Home » The 671-Horsepower Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance Is Powerful But So Heavy

The 671-Horsepower Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance Is Powerful But So Heavy

C63 Topshot

When Mercedes-AMG first announced that the next C63 would feature an plug-in hybrid four-cylinder powertrain, the automotive world recoiled in horror. After all, the V8 was an AMG hallmark, and dropping half the cylinders from the C63 is a bit like slicing your fun uncle in half. However, now that the new car is unveiled, it seems like AMG has traded displacement for a whole lot more power. Say hello to the Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance, a very potent C-Class with a very long name.

C63 decklid

So what makes this new car tick? Let’s start with the engine itself. It’s Mercedes-AMG’s M139 two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. At literally half the size of the old C63’s V8, it represents both a marked departure from tradition and a technological marvel. Good engines are built with good bones, so the M139 uses a closed-deck block that can take an immense amount of pressure. Then, Mercedes-AMG specified separate cooling systems for the head and crankcase to keep the bottom end warm and lubricated and the top end clear of any heat-based detonation.

Once all that was lined up, Mercedes-AMG bolted on a big turbocharger with a little trick up its sleeve. A very thin electric motor is sandwiched in between the turbine and compressor wheels to spool up the turbocharger before exhaust gases really get going. This aids response and lets the C63 crank out 469 horsepower at 6,750 rpm and 402 lb.-ft. of torque in a peaky band from 5,000 rpm to 5,500 rpm, making this the most powerful production four-cylinder engine of all time. Mated to an all-wheel-drive system with an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential on the rear axle, the new engine should put its power down quite confidently no matter the condition of the asphalt.

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However, 469 horsepower just isn’t enough for C63 S owners who’ve grown used to the old car’s 503 horsepower, so Mercedes-AMG has brought in a little bit of electricity to sweeten things up. When I say a little bit, I really mean a lot. A 6.1 kWh battery pack feeds a two-speed electric motor on the rear axle. Think Porsche Taycan but scaled-down. This motor kicks out 201 horsepower and 231 lb.-ft. of torque and engages second gear right around 85 mph. To keep all this electrification happy when enthusiastic C63 S E Performance owners inevitably curbstomp the accelerator pedal, the battery’s surrounded by 14 liters of coolant. Total combined system output? 671 horsepower and a tarmac-rippling 752 lb.-ft. of torque, good for a claimed zero-to-sixty mph time of 3.3 seconds.

Hold on, that’s not that quick for a 671-horsepower all-wheel-drive compact sedan. Don’t get me wrong, zero-to-sixty in 3.3 seconds is still quick, but it doesn’t move the needle massively from the significantly less powerful BMW M3 Competition xDrive. More importantly, I wonder what acceleration numbers will look like when the plug-in hybrid battery pack is out of juice. Mercedes-AMG estimates an all-electric range of just eight miles, not exactly a usable figure by American standards. At first I thought that AMG was really sandbagging the zero-to-sixty time, until I saw how much the new C63 S E Performance weighs. According to Mercedes-AMG, this thing has an EC curb weight of 2,111 kilograms, or 4,654 pounds. In the words of our own Matt Hardigree, “Sheeeeeeeeeet.”

C63 rear

Weight is the enemy of well, everything. A heavier car carries more inertia and is thus harder to accelerate, stop, and turn than a lighter car. In an attempt to counteract this, AMG has given the new C63 2.5 degrees of rear-wheel-steering, externally-valved electrohydraulic dampers, and regenerative braking that can shove more than 100 kW of power back into the battery. Good stuff, but I’m not terribly confident that it’ll transform the new C63 S E Performance into a ballet dancer.

Reading through the press bumf, a nagging question kept popping into my head: Is the new C63 still relevant? The first C63 was great, even if the regular W204 C-Class felt somewhat janky. Massive V8 up front, drive to the back, just a slap-happy lunatic of a car. The W205 C63 moved the game on further, partly because the four-liter biturbo V8 offered heaps of thrust and partly because the interior was class-leading at the time. From the wood to the plastics, it made the F80 BMW M3’s interior feel a bit nasty and showed the aging B8 Audi RS5 how to do things. The problem is, every new compact supersedan has a good interior and many offer the charisma of six cylinders.

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The 90-degree 2.9-liter V6 in the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is unusual and bewitching, like a GM 3800 that became an opera singer. The S58 inline-six in the new BMW M3 rips silk all the way to redline. The Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing isn’t terribly far off of the compact German supersedans on price and offers a thumping supercharged V8. While the M139 four-cylinder engine in the C63 is hugely effective, prior experiences in vehicles like the CLA 45 have left me a bit cold. I like a fire-breathing turbocharged four-cylinder engine like a hot Mitsubishi 4G63, but Mercedes-AMG previously hasn’t given the M139 the aural fury it deserves.

I’m sure the new C63 S E Performance is brilliant. After all, 671 horsepower is a lot of shove no matter how you look at it, and Mercedes has the best ambient lighting in the business. However, I’m a bit concerned that it’s lost its soul. While everything aside from the curb weight looks good on paper, cars aren’t driven on paper. The old C63 S was a lairy, loutish German muscle car. Big engine, small car, drive to the back, buy stock in tires. In contrast, the new one seems extremely serious, potentially venturing into the reptilian domain of Audi. The F80 BMW M3 was for people with Sperrys and Apple Watches while the old C63 was for people with special Nike SB Dunks and IWCs. Now though, if you want a very fast small sedan that doesn’t take itself too seriously, you’re likely shopping Italian or American. It’s funny how things change.

