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First drive: 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe

Raucous but refined, Mercedes' AMG C63 S Coupe is the epitome of modern muscle

While the old C63 emphasized brute force, the new car is a precision striker — a linear track machine that is more livable but just as potent.

The sound shocked my system like a cup of espresso. I had just completed a 19-hour trek across the world and was suffering from a 9-hour time change, so keeping my eyes open was proving a constant challenge. Then I heard it: the distinct song of a 4.0-liter biturbo V8 crackling to life, eradicating the silence around it. Suddenly I felt awake, alert, perhaps even more alive. Forget taking a nap – I was ready to get behind the wheel.

For the next three days, the beautiful coastal city of Malaga, Spain would not only be my home, it’d be the launching pad for Mercedes-AMG’s 2017 C63 S Coupe. The previous C63 was a bit of a brute in the best possible way, so the brand faced quite the quandary with this new one — modernize the recipe without losing the flavor.

Was Mercedes successful? The answer, at least in part, lay at the end of a racetrack called Ascari.

Track tech

The Ascari Race Resort is carved into a Spanish hillside and it looks like a travel brochure from every angle. The grounds are pristinely maintained, the colors are vibrant, and the air is fresh. That said, I couldn’t take my eyes off the squadron of AMGs that lined the staging area.

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The C63 S Coupe is a gorgeous thing. Its lines are smooth, sensual, and elegant, and the two-door layout really accentuates the muscular rear fenders. The design is practical too, because compared to the standard C-Class, every body part save for the hood, doors, and deck lid has been switched out for better aero and more grip. It’s a far more controlled aesthetic than the old car, though, and that happens to directly foreshadow the driving dynamics.

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With an AMT GT S pace car in the lead, we began our hot lap. I chose “Sport +” from the vehicle’s Dynamic Select driving mode menu to start, which keeps the suspension, steering, 7-speed MCT gearbox, and traction control systems at civilian levels. I put my foot down, sending 503 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque to the rear axle, causing the back end to noticeably, but not dramatically step out. That would normally be enough to satisfy my inner 12-year-old, but the raucous roar from the exhaust was the cherry on top. Man, what a sound.

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As the speedometer climbed, I carved through the turns with precision, a feat made easier with the S Coupe’s electronic limited slip differential (the normal C63 gets a mechanical one). It’s pretty smart for a hunk of metal, reducing inside wheel slip while cornering and shuttling just the right amount of torque to each side. It can make a decent driver look like a great one, but in “Race” mode, all bets are off.

“There’s the spirit of the old car,” I said after correcting a more prominent slide. “Back to Sport + we go.”

Around Ascari, the mighty AMG felt nimble, linear, and extraordinarily capable, and the power is satiating. Peak torque comes on at just 1,750 rpm and stays there till 4,500 rpm, which makes exiting out of corners in style a breeze. The transmission is also lightning quick, with unique throttle mapping and engine braking parameters in paddle-shifting manual mode. It doesn’t quite feel like a naturally aspirated engine — there’s just a whiff of turbo lag — but it’s damn close.

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All good things must end, so as the sun began to set, we left the hallowed grounds of Ascari. My affair with the AMG was far from over though, because the next day, we got to take the beast on the road.

Unleashed

“Cambia!” the garbageman shouted with a smile. “Cambia!”

While I couldn’t hand over the Coupe’s keys like my new friend wanted, I admired the trash collector’s enthusiasm. I was standing on a hilltop looking for a spot to film video when he and his compatriot showed up, likely lured in by the car’s Cavansite Blue paint and burbly soundtrack. It wasn’t the first time this car attracted attention, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

This is still a true sports car, mind you, but it’s one that knows when to mind its manners.

For all its shouting and rear-wheel drive flamboyance, though, the S Coupe is wonderfully composed and comfortable on the street. Simply flip the Dynamic Select menu to “Comfort,” and the suspension softens, the steering loosens, and the exhaust takes half a Xanax. This is still a true sports car, mind you, but it’s one that knows when to mind its manners.

And that’s a very good thing, because exploring the full potential of this vehicle on public roads could leave you with a costly ticket or worse. Given that the Spanish police were likely aware of our presence, I opted to let the Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control system with steering assist take the controls on long stretches, allowing me to relax into the standard sport seats and enjoy the fantastic Burmester sound system. That is, until the next tunnel, when I rolled down the windows, dropped a gear, and put the pedal to the floor. Can you blame me?

Creature comforts

In typical Mercedes fashion, the C 63 S Coupe’s interior is garnished with lavish luxury attire, including available nappa leather, carbon fiber, and aluminum trim. The large gauges and flat-bottom steering wheel have an inherently racy feel to them, but overall it feels plush and refined, so long as you’re not in the cramped back seat. Simply stated, the car feels evolved.

Mercedes’ “Comand” infotainment center is often berated for its complexity, and some criticism is warranted. Certain functions are only accessible through certain menus, and often difficult to remember which features are where. You can navigate the system with a scroll wheel or a touch pad, and although it is fun to tinker with interior lighting color, suspension stiffness, and exhaust tone from one 8.4-inch display, it’s also easy to get lost.

Conclusion

U.S. pricing and fuel economy data are still forthcoming, but the non-S, 469-hp C63 Coupe is expected to start in the low $70,000 range when it arrives in the summer of 2016. That puts it right in BMW M4/Audi RS5 territory, yet it’s the only one offered with a V8 powerplant.

But its engine is only part of the reason why the C 63 S is the epitome of a modern muscle car. It’s fast and sexy and loud, but it’s also classy, adaptable, and most importantly, smart. Perhaps it is less unique than its stentorian predecessor, but this is overall a better, more polished piece of machinery. And don’t worry, if you’re looking to get crazy, the AMG still has you covered.

Highs

  • Prettier than a Spanish villa
  • Oodles of biturbo V8 power
  • Precise and controlled rear-wheel drive handling
  • Driver-focused interior is classy and cozy

Lows

  • Almost no turbo lag … almost
  • Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment system has a learning curve