Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG (W204) Review & Buyers Guide
The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG is perhaps one of the most fun cars you can buy for under $35,000 today, and a personal favorite of mine. In this particular segment, the long time reigning king has always been the BMW M3 and the praise can be seen from any magazine review you read. Mercedes decided to team up with AMG in Affalterbach in Germany to form a worthy competitor to the M3 and gave birth to the C63 AMG (W204).
To the surprise of many, AMG decided to shoehorn its 6.2L V8 (badged as 6.3L for heritage sake) into the C-Class chassis. This meant an incredible 451 HP and 443 ft-lb of torque powered to the rear wheels. Channeling all that power was a robust 7 speed 7G-Tronic automatic transmission (can be operated by paddles too) that would lay tire marks through the first several gears by simply overpowering the skinny rear 255 wide tires.
When the C63 did catch traction, it rocketed to 60 MPH in 3.9 second and has been recorded to hit the quarter mile in under 12 seconds. This is no surprise that the C63 was the fastest sports sedan at time of launch.
In typical AMG fashion, the exterior of the car featured masculine design changes including quad exhaust, and sportier 5 spoke wheels hiding massive 6 piston calipers. To 99% of motorists (and even police), this looked like just another C-Class if it wasn’t for the AMG badging. This was the ultimate German muscle car.
Although the C63 is not known for its handling capabilities like the BMW M3, AMG did improve the handling characteristics by tweaking increasing the front track, steering rack, sport tuned shocks, thicker anti-roll bars, and other suspension geometry improvements. Combined with the drivetrain and engine, the C63 is extremely tail happy when given more than partial throttle.
Why Buy The C63 AMG?
First things first, the C63 appeals to an entirely different demographic. For every five M3’s you see, you will probably only see one C63. This makes the C63 not common, but appreciated when spotted. The styling is aggressive but not too over-the-top and the beauty of this package is the low key prowess it possesses. Only enthusiasts will understand what the C63 is which means most people (including police) won’t ever bat an eye.
Second, is the power and everyday usability. Other cars like the BMW M3 or Lexus ISF require you to go through the rev range to reach peak torque. The C63, on the other hand, makes 300 ft-lb of torque at 2,000 RPM, which means instant power on demand. Passing on the highway rarely requires you to downshift and city driving is a breeze with that much low end torque. Keep in mind this exact motor was in other AMG models like the E63 and SL63 but rated higher at 507 HP. The entry level car should never be faster than the top of the line model so Mercedes simply detuned the C63 to a lower power output. Best of all, each and every single one of these are engines are hand built.
Third, is the price for a used C63 AMG. Mercedes-Benz depreciation (especially AMGs) is pretty bad. Even better is that the new W205 C63 is now released and this will continue to drive down W204 C63 prices. You will find early C63s for under $35,000 and 2012+ in the low $40,000 at the time of this writing.
Fourth, is the noise the M156 motor makes. Even in stock form the C63 exhaust note is heavenly and only gets better with slight modifications. Cold start brings the C63 to life with a thunderous roar but the best thing about the exhaust is that you can control the noise with your throttle input. Normal driving is as quiet as any other car, but full throttle opens up the V8 flood gates.
Mercedes C63 AMG Changes Over the Years
2008 – 2011
Thankfully the C63 has remained the same mechanically for the most part throughout its lifecycle except for the mid-generation update in 2012. At the end of the day, the C63 is still a C-Class at heart but with an AMG touch. Don’t expect the luxury of an S-Class that costs three times as much. The interior of the C63 has too much plastic for our liking and optional carbon fiber trim is a band-aid to remind the driver that you’re in a sports sedan. However, one of the best things about the C63 are the bucket seats and the moment you sit inside a C63, you will be quite shocked at how much these seats hug you.
If the factory performance wasn’t enough for owners, Mercedes did offer a Performance Package (Option P30) which had stiffer suspension, limited slip differential, alcantara steering wheel, and a raised top speed limiter raised to 174 MPH. There have been numerous reports that early C63s with the P30 package were missing components so it is best to run the VIN and get the build sheet with all the packages and options laid out one-by-one.
For 2009, Mercedes added memory seats to the C63 but weirdly enough removed power folding mirror capability.
