Some months ago we received a special invitation from a good friend and AMG GT R driver. If we wanted to join for an AMG engine factory tour and a visit to the production line of the AMG GT. The perfect definition of a no-brainer. Thanks to Mercedes-Benz Belgium we could join the GT R in the all new C 63 S Estate. A testdrive and travelogue in one.
You don’t spot them yet so often on public roads, the facelifted C 63 AMG, which was introduced end of last year. Main changes are the updated front grill, a more distinctive diffusor and bigger exhaust pipes. The pre-facelift grille with two louvres is now reserved for the C 43 AMG, the new 63 models have vertical louvres. A less attractive change is the price tag to cut straight to the point. For example for the 63 S version, the base price rose from 91k to 100k euro (prices in Belgium, taxes included). Auwch. The way our AMG was configured resulted even in a price tag of € 119.971,50. That’s a lot of money. Thank god you get a lot in return: Burmester Surround system, heated front seats, Keyless-Go, wireless smartphone charging, AMG interior trim in carbon, nappa leather, 360° camera, AMG performance seats, automatic climate control, adaptive high-beam LED lights, protective film for the paint, panoramic roof, widescreen cockpit, electronic rear axle differential, AMG Ride Control sportschassis, driving assistance package, Distronic with steering assistant and AMG Performance exhausts.
Let’s first outline the range of the C-class AMG models: C 43 4MATIC+, C 63 and C 63 S. The C 63 models are one of the few AMGs that still come without 4MATIC or 4MATIC+. Hp-wise, the 63 S has 510 hp versus 476 hp for the 63 and 390 hp for the C 43. Both 63 models come with the AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 9-speed sports transmission (with RACE START function and multiple downshift function). The pré-facelift did the job with the MCT 7-speed transmission. The 43 AMG in turn can count on the 9G-TRONIC PLUS. Difficult to judge if the S-version is worth the 9k € investment over the ‘standard’ version, but if you want to have high performance brakes (mix of steel and aluminium) or the optional ceramic brakes, you have to take the C 63 S. The S version also comes standard with the AMG Driver’s Pack (top speed of 290 km/h) and the AMG Performance steering wheel finished in alcantara.
With some disbelief we are still heading towards Affalterbach in this staggering C 63 S. With the massive nose of the AMG GT R in our rearview mirror. And depending on the speed limit signs a C 63 from the previous generation who is also joining this trip, ahead or behind us. Some great company, every single person imbued with (AMG) passion. We didn’t reach the 290 km/h topspeed mark, however it was very close on the German Highway. The only place on earth (?) where you can legally reach the top speed on public roads. Visually you can recognise the S version by the black accents in the inner side of the front bumper and red or copper brake callipers. Pretty contrast with our designo diamond white metallic and the black 19 inch cross-spoke forged wheels.
First on the program is the engine factory visit of AMG in Affalterbach. On our way to the ‘Appletree at the brook’ the roads are packed with AMGs. We are definitely on the right road. Once arrived, we register at the well-known AMG showroom where we are personally welcomed. Even the Belgian flag is waving outside. Part of the AMG range is sportively aligned in the showroom and a brand new GT R PRO is shining in the corner.
We first get a brief explanation about the AMG history. The red pig, the Hammer and the relationship with Mercedes were of course discussed. It is mainly emphasized that AMG is nowadays a car developer and no longer a tuner. And fully owned by Daimler. The “Magnificent 7” is AMG’s recipe: the engine, the transmission, the brakes, the exhaust, the different driving modes, the suspension and the steering. Elements that we have often experienced during test drives.
We walk to the factory via the street around the corner. We pass the former AMG workshop and residence where it all started back in 1967. The AMGs literally fly around like leaves in autumn. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to make visual material inside the factory. The V8 engines are being built in Affalterbach, and since 2015 the V12 engines are produced in the Mercedes plant in Mannheim, all according to the ‘one man, one engine’ principle. Building a V8 takes 3.5 hours, building a V12 5 hours. Striking is the process whereby the connecting rods that are produced in one piece are literally cracked in order to be mounted on the crankshaft. In this way, both pieces fit together perfectly. Every M178 engine (for the GT models) undergoes a cold test, and some engines are tested to the extreme for weeks on a test bench (warm test). Mercedes-AMG nowadays sells around 130,000 cars a year, so nothing is left to chance.
We move now to the AMG Performance Studio. At this place the craziest wishes of customers from all over the world are fulfilled. We are face to face with the snow-white GT four-door coupé of Kanye West. An S 65 AMG Final Edition and GT R Roadster from the Geneva Motor Show get a completely new interior. A little further there’s a CLK 63 Black Series with DTM spoiler. Then we go into a separate room where an overview is given of some possible paint and leather colors. No limits in terms of colors or personalisation. Customer is king, also at AMG. Behind a canvas we catch a glimpse of the CLA 45 Shooting Brake. Not really the intention, sorry for that. Neither was it to already see a glimpse of the brand new GLE 63 AMG. We conclude our visit at AMG with a few traditional photos at the gigantic posters for the showroom. Off to the Mercedes Museum!
Back to the C 63 S with one of the few remarks on the car. The electromechanical speed-sensitive power steering that occasionally drops a stab in turns, just like if the servo pump releases a millisecond of pressure. A feeling I remember from the GLC 63 S. Nevertheless the steering wheel fits perfectly in the hand and the hardness of the steering is just perfect. Also the optional AMG Performance seats make you even feel more one with the car. Usually the performance seats don’t fit well with the positioning of my arms and in particular where to put my elbows, but in the C it was just perfect. For a rear wheel driven car with 510 hp, the stability of the car feels surprisingly good. However don’t fool with the gas pedal and certainly not on a wet surface. As a good family man I didn’t switched off the ESP, but even with all driving support systems on, a little push in the wet results in a ‘sweet sweep’ of which many break dancers would be jealous of. The outbreak of the back is however corrected immediately.
