If smaller cars are good, and station wagons are good, and big burbly V8 engines are good… you’re going to enjoy meeting the 503 horsepower 2018 Mercedes-AMG C63 S wagon.
(Full Disclosure: I asked the folk at Mercedes if I could borrow a C63 S Wagon and they said yes. They dropped it at my house with a full tank of fuel and took it away a week later.)
Since the early days of motoring one question has hung over the heads of engineers: “How do we go faster?” That particularly troubled the people of Affalterbach when the Mercedes-Benz C-Class wagon was released, because the latest version of Merc’s smallest estate was already quite perky. However, using turbos, a V8 and a whole heap of “more” Mercedes’s AMG engineers managed to make something a little unhinged, elegant and a whole lot of fun.
AMG’s take on “make it faster” has always been one of throwing as much power as you’d deem necessary under the hood, but keeping the car comfy at the same time. Why be uncomfortable when you’re getting your hustle on?
What is it?
The C-Class is Mercedes’ modestly sized sedan, and also its smallest wagon. This is a slick looking thing with an interior to die for. It’s the car for European small families–mom, dad, a couple of a kids and all the guff they bring with them on their day to day travels. Much like the sedan, the wagon is decent to drive and has a key that looks good on your desk so people know that you’re doing awfully well for yourself (this is important for some people, lest we forget).
The C63 S is AMG’s expansion on that. For, say, a European family who absolutely must be on the other side of the country in less than an hour. There’s an AMG for people who can take an extra half hour to get cross country, the “base” C63, but the S gets you extra time to play with an additional 34 horsepower.
Specs That Matter
Thanks to all that grunt you’ll theoretically be able to crack the 0-62 run in 4.1 seconds and hit a top speed of 155 mph without too much trouble. Since this is a wagon, you could manage all that acceleration while lugging 17 cubic feet of stuff with the seats up and 53 with them folded down.
With all that energy plus a curb weight just shy of 4,000 pounds you might expect its efficiency to be calculated in gallons-per-mile, but not so. Mercedes claims 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, I saw around 20 mpg during a mix of both with more than a few tests of those acceleration time claims.
I’m a shallow person. I like pretty things. I also like aggressive things. The C63 S wagon is a pleasing mix of both. Parked up it doesn’t look like it’ll bite your head off at first glance, but finer details like its massive grille, power bulges on the hood, and BI-TURBO badging give you flashes of the angry. I also think the wagon looks far, far better than the sedan. It’s a more “complete” shape overall. Most wagons are and if you disagree you’ll have to fight me (with foam swords, and no touching of the face).
The interior is utterly wonderful. Over the years, Merc’s gone wild with its interior design sometimes in a good way, others in a bad. The E-Class, for example, looks like an over designed kitchen. The C, though, is handsome and well thought out.
You get big, comfy, supportive seats as well. A good thing considering how this thing is capable of quite hard acceleration (that may be an understatement).
Its motor also kicks out a creamy smooth V8 noise when you give it the beans. It’s silky smooth, like the best gelato you’ve ever had poured liberally all over your ears. Like most V8 noises; it’s addictive.
The view of the power bulges on the hood as you drive is pretty slick as well.
Merc’s COMAND infotainment system is a drag to use. Flicking between the various menus should be easy, but it’s mostly just easy to nudge the selector wheel thing a touch too far and end up in a menu you didn’t want to be in. The UI is pretty and simple enough, it’s just an utter faff to navigate.
There are also some afterthoughts in there. The car’s custom drive mode is configurable, and it’s simple to get in to the menu that adjusts the various bits of car but getting out of said menu requires a completely different set of inputs than the rest of the damn thing. It caused swear words.
Mercedes’ insistence on putting the seat adjustment on the door card is also a huge irritant. I ended up flailing my hands around the cabin for a moment before realizing where they were.
AMG’s ability to make a car both comfortable and devastatingly fast comes to the fore when you’re simply trundling around town. On a regular trot out you’ll get a gentle V8 song in the cabin and no huge effort needed. As with pretty much every luxury motor nowadays, there are a bunch of driving modes to set it to–comfort will do you just fine for town work.
