What is it?
Welcome to Italy, and an AMG launch. The sun is baking a tagliatelle-esque stretch of Tarmac that’s snaking along the coast, and what bonanza of Affalterbach brutality is awaiting us? The all-new – and that’s a truism for once, as there’s never been one before – C-Class Cabriolet; specifically, the Mercedes-AMG C 63 Cabriolet.
It completes a quartet that includes saloon, estate and coupe, and like them, comes in two flavours: the 479bhp C63 or the full-fat C 63 S that we’re in. We hear so much about cars with enormous power outputs these days that it’s easy to become desensitised to them, so let’s contemplate the C 63 S’s stats for a moment: it makes 503bhp and 516lb ft from its bi-turbo V8, which propels this two-tonne drop-top to the magic 62mph in 4.1secs. This is a four-seater convertible remember, and that’s Porsche Carrera GT territory. Well, almost.
The mechanicals are familiar. Two turbos nestle between the cylinder heads in a set-up AMG calls a ‘hot inside V’, to aid throttle response, they say. Power goes through a seven-speed MCT gearbox; effectively this is a conventional automatic with planetary gears, but using a multi-plate wet clutch instead of a torque converter. At the rear there’s an electronic differential that ousts the mechanical diff used in the standard C 63 Cabriolet. The S also comes with a sports exhaust, while both versions get brawnier looks thanks to wider tracks that necessitate flared arches.
What’s it like?
We shouldn’t really give the game away so early, but this is some of the best fun I’ve had all year, and for a multitude of reasons.
Let’s start with the noise from that sports exhaust. How does AMG do it? Every other manufacturer tells us that turbocharging uses all the exhaust gases’ energy so there’s nothing left to play a tune. But there’s enough vigour left in the C 63 S’s pipes to make it sound like God playing an octad of amped-up bassoons.
And the power delivery? Utterly delicious. Yes, there’s some lag at the bottom end, but by the time you hit 2000rpm you’ll have forgotten all about that, as the forces the C 63 S exerts moulds the superb AMG seat to the contours of your spine. It’s indecently quick in the mid-range, topping out with a hefty burst of power beyond 4000rpm that goads you into using the full gamut of revs.
Is it unmanageable? Not in the slightest. Treat the accelerator as an on-off switch and you’ll get yourself in a pickle. But meter it judiciously and it’ll decant all that torque to the road in a perfectly docile fashion. If you thought this day in the sun was sounding too perfect, it did rain. And even then, on sodden roads, with the help of that diff you can pour on the power and play with the rear-end without ever feeling like it’ll dispatch you into a ditch. Try the same in an M4 Convertible and your eyes will be on stalks waiting for it to snap.
For all-out attack switch the gearbox to manual and the Dynamic Drive selector to Sport Plus. Now each pull of the tactile aluminium right-hand paddle behind the steering wheel punches you smartly up a gear. Pull the one on the left and each downshift is accompanied by a battery of what can only be described as tommy-gun fire from the exhausts. Contrived, yes, but delightfully waggish.
What’s most surprising is the chassis’ rigidity. It’s a long car that I fully expected to be a wobble board on wheels. But apart from the occasional shimmy on craggy roads, the C 63 S Cab felt billet-like. And with beautifully judged damping, even in its stiffest setting the bump absorption is excellent and body control tight. That’s complemented by deftly fluid steering that lets you stroke the car from apex to apex, and brakes that you can lean on hard when you need to scrub off speed.
But after all that, it can still soothe you in the sunshine. Stick everything in Comfort and the C 63 S will patter over almost any surface and slither automatically through its gears. Up to 31mph the roof will drop in 20sec, and when it’s down there’s hardly any gusting in the front. The standard Aircap wind deflector system offers even more protection, but as it rises like a boil on the Cabriolet’s otherwise supermodel-good-looks, you feel disinclined to use it.
Should I buy one?
Having already laid my cards on the table and said it’s one of the most enjoyable things I’ve driven all year, clearly I think you should. I’ve no idea if it’s the quickest drop-top point-to-point or how fast it’ll lap the Nürburgring because I didn’t care to ask. Why? Because it doesn’t matter a jot.
This is one of those rare cars that’s fizzing with character, and it’s this, not a lap time, that’ll make you beam like the Italian sun. And the best bit is that it’ll do that whatever speed you are doing, and wherever you are doing it.
Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Cabriolet
Location Italy; On sale August 2016; Price £72,245; Engine V8, 3982cc, twin-turbocharged, petrol; Power 503bhp at 5500-6250rpm; Torque 516lb ft at 1750-4500rpm; Gearbox 7-spd multi-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1925kg; 0-62mph 4.1sec; Top speed 155mph (limited); Economy 26.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 208g/km, 37%
What is it?