where the coupe is set up to be a more aggressive, enthusiast-oriented drive.
In S trim they both have more than 500 hp going to the rear wheels, so let's not quibble — this is one lairy car. To the point where I am — very politely — told off for drifting on only my second lap round the track. "It's OK. But, please, not on every corner." What can I say? The hooligan spirit in the car successfully inspires the hooligan spirit in the driver — the intoxicating combination of a torque-rich V8, throttle response no turbocharged rival can match, and a private track do not encourage restraint.
The nine-stage traction control is another willing accomplice and is accessed by holding down the ESP button. At this point the new rotary selector on the steering wheel lights up, going yellow for one-two-three and then red beyond as a subtle hint you're waking the beast within. On the advice of the instructor I start with four, quickly step up to five and then settle on six as the best compromise.
In this mode you can confidently open the taps mid-corner and the C 63 will obediently hold the angle of your choosing. On this setting you have enough leeway to dial out understeer on the throttle without the need for armfuls of opposite lock. Be aware, though. ESP is totally off in this setting and Cars & Coffee infamy quickly awaits those unaware of the distinction between traction and stability control.
On road and track, the new transmission is give with one hand and take with the other. Left to its own devices it can hunt around its many ratios, which in a quieter car would be less of a problem. But with an engine this loud, it's intrusive. On roads where a human like yours truly would be rowing between third and fifth, the automatic is playing around between sixth and eighth, even in sportier modes. You'd expect it to hold ratios longer, but at least M mode is much improved, no longer randomly delivering multiple downshifts when you only requested one.
Back on the track, there's a softness about the sedan not found in the coupe. At Bilster Berg, it feels less like a bruiser and more like a cruiser, all things relative. And while it's not shy about going sideways, its active differential is instinctively set to find traction, not break it. Some of the rawness of older AMGs has been lost in the search for greater sophistication. In isolation it's still mighty, though, and AMG's instinctive feel for steering rates and damper set-up ensures it's as entertaining on a twisty road as it is thundering down the Autobahn. In both environments it is incorrigibly, wickedly fast.
The coupe feels another level of seriousness, though, the front axle biting harder while the rigidly-mounted, wide track rear suspension gives you more to lean on in the corners. At around 3,900 pounds, it's a hefty old thing and a BMW M4 would feel a whole lot sharper in this environment. But the hammer blow of that V8 remains addictive and the AMG's easy-going, gregarious character is easier to appreciate at all speeds. It's also way, way more exciting than an RS5, the Audi's only real selling point in this fight being its all-wheel drive.
Clearly the C 63 deserves its position as the definitive (and best-selling) AMG in the range and, with these updates, proves it remains the best German translation of muscle car yet devised. It's business as usual for AMG. And business is good.