All photos courtesy of Mercedes-AMG

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32 Responses

    1. 752 LB-feet of torque gets a huge “who cares how it’s made or numbered” from me. You’re allowed to dislike it all you want because it’s not an NA V8 or whatever, but I think it’s an amazing technological marvel and this is the future whether you like it or not.

      There’s always going to be some huge NA American V8 or V10 on the used market for you, and the idea that that stuff is going away forever is a bit silly to me when Ford, Mercedes, BMW, etc. are committed to making big gnarly V8s for the next 5-10 years. Let the folks who are more conscious of their contributions to climate change have a good time and daydream about this.

      I totally get why you and your ilk enjoy the hell out of huge NA engines, because I do too. What I get a lot less is why there’s this tendency to take the mere existence of other power options so damn personally…no one is going to make you give up your muscle and times change.

      1. The problem is that you will will lose 231 of those lb-ft pretty quickly with only an 8 mile range.

        In a track application, I’m sure that will be probably less than 2 miles

        1. On track it’s likely to run out of steam, but probably not on the road. 6.1KWh should get a lot more than 18 miles of range if it were draining it completely, which means most of the battery is going to some combination of safety margin to increase cycle life and power left in reserve for acceleration even once the electric-only range is gone.

        1. The 2035 deadline is for selling ICE-engined cars. No one is coming to take your ICE away. Of course, the NRA will probably spin-off a National Petrol Assoc. which will haunt you with threats that the gubberment’s gonna grab your ICE unless you vote Q-anon, er, Republican!

          1. Yeah, I don’t buy used cars, so 2035 really is a big deal to me.

            And you laugh it off, but how implausible is the idea that a future administration, whether state or federal, will “encourage” people to trade in their old ICE cars with varying (but always increasing) degrees of coercion? A few years ago, no one would have believed a ban was coming, and now they’re everywhere. I will no longer underestimate any measure being done in the name of climate change.

    1. I came here to say the same thing. Luxury/performance automakers are building cars so complicated they are destined for the scrapheap long before their time. And for no reason other than to have longer and more exotic lists of features or specs.

      Luxury used to be about precision, durability, and timeless design. Now it is about throwaway features for fleeting instagram flexation.

    1. Time is a flat circle…then after them as my generation (late 20s/early 30s) of enthusiasts age and become more “get off my lawn”-ey I assume it’s going to be “hot hatch or GTFO” guys….or perhaps “DCTs ARE PEAK AUTOMATIC” guys. Hell, maybe even “HYBRIDS ARE MORE ENGAGING THAN EVs” guys.

      Boy that last one sounds bleak….

  1. There is more to driving than numbers. I’m sure the C63, for all its mass and four-pot engine, would absolutely wax the 500E, which is basically my fave Mercedes-Benz performance sedan. But the mechanical nature of the earlier car, the aural, tactile and visual sensations, and the level of driver involvement needed to really hustle the thing — plus the total absence of oversize iPads inside — tip the scales for me.

    It’s the same reason I’d take an FE instead of a Mach-E. Put that big lump of gas-burning iron in almost any car, and you’re going to get a little piece of A.J. Foyt in a For GT Mk. II on the Mulsanne straight.

    No judgment on anyone else. I know what I dig.

  2. “The 90-degree 2.9-liter V6 in the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is unusual and bewitching, like a GM 3800 that became an opera singer.”

    Excellent analogy right there.

  3. The engine: It’s obviously inspired by the current F1 MB engine, wonder why they didn’t put it in the add campaign . The battery is for performance not for economic driving necessarily

  4. And people said the Hellcats were “heavy”.
    At least SRT was using a fully grown full-size chassis to develop those behemoths, not a compact sedan with enough do-dads to make the poor SOB who’ll keep one after warranty take a mortgage out every 5 years on their house to fix the thing.
    Sheesh.
    I love the other specs though lol

  5. Okay but hear me out…I absolutely love it and this is the sort of thing I’ve been clamoring for specifically. 8 miles of plug in range is borderline useless, but I assume the electrification in addition to the 4 cylinder should offer a significant improvement in fuel economy and emissions.

    It doesn’t seem like we have those numbers yet, but if this winds up being decent enough in those metrics it’ll be offering something that really doesn’t exist in this price range. Some of us (DOZENS!) want to hold on to our ICE adoration for a little longer but want to be conscientious of our carbon footprint and do what we can to reduce it. If this, in fact, is better on that front than an M3 or RS5 or something then it’s appealing in a way that those aren’t.

    Is it going to offer the roar of a V8 or performance 6? Well, no, but if you still want one of those they’re are more out there to choose from than the media hype would lead you to believe. In conclusion…I think this rules and I’m going to save up so I can consider one in several years.

    1. “if you still want one of those they’re are more out there to choose from than the media hype would lead you to believe.”

      How many 8 cylinder performance sedans are really still out there? Especially if you try to keep things reasonably close to the outgoing C63’s ~$75K base price?

      -IS500 definitely
      -M550i – debatable if this is a sports sedan, starts at $80K, AWD only (yuck)
      -CT5-V – $7K price jump for 2023, now starts at $90K.

      Anything else is either cancelled or deep into the $100s.

      1. The 300 S and now the 300 SRT8

        (Insert the Charger trim of your preference here)

        And if you’re willing to look at *not sedans* you have the German V8 SUVs, the new Mustang which will run for the usual 5-10 years and maintain its V8, etc.

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