The great driving performance is partly a result of an electronically balanced rear locking differential. It reduces slip perfectly in order to accelerate more quickly out of corners, accelerate from a standing start (0 to 100 km/h in just 4,1 seconds) and braking from high speeds. Both the front and rear suspension have the adjustable AMG Ride Control with gas-filled shock absorbers and coil springs and multi-link axle. The facelift of the C 63 S also brought integrated dynamic handling in the form of AMG Dynamics. In other words: traction control that enables slip on the rear axle controlled in nine stages. For the real techies we indicate that the torque converter has been replaced by a wet start-off clutch in order to save weight and faster response.
To ‘save’ fuel we drove quite a lot in comfort mode, but our fingers unknowingly went to the button to activate the three flaps of the Performance exhaust. Oeh, that sound still gives a feeling of instant happiness. Despite the (twin)turbo running characteristic of the engine, the 4 litre V8 really sounds well. Bringing the engine high in rotations through the paddles is always a pleasure. Also new on the facelift (and many recent AMGs) is the new driving mode Slippery (next to Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race and Individual) with a flatter engine power curve. Also new is that the driving modes can be selected on the steering wheel (just like the AMG GT 63 S that we recently could test). It initiates a little Formula 1 feeling.
Back to Germany. A few years ago I already visited the Mercedes Museum and that certainly left quite an impression. In addition to the fixed values, there are temporary exhibitions that provide the necessary variety. A visit to the museum could therefore certainly not be missing on our Mercedes trip. Even those who do not care for cars are certainly not lost, even if it is only for the architecture of the building. The first highlight was already in the entrance hall. A SLR 722S limited to 150 units. Some other highlights in the museum are the SLR Uhlenhaut (of which only two are made), the 500K Special Roadster, the SSK and the complete motorsport line-up of Mercedes’ rich motorsport history.
After a lot of going back and forth (and insistence), we could take some pictures of our trio in front of the Mercedes Museum. A bit of goosebumps when we realize that behind the facade of the artistic building, such a chunk of car history is hidden.
GT R PRO
Only GT owners get to see the production line of the GT which is our next step in Sindelfingen. It is being built in a separate hall, where the SLS was previously made. Just like the SLS, the GT is also assembled without robots, except for the application of glue for the windscreen and rear window. Of course there are the necessary cobots present to assist the workers in assembling the various components. The conveyor belt is not constantly moving. At each stop the workers have 23 minutes to complete their work. There are only 27 GTs that see daylight each day. In all conceivable colors. We could already admire countless AMG GT R PRO’s and even a GT R Roadster on the production line (only 750 will be made of both variants). The AMG GT four-door coupe is made in the same production hall as the E and CLS. Our guide tells us that there are three helicopters ready if something goes wrong in the delivery of supplies. We end our Mercedes adventure in the production hall of the S-Class where we can spot one of the last S 65 Coupés and in the Centre of Excellence a customer is taking delivery of his brand new S 65 AMG convertibles. Long live the V12, but not for long anymore unfortunately.
It also means the end of our great Mercedes-AMG adventure. After driving almost 2.000 km, I was positively surprised on the fuel consumption of the C 63 S. According to the NEDC cyclus 10 l per 100 km was predicted, but we ended up with 11,2 litre per 100 km as average. We must admit we did quite some highway km, but those were also including a lot of Autobahn km. So not bad at all, but not everyone will be able to laugh with such numbers in 2019. Last but not least, the updated interior is a good move. In particular the widescreen cockpit and the larger central screen are a positive evolution to the interior.
On the C 63 S the ‘AMG sauce’ tastes even better than usual. The C 63 S is far off being the best AMG, but it feels a bit like coming home. A spacious family break of the perfect size, predictable rear-wheel drive and uncompromising but looks as cool as ice. I may never have had it so hard to hand over the keys of a test car.
|AMG||Test Drive Mercedes-AMG C 63 S S205|
|Engine||M177 4,0 l V8|
|Horsepower||510 hp between 5.500 and 6.250 rpm|
|Torque||700 Nm between 2.500 and 4.500 rpm|
|Compression ratio||10.5 : 1|
|Transmission||AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 9G|
|Brake discs||Internally ventilated and perforated discs|
|Emission class||EURO 6|
|Average fuel consumption (NEDC)||10 l / 100 km (NEDC)|
|Average fuel consumption (test drive)||11,2 l / 100 km|
|Carbon footprint||213 g CO2 per km (NEDC)|
|0 - 100 km/h||4,1 s|
|Boot||460 - 1.480 l|
|Price (standard)||€ 102.366 (Belgium, 21% VAT)|
|Price testcar||€ 119.750 (Belgium, 21% VAT)|
|Options testcar (Prices including 21% VAT)||Driving Assistance Pack: € 2.557
Premium Plus Pack: € Panoramic roof, digital counters, Comand online, Multibeam LED, Burmester surround system, ambient lighting and wireless charging)
AMG Night Pack: € 1.150
Disgno Diamond white exterior color € 1.150
AMG interior accents in carbon: € 1.089
AMG Performance seats: € 2.360
Ceramic brakes: € 5.082
|Other possible options (including 21% VAT)||AMG Exterior in carbon: € 3.570
Towbar: € 1.016
Head-up display: € 1.198
Special thanks to Mercedes-Benz Belgium and Ronny Kustermans for the invite on the factor tours.