Mercedes-AMG has pulled the silks off its new-for-2023 C 63 S, the first example yet to ditch its hallowed twin-turbocharged V8 in favour of a hybrid drivetrain.
Though available as either a sedan or a station wagon, the new Mercedes-AMG C 63 S E Performance – to give the model its full name – will not be available as either a two-door coupe or a convertible, designations set to be taken on by forthcoming, and smaller, CLE. The ‘entry-level’ AMG C 63 will not be returning either, leaving the more ferocious C 63 S E as the sole AMG-derived C-Class.
On that note, while purists will begrudge the V8 being benched in favour of essentially the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder found in the C 43 and/or SL 43, Mercedes is championing the 1,991-cc unit in the C 63 S E as the most powerful production four-cylinder in the world and “a real game changer in the 55-year history of AMG.”
The ‘M139L’ four-cylinder alone, which drives an AMG ‘Speedshift 9G’ nine-speed automatic gearbox, produces a mighty 476 hp and 402 lb-ft of torque, a lower compression ratio meaning the engine can accept more boost from a larger, electric exhaust gas turbocharger. Using technology derived from Mercedes-AMG’s works Formula 1 team – lessons from which were integrated into the new ‘One’ hypercar – the turbocharger incorporates an electric motor that runs off the vehicle’s 400-volt electrical system, allowing it to spool up quicker and minimize lag.
The four-cylinder is then mated with a 204 hp electric motor that drives the rear axle and which produces 236 lb-ft of torque. This self-contained ‘Electric Drive Use’ also utilizes a 6.1kWh lithium ion battery and a two-speed gearbox, bringing the C 63 S E’s total output up to a startling 680 hp and 752 lb-ft, 180 hp and 236 lb-ft more than the previous, V8-powered C 63 S.
Unsurprisingly, estimated electric range for, what Mercedes calls, “new peak values for the C-Class” is far from a priority. The compact 6.1 kWh battery is capable of just 13 km of pure EV running and is thus relied upon instead for the immediate power delivery a gasoline engine cannot provide. Hence the 280 km/h unrestricted top speed (270 km/h for the station wagon) and 3.4-second 0-100 km/h sprint.
Somewhat hilariously, one of the eight available drive modes is ‘Electric,’ which switches the C 63 S E to full EV mode for up to 125 km/h until the e-motor’s 13 km range is depleted, whereupon ‘Comfort’ is selected as default. In fairness, ‘Boost Mode,’ part of the ‘Race’ drive program ensures battery capacity does not drop below 30 per cent.
Moreover, Mercedes does state that the use of a Affalterbach-developed, high-performance battery (which weighs in at just 89 kg, just FYI), plus F1-inspired direct cooling, means up to 100 kW of energy can be regenerated by the hybrid system under braking (four Regen levels are included). When fed back into the battery, this keeps the 6.1 kWh pack more consistently topped up compared with other plug-in hybrid systems. The braking system itself meanwhile has been given a boost courtesy of AMG-derived, “high-performance composite” six-piston calipers at the front and one-piston examples at the rear.
The C 63 S E Performance is also the first example to feature four-wheel drive, the RWD-only nature of its predecessors having apparently proven a sticking point with some AMG customers. Torque distribution is fully variable though, depending on the drive mode selected, with power and torque from the rear-mounted electric motor capable of being sent to the front wheels too. Like the larger E 63, the C 63 S E also features ‘drift mode,’ which automatically disconnects the front axle and allows the driver to hang the tail out.
The only slight drawback is the increased kerb weight, which shoots up to 2,111 kg for the sedan and 2,145 kg for the station wagon. AMG-bespoke steering knuckles and suspension joints, plus ‘AMG Ride Control’ continuously adaptive dampers, helps to keep the additional mass planted through the corners. The wheelbase has also grown by 10 mm – the overall length is 83 mm up on the standard C-Class – while the front track has been extended by 76 mm for added stability.
In a neat addition, four-wheel steering allows the rear wheels to steer up to 2.5-degrees in the opposite direction as the front for more agile turn-in and increased maneuverability. This is shaved down slightly to 0.7-degrees – in the same direction, for obvious reasons – at speeds above 100 km/h.
Cosmetically, the C 63 S E Performance features a more aggressive front valance – in keeping with the AMG grille – complete with active shutters that open and close intermittently to keep the engine cool. This works in tandem with the natty air outlet on the hood, while down the side, bespoke 19-inch alloys can be swapped out for 20-inch alternatives.
Pricing and North American availability has not yet been outlined for the C 63 S E Performance, though sales are expected to begin in Europe towards the beginning of 2023 for a speculated €95,000 (around $120K).