The biggest change for 2010 model year is the replacement of the Performance Package (P30) for the Development Package (Option P31) for a reasonable $6,000. Don’t let ‘development’ in the name make you think that the performance wasn’t the focus because this package bumped up the power by 30 HP to 481 HP. The increase in power came in part by an updated ECU tune, lightweight forged pistons, rods, and crankshaft (rumored to come from the SLS AMG). Just like the P30 Package, the P31 increased the top speed to 174 MPH but to slow down triple digit speeds AMG changed the brakes to 2-piece rotors in the front. Not many visual cues hint if a C63 has a P31 package, but a keen eye will spot red brake calipers and a carbon fiber rear lip spoiler. Mercedes removed the limited slip differential from the Development Package and instead made it a separate $2,000 option. Otherwise, the only change aesthetically to the 2010 model year is updated side mirrors that looked a bit more sleeker and rear view camera option.
Nothing significantly changed in 2011 for the C63 and this was probably due in part for the radical change that was to come in 2012.
2012 – 2015
Mercedes came out with a bang in 2012 with a major overhaul of the C63, including two new versions to the model lineup. Let’s begin with the changes…
From the exterior, the front end looked drastically different than the pre-2012 model years with new headlights and front bumper (both included unique LEDs). Many critics felt that the design update was for the worse and that it lacked the aggressive demeanor it once had. The rear looked almost identical to pre-2012 except for updated LED taillights that made the car look more modern and a revised rear bumper with a raised diffuser center portion. Mercedes also added another 5 spoke wheel option to the list of choices available.
The interior also sported a much needed overhaul that brought back the luxury that Mercedes is typically known for. Plastic was kept more to a minimum but the entire front dashboard including steering wheel, display screen, gauge clusters, buttons and knobs were all changed. The list of interior color options were also increased with the addition of two-tone seats and an alcantara-like material Mercedes call Dinamica.
The largest change mechanically with the new 2012 update was with the switch from the old 7G-Tronic transmission to a MCT Speedshift Sport transmission. Both had 7 gears in an automatic transmission casing, but the difference being that the traditional torque converter was replaced with a wetpack clutch. Gear changes dropped to as low as 100 milliseconds. There was now a proper launch control mode called ‘Race Start’ as well.
The first new model to the C63 line-up was the addition of a long awaited two door coupe. BMW had cornered the market for severals years by offering both coupe and sedan versions previously. Visually the coupe looked exactly like the sedan albeit with two (longer) doors. One very distinct and beautiful feature of the coupe was the option of Panoramic Roof. This not only gave the C63 coupe a two tone finish up top but also allowed for beautiful views into the sky.
The other special edition model was the very rare C63 AMG Black Series Edition with approximately 75 made just for the USA market. Like all AMG models that sport the ‘Black Series’ naming convention, track performance and weight reduction was the core focus with no compromise. The Black Series was only offered in coupe form and you can easily spot one from a pack of regular C63s simply by the sheer width added from the cars wider front/rear track and supporting fender flares. Every single panel of the car was different except for the headlight, taillights, and roof. The front bumper had a very menacing design with massive front air openings and lip. The new aluminum hood sported two vents symmetrically centered near the front. The rear bumper was also significantly wider with a built-in diffuser that housed quad exhaust tips, but instead of ovals, they were slanted rectangular tips.
For the individuals that wanted more carbon fiber, Mercedes offered a Carbon Fiber Package option that included carbon fiber adjustable wing, carbon fiber mirror housings, carbon fiber rear diffuser, carbon fiber side skirts, and carbon fiber lip. If downforce was important, you could also opt for the the Aerodynamic Package that added an adjustable wing spoiler and front canard splitters. Serious track enthusiasts would probably also want to opt for the Track Package that made race compound tires standard in addition to a limited slip differential cooler.
The interior of the C63 AMG Black Series is quite similar to a regular C63 with P31 Package but changes included Dinamica seat inserts and steering wheels that contrasted red stitching. Of course, tons of carbon fiber could be found throughout the interior. The original CLK63 AMG Black Series did not have back seats but Mercedes decided to offer rear seats for the C63 AMG Black Series at no additional charge.
The engine and drivetrain were similar to a C63 with a P31 Package but power has increased to 510 HP. The Black Series was able to put down power a little bit better with standard limited slip differential and 285 wide rear tires. Handling dynamics were significantly better for track performance with thicker anti-roll bars, aggressive alignment, adjustable coilover suspension, and two-piece 6 pot front and 4 pot rear brakes. With a peak MSRP of almost $150,000 for a C63 AMG Black Series it’s hard to justify spending that on a C-Class Mercedes, but all these changes sure do make up for it.
