The hybridization of the Mercedes-AMG C63, and what it means for sport cars of its class.
Updated: Mar 21
As written before in previous articles, the automotive industry, for one reason or another, seems to fall into natural trifectas. The American Big Three of General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler; the Japanese Big Three of Toyota, Honda, and Nissan; and the German Big Three of Audi (under the Volkswagen Group), Mercedes-Benz (Daimler AG), and BMW, are just some examples. Even more legendary trios have emerged from these automotive oligopolies — any American patriot has their fierce opinion on the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Challenger, commonly extolling the perks of one and bashing the pitfalls of another. These American muscle car classics have endured the test of time and weathered through notable bankruptcies of their parent corporations to emerge unscathed and only further modernized during their 50+ year life spans — a testament to their unique and timeless qualities, and their importance to each of their respective manufacturer’s public image. Even with the death of the American sedan (the world said goodbye to the Ford Fusion, Ford Taurus, Dodge Dart, and Chevy Impala, among others, in 2017 and 2018), the triumvirate has lived on.
Their German counterpart is not that much different in many regards. Today, the Mercedes-AMG C63, BMW M3, and Audi S4 — along with their coupe equivalents, the C63 coupe, M4, and (R)S5, respectively — have been the Deutschland's take on front-engine, two-row seating sports cars that are blazing fast, fun to drive, loud, and somewhat inexpensive in the grand scheme of performance vehicles (if you have around $70k to fork over, and minus all the infuriatingly pricey little options that they always add). Of course, on that last point, some would say the German engineering and the added luxury interior and status justifies the price over the American three. Either way, the American consumer base has embraced these three fine German vehicles, so much so that their budget versions were created and sold in the U.S also.
Given the shared qualities of the three competing vehicles, it comes as no surprise that a drastic change in one will be noted by the producer’s of the other two. Assuredly, the controversial grille of the new G80 and G82 generation of the BMW M3 and M4 has been noted by the design teams of the other two companies, who we can infer have learned to be more receptive of the feedback from their customers.
So this time, Affalterbach is in the limelight, with rumors stretching back at least a year ago suggesting that the 2022 Mercedes-AMG C63 being unveiled sometime in 2021 would trade its gloriously-harsh 4.0 liter V8 engine for a smaller hybrid engine, in order to cut back on emissions. In its place, while uncertain for now, seems highly likely to be a 2.0 liter turbocharged inline-four M139 engine. This would be the same engine found in the cheaper and smaller Mercedes-AMG A45 S and CLA45 S, for better or for worse. What is different is the added 48 V electric motor similar to the one in the CLS 53 4Matic +, most likely producing an additional 22 horsepower and 184 lb. ft. of electric boost , meaning more power. The current C63 S produces 503 horsepower, for reference, and the next-generation model is expected to exceed this figure.
What are the ramifications of this decision? As established, we may first see a change being reflected in BMW and Audi’s rival cars. BMW opted to keep its inline-6 engine for its redesigned M3 and M4, while the Audi (R)S4 and (R)S5 currently sport a turbocharged V6. I find it likely that the two companies will opt to do something similar, seeing that consumers will not mind the extra power generated from an electric motor. In fact, I believe that the hybrid version might serve as the “high-end” version of the lineup; for example, the RS4 and RS5 will likely be hybrid while the S4 and S5 remain fully gas-powered. The C43, currently V6-powered, will most likely stay electric-free too, while having the same 4-cylinder engine as the C63 and C63 S. On terms of whether this trend of engine size will also carry, I believe this one is more contentious, and will most likely be shaped by emerging governmental regulations of emissions, and also more volatile general consumer sentiment. And if general consumer sentiment means the comment sections of car news articles, I can tell you firsthand that Mercedes-AMG fans are not exactly jubilant about the news. But the Porsche 718 did go down this route a few years back. The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is another to watch.
The question gets even trickier when looking stateside. U.S cars are unequivocally associated with being big and bulky, and with that size and bulkiness come a quench for fuel. There is something genuinely American about the internal combustion engine; puny Japanese cars like the regularly-bullied Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf are what usually comes to mind when we think “eco-friendly.” And when it comes to muscle cars, it might be considered blasphemy to purists to make the top performance variants quieter, cleaner, and with smaller engines. Thus, without making sweeping generalizations and conclusions, I believe that cars like the Mustang, Challenger, and Camaro will take longer to downsize their engines, if ever. I do expect for the EV revolution to at least hybridize their powertrains in less than a decade though. The Big Three companies are smart and know when to ignore the public’s potential criticism, and reap the unrealized benefits.
Admittedly, I do fall in the camp of petrol-heads that think “bigger is better” when it comes to engine displacement and size. In my opinion, the Lexus LFA with a 4.8 liter V10 (with a redline of 9,000 rpm) is the best sounding street car of all time, with the Ferrari 812 Superfast with a V12 (and the most powerful naturally aspirated production car engine of all time) coming in at a close second. In fact, my own words cannot describe the majestic sound of a 12 cylinder supercar roaring down a road, even at low speeds. Luckily, I have experienced it in person myself, and can tell you that its unmistakable growl is literally noticeable before you can even see the car. My father actually swore to never buy a car with less than six cylinders, and he still hasn’t to this day 30 years later.
But at the same time, let’s look at what the C63 gains from this next generation. The extra horsepower and extra torque gained will most likely make it the fastest C-Class car ever, faster than the 3.7 second 0-60 mph sprint of the C205 C63 S coupe. Outside of the powertrain, the new model's powerplant's weight is concentrated lower, with a lower center of gravity that will further improve overall agility and driver control. There will also be an all-wheel drive system similar to 4Matic for power and traction, but allowing rear-wheel drive to turn on in specific drive modes at the flip of a switch or push of a button. Apparently, the car will even borrow engineering elements of the Mercedes-AMG One hypercar. As Carbuzz states, “the fact that the new C63 has at least some hypercar engineering is a bragging right BMW can't make.” And lastly, beauty matters in cars. With the possible Bavarian Motor Works grille fiasco giving Mercedes an edge, I think that the overall reception to the “Panamericana” grille has been a positive one. I certainly think it looks aggressive and undoubtedly distinguishes itself from the C300 driven by the suburban dad recently promoted to manager.
Undeniably, as already reinforced on this website from other articles, the EV trend is also here to stay, and will shape the future of the automobile. Mercedes is simply doing what it thinks it necessary to do in the future, and following its rival in Munich who made similar moves towards electrification with the BMW M5. Mercedes’s own EQ line, as well as the AMG subdivision’s GLC 43 and GLC 63 show this as well, as does the BMW i and Audi e-Tron lines. Stuttgart’s bet with the Porsche Taycan seems to be off to a promising beginning too.
Overall, I believe that the Mercedes-AMG C63 sedan and coupe will sell just as well as it usually does, and may be the spark in revolutionizing its rival cars.