Updated Mercedes C63 tyre-shredder is a supercar killer
DARING Mercedes drivers who want to test their skills behind the wheel will soon have the option at their fingertips.
The updated C63 high performance sedan has a Ferrari-style dial on the steering wheel that allows the driver to choose exactly how much or, more to the point, how little help they want from the car's built-in electronic safety tech.
There are now nine finely tuned settings for traction control, from velcro-like grip in slippery conditions to "you're on your own".
To find out just how much modern drivers have come to rely on hidden help, Mercedes encouraged motoring hacks from around the world to let loose - literally - on an empty test track.
After the experts got familiar with the fast and flowing Bilster Berg circuit in the north east of Germany, it wasn't long before they made a hash of it, one by one.
Having tried to corner at speeds beyond the car's capacity to grip, many suddenly found themselves off the track and facing the wrong way.
The current C63 is a bit of a beast in the wrong hands. With the update, Mercedes has done more to pamper drivers with luxury and tech, not that frightening acceleration was neglected.
There's no more power from the twin turbo 4.0-litre V8 but it's now backed by a nine-speed auto instead of a seven-speed. It delivers brutal acceleration from low speeds and improved economy at highway speeds.
Even with the slingshot lower gears in the new transmission, Mercedes claims the 0-100km/h time is the same on the new model (4.0-seconds for the sedan).
That's perhaps due to reaching the limits of adhesion with a rear-drive car. I've yet to match Benz's claim on the current C63. With the extra gearbox ratios and retuned suspension, the coming C63 might help mere mortals get closer to the mark.
Going by seat of the pants reckoning, the car is more responsive and acceleration on the move is sharper.
As for the fuel economy benefit at freeways speeds, let's be honest. Few C63 buyers aim to drive frugally as they can comfortably afford the premium 98 RON fuel - and they're likely to go through plenty of it simply to hear the engine and exhaust note.
The C63 sounds epic - it's like being in a V8 Supercar with a pair of pillows strapped to your head. The thunder of the V8 is not just audible, it's palpable, yet doesn't torment your eardrums as a race car would.
It's a brilliant blend of muscle car brawn and luxury tech.
The instrument cluster is now a widescreen display and the tablet surmounting the stunning centre stack is wider, although still not a touchscreen.
The new steering wheel with bulging hand grips has Benz's latest "pebble" type buttons that can be pressed or swiped. These take some getting used to and are not as intuitive as a simple switch.
Fitted with Benz's latest autonomous tech, the C63 can steer for up to 30 seconds with the driver's hands off the wheel - provided it can "see" the lane markings.
A cautionary note: the symbol in the dash display that indicates whether the car can see switches from red to green, which is not easy to distinguish for colourblind drivers like me.
The C63 also has automatic lane change assistance, if you dare. It worked on well-maintained surfaces but it's only as reliable as the markings on the road.
This tech, while fascinating, is still a long way from being foolproof. Which is to say, don't bet your life on it.
The other significant improvement is to the suspension. The current C63 has a firm ride, especially on bumpy Aussie roads, and retuning the suspension in the coming version is intended to take away some of the harshness.
On perfectly smooth German roads, the updated C63 felt almost serene. Here's hoping that translates to an easier ride when it arrives Down Under.
4 out of 5
The C63 AMG is the best of both worlds, adding autonomous driving tech to a high-performance car that - at the flick of a switch - can be as raw as you dare to steer.
MERCEDES C63 AMG
PRICE From $160,000 est (expensive)
WARRANTY/SERVICE 3 years/100,000km, 12 months/20,000km, $3380 for 3 years (expensive)
ENGINE 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo, 375kW/700Nm (plenty)
SAFETY 5 stars, 8 airbags, AEB, blind zone warning, lane keeping assistance and more (excellent)
THIRST 9.9L/100km (fair)
SPARE Inflation kit (not ideal)
BOOT 480L (good)