Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Although the C63 S is slower against the clock than the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (or QV) and Audi RS4 Avant, like the Giulia it’s big on theatrics and this arguably makes it a lot of fun for everyday use. In comparison, the more rapid RS4 can feel a little sterile when you’re just trying to pop to Tesco.
Start the big V8 petrol engine and it thunders away like an old American muscle car, and even more so when you switch on the standard sports exhaust. It sounds heroic when it’s simply dawdling along in traffic – or even just navigating a multi-storey car park – and the noise is especially enjoyable in the convertible with the roof down.
Mash the accelerator, though, and you’ll discover that there’s more to the C63 S than just noise; it’s a full-on performance machine. The coupé is the quickest version, trailed fractionally by the heavier saloon, estate and convertible, but you'd struggle to tell the difference in pace without using a stopwatch. For reference, we managed 0-60mph in only 4.1sec on our private test track, though the Giulia QV topped that with a mere 3.7sec.
There’s also minimal delay between planting your foot and the turbochargers winding up, which makes the C63 S perfectly predictable despite all that power, and sets it up to build speed unflinchingly. Yet, despite the pent-up rage beneath the bonnet, the C63 S is generally as docile and easy to drive as any regular C-Class when your head’s in ‘drive sensibly’ mode.
The nine-speed automatic gearbox is pretty good but not the best. It’s a tad jerky when you're trying to park and its shifts aren’t as punchy or responsive as those of the Giulia QV. Nevertheless, it's smooth enough once you're up and running.
The only frustration you might face when letting the C63 S off the leash comes when using the gearbox in manual mode. The system imposes a delay before you can change up if you let the engine reach its soft rev limiter, which cuts in after peak power is delivered between 5500 and 6250rpm. You’ll need to learn to shift at the right point for the fastest and most polished drive.
Meanwhile, you can alter the feel of the C63 S’s suspension with a mode switch on the centre console. In the softest ‘Comfort’ mode, the ride is firmer than the Giulia QV in its equivalent setting, but the C63 S still has just enough give that it never crashes too harshly over bumps, even if it does thud over sharp ridges and deep potholes. It also traverses larger obstructions, such as speed humps, surprisingly well and feels better tied-down than a Giulia in its squishiest setting. That said, the Giulia is a more comfortable day-to-day companion.
For quick driving, Comfort mode keeps body roll well checked, but the best setting for making the most of country roads is the midway Sport or even the firmer Sport+. Both modes make full use of the C63 S's nimbleness, allowing it to change direction extremely quickly for what is a comparatively heavy car. It manages to feel more agile than the lithe Giulia QV and completely trounces the stodgy and wayward RS4 Avant for driving pleasure.
There's a mass of grip, too; in fact, considering the power at play, the C63 S is surprisingly docile. If you find yourself on a race track, Race mode further relaxes the C63 S’s electronics to allow a little wheel-slip before the traction control cuts in, and experienced drivers can choose to dial the settings back still further. That's a big boon over the Giulia QV, in which the traction control is a binary on or off.
The C63 S comes with an electronic differential as standard, making it even easier to control on the limit. And when its driven rear wheels do lose purchase, the resulting slide is exceedingly easy to manage as the differential locks up quickly and predictably. That’s better than the Giulia’s sometimes lazy diff.
Meanwhile, the steering is a pleasure. It’s not overbearingly heavy around town but the load increases beautifully as you build speed through turns, with plenty of feedback through the steering wheel. That means you can feel confident about where you place the car on the road and encourages you to push a little harder. It certainly hammers the RS4 once more, and provides finer detail and a more reassuring heft than the Giulia’s lighter setup.
Whichever bodystyle you choose, the C63 S will eat up the miles when you need it to. Wind noise is pretty hushed at speed and, while you have to put up with a bit of road roar from the fat rear tyres, it’s not overbearing. Mind you, it's fair to say that overall refinement is one area in which the RS4 Avant and Giulia QV have the C63 S beaten.
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