The new 2023 Mercedes-AMG C63 SE Performance has a very big name and a very small engine. But with a massive 671 hp (680 PS) on tap from it’s electrically-assisted 2.0 liters, it might persuade you not to care that it’s swapped a V8 for a turbocharged four, and traded a low-speed growl for a synthetic electronic pedestrian warning noise.
Make no mistake, this is a racially different hot C-Class to the ones we’ve known before, and that includes the AMG C43 that recently downgraded from a V6 to a turbo four. Carmakers often focus on one major change, like moving from rear- to all-wheel drive, or downsizing from a V8 to a V6, when replacing one generation of performance car with another. But this time it feels like AMG has skipped three generations: in one fell swoop it has turned the C63 from a rear-wheel drive turbocharged V8 to a four-cylinder plug-in hybrid with all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering.
The engine is AMG’s M139L 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder as seen on the SL43 roadster and the C63’s little brother, the C43. Like those cars it features an electrically-driven turbocharger, but for the C63 the blower is much bigger. So while the SL43’s gas motor peaks at 376 hp (381 PS), and the C43 tops out at 402 hp (408 PS), the C63 kicks both into the weeds with a 470 hp (476 PS) output. That doesn’t only match the old base model C63’s V8 for muscle despite being half the size, it makes this new version of the M139 the most powerful four-cylinder production engine in the world, and with 402 lb-ft (545 Nm) , it must be the torquiest too.
Related: Mercedes Wants To Keep Building And Selling V8s Beyond 2030
And that’s before we’ve factored in the electric boost that’s also new for 2023. That boost happens at the rear wheels courtesy of a 150 kW (201 hp /204 PS) electric motor packed into the rear axle together with an electronically controlled limited slip differential and a two-speed drive unit. It can power the car as an EV at up to 78 mph (125 km/h) and for up to 8 miles (13 km), if driven gently, which makes it sound like a PHEV from a decade ago, but that’s because AMG has prioritized power over efficiency for this hybrid system.
Drawing from a 6.1 kWh battery the motor delivers its 150 KW maximum for up to 10 seconds at a time, but is always on hand with at least 70 kW (94 hp / 95 PS), and engages its second gear from 87 mph (140 km/h) once it kissed its 13,500 rpm rev limiter.
The result is a fairly spectacular combined gas-electric output of 671 hp (680 PS) and 752 lb-ft (1,020 Nm), making the C63 not only far more powerful than the old V8-engined C63 S and its 503 hp, or the 503-hp BMW M3 Competition but punchier than super sedans from the class above like the 617-hp BMW M5 Competition. Zero to 62 mph (100 km/h) takes 3.4 seconds (down from 4.0 seconds for the old C63 S) and the 155 mph (250 km/h) top speed can be raised to 170 mph (280 km/h) with a suitable bung to your Mercedes dealer at order time.
Select from rear, all-wheel drive, and EV modes
The electric motor acts only on the rear axle, and you can configure the gas motor to do the same. But for the first time the model operates by default in all-wheel drive. Power flows to the 4Matic+ four-paw transmission via a conventional nine-speed epicyclic auto, but one fitted with a wet clutch pack instead of a torque converter.
Rear-axle steering also makes its debut on the new C63, and carbon brakes join a list of standard equipment that includes adaptive dampers for the steel-spring suspension and an AMG Dynamics drive mode selector with a new “Master” mode that allows the kind of oversteer antics C63s have become famous for. Drivers also get AMG-specific graphics in the digital instrument cluster and head-up display, plus a button on the steering wheel giving four levels of energy recovery ranging from almost nonexistent to strong enough to allow one-pedal driving.
Other new features include a slim hood vent that helps distinguish the C63 from the C43 which also gets the toothy Panamericana grille and flared front fenders that add a massive 3 inches (76 mm) to the nose’s width. The fenders wear “Turbo E Performance” badges below their retro-style vents, and for the first time, there’s an AMG badge on the hood instead of a traditional Mercedes one.
Wagon reserved for European buyers
So far we’ve been referring especially to the C63 sedan, but everything we’ve covered also applies to the wagon, which sadly, like the new BMW M3 Touring, is likely to be off-limits to North American buyers. The long-roof version takes the same 3.4 seconds to hit 62 mph and, just like the sedan, rolls on 19-inch wheels unless you upgrade to 20s via an options list that includes a revised version of the optional AMG Performance seat with vented side bolsters. About the only major differences between the sedan and wagon body styles is that if you tick the box to lift the wagon’s 155 mph speed limiter you only gain 13 mph (20 km/h), not 19 mph (30 km/h) and that the wagon carries a 75 lbs (34 kg) weight penalty.
Smaller engine, bigger waistline
Yeah, let’s talk about the weight. Forget any notions that lopping off four cylinders might make this C63 lighter than the last one. The new bigger body, hybrid kit and all-wheel drive transmission destroys that dream. Mercedes-AMG lists the last C63 S sedan at 3,704 lbs (1,680 kg) in European trim, but this one comes out at 4,489 lbs (2,036 kg). That’s like driving around in the old car with three thick-set buddies or four slim ones. And though the new car is clearly faster, greener (156 g/km vs 196 g/km), and will guzzle far less fuel (34 mpg US / 41 mpg UK on the EC cycle, says AMG), you have to wonder what effect that extra ballast will have on the handling.
One route to cutting that weight will be to hold on for the non-S C63 Mercedes is likely to announce later to compete with the non-competition versions of the BMW M3, though downgrading will inevitably be taking a horsepower hit and still won’t make it as light as a previous-generation C63.
Mercedes hasn’t released the pricing details for the 2023 C63 AMG, but even though the 671 hp output out-punches the $80,800 BMW M3 Competition xDrive’s by a massive 168 hp (170 PS), we’d expect the AMG to come in fairly close on price.
Which would you buy? Would you happily trade some of the 2023 C63’s horses for a six- or eight-cylinder engine? Drop a comment below and let us know.