It can get a bit rough over pot holes and the like, but it’s a car designed not only to haul luggage but to haul ass as well. You can’t expect it to do everything perfectly.
In comfort the seven-speed MCT ‘box changes quietly and smoothly, though you can override it with the hefty paddles if you want to make more or less noise depending on your mood.
Visibility is pretty good all round thanks to the extra glass of the rearmost side windows, though the rear glass itself is a bit small and the back is quite tall. Reversing cameras are a must to avoid smooshing errant children and people who can’t see or hear a noisy car going backwards. Thankfully the C63 S’ camera is fantastic, not only do you get a super hi-res back up lens, you can also get yourself a 360 degree top down view. Super handy in tight city streets.
The steering is light and progressive, and you get a great sense of what the front is doing so getting around town is easy.
If you popped your mom in there and told her it was a regular C-Class wagon, the only thing that’d give the game away would be the noise. Or the world going blurry if someone accidentally nailed the gas.
Flick the drive select dial to “sport” and things are cranked up. The ‘box shifts faster, throttle response sharpens, the ride stiffens, and it gets louder. But, friends, “sport” is the junior varsity AMG mode. “Sport +” is the mid range, and the most hardcore you should take it on the streets.
If you’re either insanely talented, or just a bit unhinged you’ll like “Race.” Race is a step beyond your usual “make it quicker” modes. The transmission jerks from ratio to ratio and the motor seems to hate being treated any way other than rough as hell.
So it can be set up to be grumpy, who cares about that unless it can hustle to match the grunt. With the steering a little weightier you still get bowser-loads of feedback to point the front end where you want it to go, but it feels a little more meaty. With more than 500 horses falling out of the rear wheels and a set up called “Race” you’d expect it to be a touch hairy. You’d be right.
Give it a bit of right boot and you’ll feel the rear start to go wild, commit to that and allegedly big slides and childish irresponsibility happen, but on the country lanes of Britain you have to learn to temper yourself and drive within the limits. You don’t have to work hard to provoke it with all the toys turned off, but you also don’t have to work hard to make it behave with a whole lot of excitement.
Keep the throttle balanced into a bend, then give it a footful as you leave and it feels like utter joy. The kind of experience that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, though one accompanied by a 4.0 V8 that sounds like some sort of deity with a rumbling stomach. It’s not as sharp as an M3, but nowhere near as blunt an instrument as an Audi RS.
When you don’t want all the angry shoutiness you can slip it back in to comfy mode and it’ll become a regular wagon again.
The acceleration is ridiculous, as one would expect from an AMG. The motor bellows and fires you forward, the rear keeping itself in check rather neatly. One friend, however, didn’t expect the aggression, but let out a squeal of approval once she figured out what was going on. Good times.
It’s a high end AMG, so it’s not cheap. At $94,308.72 before options (UK to U.S. price conversion correct at time of writing) it’s quite the investment for a small family wagon, but the fun it brings to the type of person who wants it means they’ll spend it. More, even, to get some choice toys on board.
Cars like the C63 S wagon are going to appeal to many, but only work for the few who can actually afford to get their V8 on properly. Those few are lucky, lucky people.
In Europe there’s a huge market for “small” longroofs like this, though it’s one that seems to be losing out to SUVs and crossovers by the day. They offer decent space, are easy to maneuver, and the powerful ones offer the driver sportscar-esque thrills–thrills that have probably had to go because of the arrival of small, screaming, tiny versions of humans.
No one absolutely needs a 500 HP car, but who cares about need? You want a 500 HP car. And if it can take four people and all their luggage to another country, more’s the better.
The U.S., sadly, doesn’t get to enjoy the likes of the C63 S Estate. Though you do get the coupe and sedan version of this cracking little car. Perhaps because it’s too small, perhaps because MB USA thinks no one will actually buy it if it were available. It’s a shame, because you’re missing out on some truly wonderful motoring.
V8 wagons rule, and the C63 S has the perfect footprint for easy city driving and exciting spirited driving. A big cargo hatch in the back helps with daily life, a big engine under the hood makes you feel alive. I love this thing.