Mercedes did not offer any known significant changes for 2013 – 2015 C63 model year cars except for yet another special edition model called the 507 Edition in 2014. As you may have guessed, the 507 Edition cars were named for their 507 HP. These cars were really a hybrid between Black Series and regular C63 with P31 Package, and could be bought in both sedan and coupe form. It’s not easy to spot the differences, but the biggest giveaway would be the vinyl stripe along the doors above the sideskirt. Gloss piano black was used extensively on the exterior such as grille and rear lip spoiler and interior trim, but of course carbon fiber was an option. The aluminum hood came straight from the Black Series and all new 19 inch wheels were made just for this model.
Common Problems With the C63 AMG
From our experience, the C63 has proven to be a pretty bulletproof car but there is one significant issue that you should be aware of. This is the infamous headbolt issue that has plagued 2008 – 2011 model year C63s. The basis of this problem revolves around a faulty design of the engine headbolts that were prone to corrode and fail. When they do fail, head gasket failures occur causing coolant to mix with oil and engine seizure.
Symptoms of this issue can be seen with repeated low coolant warning messages or white smoke coming from the exhaust. Unfortunately, Mercedes has not admitted fault for its poor design build and will not honor a repair outside of warranty. We have heard cases of people spending upwards of $20,000 to replace the engine.
The good news is that Mercedes caught this issue midway through the 2011 model year cars and updated the part number for the headbolts to rectify the issue for future cars. Otherwise, you can perform preventative maintenance by replacing the headbolts with the newer design found in the 2012 model years and sleep better at night.
Like we said, not all 2011 model year C63s are affected. Your best bet is to run the VIN and pull the build sheet which includes the Engine Serial Code. If the last five digits are below 60658 then that particular car is before the switch to new headbolts and still prone to engine failure. Now keep in mind we had a 2009 C63 that never had issues, but we did in fact have a CPO warranty with the car. If you want peace of mind then opt for a 2012 or newer model.
C63 AMG Cost of Ownership
As much as the C63 is a great daily driver, it gets horrible fuel efficiency. It’s pretty common to average 13-14 MPG and as low as 10-11 MPG in stop and go traffic. C63 only takes premium fuel so factor in the added expense of refueling minimum twice a week.
The other very common expense is the need to new tires every 10,000 miles or so. When you combine 400+ ft-lb of torque that powers the rear 255 wide tires, it eats the tires up, especially if you’ve got a heavy foot (trust me you will after hearing the exhaust).
Brakes are actually very affordable even though it’s an AMG. There is quite a vast supply of different pad and rotor options available ranging from OEM to generic options that work equally as well. Pads all around are about $450 for a street performance versions and rotors are just over $1,000 for all four corners.
Oil changes can be easily done yourself because the filter is on top of the engine, rather than the bottom. Some owners use a vacuum and suck out the oil, but its always better to let gravity do its thing and drain from the bottom. Otherwise, oil costs can quickly add up because of the 6.2L engine size. If you’re not handy then expect to drop about $125 for an oil change at an independent shop every 3,000 miles.
Best C63 to Buy For the Money
Now after reading all this, you might be wondering what is the best year C63 to buy. I think the best way to decide is to break up by whether you want a pre-facelift (08-11) or an updated (12+) model. If you don’t mind the antiquated interior but love the muscular styling of the 08-11 C63s, then try to aim for a 2010 model year with a CPO warranty (if you’re lucky enough to find one). It contains all the bells and whistles of the 2011 without the premium and it offers you peace of mind if the headbolt issue ever comes up. Luckily, prices for a 2010 have dropped to low $30,000’s.
When it comes to the facelift models, since the 2012 is essentially identical to every year after that, it makes no sense to buy anything else. Personally we like the changes added with the Performance/Development Packages, but if that’s not your cup of tea, invest the difference in savings towards an ECU tune and resonator/cat delete. The 2012s have dropped down to the low $40,000 mark and plenty are coming off lease with warranties still intact.
You really can’t go wrong with any C63 you choose and I believe this engine will become a classic someday. After one test drive, you’ll never look at an M3 again.