Mercedes-Benz has been struggling to lure younger customers for some years, leaving rival German marques Audi and BMW to monopolise the market that it once ruled. It's no secret that Mercedes has had to reconsider its products and sharpen up its design skills. In the last year most of the current cars have been restyled to represent what the company's vice president of design, Professor Gorden Wagener, calls 'refined sportiness' - a term borrowed from Mercedes' heritage and conceptually at the heart of current design thinking. Also at the core of this renaissance is a renewed emphasis on the marque's performance arm, Mercedes-AMG. Formed in 1967, taken over by Mercedes in the 1990s, and now employing 900 people, AMG is quietly being groomed to act as a stand-alone brand once again.
AMG's modest facilities in Affalterbach, north of Mercedes' Stuttgart HQ, are undergoing renovations. The firm is constructing a 'Private Lounge' where it can showcase the refined engineering skills that create the powerful V8 and V12 engines. It will also help demonstrate AMG Performance Studio's ability to turn even the most outlandish of customer requests into reality with one-off customised cars.
The new C63 AMG Coupé is the latest Affalterbach creation. Sitting at the top of the C-Class Coupé family and replacing the old CLK55 AMG, it joins the current AMG C-Class family, comprising a saloon and estate. Coupés are considered slightly more premium than their more practical siblings and the C63 falls into a particularly vibrant spot of the market; the affordable super-coupé bracket. This lucrative niche is currently dominated by Audi's RS5 and BMW's M3 Coupé, the latter being the car to beat.
The C63 is fitted with AMG's bespoke 6.3-liter V8 engine and Speedshift MCT seven-speed automatic gearbox. AMG customers are confessed performance junkies so the power output of 457hp at 6800rpm can be pumped up to 487hp with the additional performance package - a pricey option, a spokesperson notes, that is selected by practically every customer.
With its low profile, masculine shoulders, short overhang, steeply sloping windscreen and long, stretched roof, the C63 is handsome and powerful-looking. There are a number of neat little AMG-specific features, like the specially designed LED daytime running lights and side air vents. There are five-twin-spoke light alloys in titanium grey as well as four sexy chrome exhaust pipes to add that little extra visual power as the car shoots - with the performance pack - to 62mph in just 4.4 seconds on its way to limited autobahn-only top speed of 186mph.
Mercedes interiors have improved exponentially in recent years and C63 is no exception. The cabin borrows much from the new CLS 63 AMG, with special functions accessed via an AMG menu that can be controlled through the steering wheel's multifunctional buttons. We drove a car fitted with the performance pack, and the mechanical upgrades were matched with Nappa leather and Alcantara trim on the interior. In particular, the steering wheel felt perfectly proportioned for the control needed on a powerful car like this.
Driven alongside the standard C-Class Coupé in the varied roads around Seville and on the picturesque Monteblanco racetrack, the C63 doesn't disappoint. It is powerful, very fast and very loud - and its relative nimble weight allows for a fun drive in a very comfortable cabin that can fit four adults. Like all car manufacturers Mercedes has had to reign in emissions, a tough task in such a high-performance cars. The C63 achieves CO2 emissions of around 280g/km and fuel consumption lowered to 23.5mpg, hardly exceptional but impressive given the power on offer.
Mercedes is also very aware of the importance of offering customisation and niche performance models not just with its high-end products but further down the chain. This is, after all, where it will initially lure in new customers, hopefully the desired younger one. In this context the C63 AMG Coupé is a powerful proposition, a desirable device that should shave a few years off the average age of the typical C-Class Coupe driver.