Driving the 2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 S, the 503-hp grocery getter

Abigail Bassett
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2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 S

You’re a sports car nut, but two doors aren’t always enough. If you’ve lusted after the AMG GT S, but bemoaned the lack of passenger space, we may have found the perfect object of desire. Meet the 2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 S: it has nearly the same engine as the Porsche killer, it’s every bit as fun, and it’s far more practical.  

As Mercedes best-selling car, the C-Class ranks as the inevitable starting point for an AMG makeover. The first AMG variant to seriously take on the BMW M3 was introduced back in 2008. The newest C-Class AMG suite is once again going after the new BMW M3/M4 (425 hp), the Audi RS5 (450 hp) and though Mercedes didn’t mention it, even the new Cadillac ATS-V (455 hp) unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show last year.

But this being the modern Mercedes-Benz, one flavor of AMG-optimized vitamin C isn't enough to chew on — so now there's three. At the bottom lies the C450 AMG, the entry-level hot tune with a 3-liter, twin-turbo V-6 good for 362 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque, or 33 more hp than the everyday C400. While Mercedes hasn’t announced official pricing yet, expect the C450 to start around $50,000 or so, for the junior executive crowd.

2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 S

The top of the line C63 S-Model borrows the 4-liter, twin-turbo V-8 from the AMG GT with a raucous 503 hp — but gets 37 lb-ft more torque, with 516 lb-ft on tap. There are a number of differences between the two incarnations of the engine, but one that stands out is that the C63 doesn’t get the dry sump oil pan because there isn’t a need for the same slim profile in the C63. While it’s nearly as fast as its two-door brother (it does 0-60 in 3.9 seconds while the AMG GT S does it in 3.7 seconds), the C63 AMG S promises just as much fun in a more subtle package. 

Where this combustion conga looks weakest is the middle, with the AMG C63 sans S. While it’s a step up from the C450, with 469 hp, it's the same V-8 as the S, but with 34 fewer hp, smaller brakes and fewer included amenities (a mechanical differential rather than the electronic differential included on the S, non-carbon-ceramic brakes, etc.). While official pricing hasn’t been released yet, Mercedes says that the C63 will start in the low $60,000 range, which is only $10,000 less than the $70,000 starting price of the C63 AMG S. This will let more month-to-month lease shoppers wear the full AMG dress, but If you’re kicking tires on a C63 AMG, why not go all the way?

2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 S

On the road, the AMG trio feels luxurious and even, at times, sedate. The C450 hustles to sixty in a slouchless 4.9 seconds and feels pretty darn solid getting there. On the roads around the Mediterranean town of Faro, Portugal, the beginner edition feels agile and planted with enough luxury touches to make it a perfect daily driver.

Paired with the AMG Speedshift MCT seven-speed automatic transmission, the new C63 can be enjoyed in all seasons and situations, whether you’re after a new track record or just hunting for a good parking spot at the local grocery store. That’s a lot to say for 503 horsepower, but the interior and ride quality are still pure Mercedes-Benz. One quibble while tossing it around a cork tree forest -- it can get nose heavy, and the variable power steering assist can make the car feel a little unpredictable in turns.

On the track in Portimão, Portugal, however, is where the C63 AMG S showed its teeth. This is the track that Formula 1 uses to test their cars; it’s a track that’s said to echo the old Nurburgring with its blind rises ending in surprising right-handers, and it takes a lot of confidence to push an unfamiliar car into unseen sweepers. On the track, in Sport, Sport Plus, or Race mode, the C63 AMG S gets waggy and loose, making it a ton of fun. It does feels a touch under-braked when traveling at 140 mph on the front straight of the Autódromo, but kick out the rear as you slide around the corner, and it brings an easy smirk to your face.

Here’s where things get a little confusing: the AMG C63 and C63 S are both 2015 model year vehicles, while the less-powerful C450 AMG is a 2016 model year, a result of when the cars hit the U.S. market. The C63 will land on our shores in April, while the C450 wont make its U.S. debut until the fall of this year.  

Will we see a C63 AMG Coupe? Potentially—there are plans for it, though Mercedes won’t say when it may be announced, and it would give Mercedes a pair of two-door V-8 turbocharged sports cars. In the German luxury world, there's always strength in numbers.

Disclosure: For this article, the writer’s transportation, meals and lodging costs were paid for by one or more subjects of the article. Yahoo does not promise to publish any stories or provide coverage to any individual or entity that paid for some or all of the costs of any of our writers to attend an event.