In terms of German marque presence at HPDE/track days, Mercedes-Benz is perhaps the least common. We often encounter an Audi or two, and Volkswagen hatchbacks are semi-regulars, but it’s not uncommon for many track days to pass without seeing the three-pointed star.
Reasons for the lack of Benz track day representation? Probably vehicle purpose and performance orientation more than anything else. Historically, even AMG models have heavily prioritized road use over track. The last generation C63 AMG (W204) with 451 brake horsepower and 443 ft lbs. of torque ran an open differential as standard, so… yeah. Good luck out there.
We had the pleasure of running a C63 S around Michigan's Gingerman Raceway and found that Affalterbach’s apparent dual purpose engineering has paid off. Short of the AMG GT S and certain rarified Black Series models, the C63 S may be the most track-capable “standard” AMG to date.
Preliminary note: The following observations pertain to the C63 S with all settings in “Race” mode other than the gearbox, which was set to manual. Traction control off.
It’s probably AMG cliché to begin with a focus on the C63 S engine, but we’re going to do it anyways because, damn.
Of the current crop of performance sedan engines, the powerplant in the C63 S is the standout from every perspective. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Kindly accuse them of being a brand loyalist and/or nuts, and exit the conversation.
Even on track where the sensation of power/acceleration is typically dulled, the C63 S’s 4.0 Liter V8 Biturbo is a brutish and constant presence. The exhaust rumble, pops and burbles are loud enough to be heard through a full face helmet. And the power – there's gobs of it.
Engine response to throttle inputs is essentially immediate. Gun to the head can we tell it’s a turbocharged engine? Yes, in certain situations. Pin the throttle in 3rd exiting a corner and there’s a momentary delay until the engine responds at full prodigious capacity. Does this detract from the track experience? Not in our view.
Last but not least, engine cooling is apparently very sufficient. Oil temps were consistent throughout the day, and we never once felt power being withheld.
The C63 S gearbox is a gigantic step forward from the auto in the previous generation C63. Plenty fast on upshifts, and very importantly for track purposes, immediately responsive to paddle shift commands. Downshifting is excellent as well. Even when we called for high rpm downshifts, i.e. where the throttle blips just shy of redline, the shift command was followed. Really the only circumstance where the disadvantage of the C63 S’s gearbox is obvious (as compared to a dual-clutch) is during rapid, multiple downshifts.
C63 S handling dynamics near the limit aren’t perfect, but there’s still quite a bit to appreciate.
Front end/turn in grip is good, but not great as with the F8X BMW M3/M4. Carry just a little bit too much pace into a corner and the front end washes away. The same can occur if you're too early on the throttle and the rear end is hooked up. Patience is required.
Simply put, the 245 section front tires are clearly overwhelmed. Even the exceptional Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires struggle to bring the front end back in line with slightly too much corner entry speed. The C63 S is definitely a “slow in, fast out” sort of track car.
With the front end planted, the handling balance transitions to oversteer, and plenty of it. Mid-corner and on corner exit the back end is very active, but in a predictable, unintimidating way (well, most of the time anyways -- see 0:53 in the video below). Given judicious, well-timed throttle inputs the C63 S is easily controllable and definitely entertaining through the bends.
Listening to the chassis communication is made easier via excellent seats. Our C63 S was equipped with the Edition 1 pack, which includes AMG sport (Recaro Sportster CS-style) seats. Certainly some of the more bolstered and supportive seats we've experienced in a stock performance vehicle.