C63 AMG S204 Final Review

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Steve84N

MB Enthusiast
Joined
Dec 6, 2017
Messages
1,421
Location
Gloucestershire
Car
C63 AMG S204
What follows are my thoughts after a five year ownership of a 2013 C63 AMG Estate, much of it is subjective but represents my views.

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Buying

My birthday is early December and back in 2017 I spent my day off going for test drives in a B8 RS4 and the C63 I ended up buying. I had no intention of buying either at the time. For reasons I won't go into detail here there was no contest between the two and the C63 simply felt far more special. The C63 was being sold by Sytner Mercedes in Bristol and I subsequently received several follow up calls trying to persuade me to buy it. Somewhat unbelievably my wife also sort of said why don't you buy it! The C63 had gotten under my skin so I told them if they knocked another £1,000 off I would. As it was near year end the dealer agreed and a deal was done at £27,000, to include my Z4 Coupe 3.0Si in part exchange. The C63 was on about 40,000 miles and had one previous owner who bought it from Sytner where it was a demonstrator originally. Aside from some questionable stripes it was in excellent condition. The first owner had also carried out some other 507 style modifications including an original 507 gearknob, steering wheel retrim, plus black painted wing mirrors, DRLs and roof.

AMG Warranty

I was fortunate to have a two year warranty from Mercedes. I wouldn't say it's a must to have a warranty but I did have some work completed under it. There were some electrical gremlins within the airbag system which was solved by the fitment of a new SRS module. Apparently there was some wiring not routed very well from the factory. The engine developed a mild rattle on startup which is known to be the camshaft adjuster plates wearing a groove where the pin engages. Hats off to Sytner Mercedes as they replaced all four, a quite substantial bill if I'd had to pay. I think towards the end of my ownership this rattle was just starting to return so if you're going to do the job then get upgraded plates from 63 Motorsports (63 Motorsports Mercedes-Benz AMG M156 M159 V8 Mercedes-AMG Stage I Camshaft Positioner Adjuster — 63 Motorsports Inc.). I also had the footbrake pedal replaced under warranty as it was getting slow to return in the cold, also something which was just beginning to reappear at the end of my tenure.

Maintenance

This is where the C63 does well for the level of performance on offer. I had it serviced at Sytner Bristol every year, which is basically just an oil change and varying degrees of visual inspections. There aren't any complicated or expensive procedures, such as say the valve clearance on a BMW S54. For the first couple of years I got very good pricing as the service manager owns a W204 C63 but later he'd moved into another role so the discount stopped. However, by buying the oil & filter from Mercedes Newcastle it still saved some cash compared to how it's priced within a service. There are other items that work on their own schedules like the air filter and spark plugs. These I did myself as it's simple work but charged heavily by a main dealer. For example the air filter is circa £70 or £20 fitted at home in five minutes. Spark plugs I believe are near £300 fitted, or £80 and an hour or so at home...

Other items I replaced included the fuel injectors because they are known to stick open which can cause serious engine damage. For the sake of about £240 it was worth doing and an easy DIY. Similar story with the auxiliary belt, tensioner and pulleys. The front upper control arms, droplinks and top mount bearings were changed and are all fairly cheap parts. The lower front control arms are AMG specific, being thicker, so are dealer only but I didn't need to do them. All four discs and pads came to under £500 plus DIY fitting, which is very palatable for a performance car. The lighter discs, either the cast composite or floating ones, are that sort of price just for the two front discs.

I had the gearbox oil changed and it did improve the shifting, something to do every 30,000 miles rather than just once at 30,000 like Mercedes prescribe. The engine did leak, it seemed to be from the upper sump seal so I periodically wiped it off. It hadn't got to the point of dripping on the driveway and oil consumption was less than a litre between services. At some point it will need the engine out to reseal all the sumps but for now it can be lived with.

Modifications

About half a year after buying my C63 I gave it what it deserved all along, a remap by Celtic Tuning to let the throttle open properly and a Wavetrac ATB fitted by Regal Autosport (c63 Archives - Regal Autosport). After the remap there was a big noticeable gain over 5krpm where the standard power goes flat from the throttle restriction, now it ripped to the redline with the eagerness of a VTEC engine. I never drifted the car but the Wavetrac is quietly working away all the time. You got a much more direct connection between your foot and the rear end coming out of corners, where before a wheel would spin up and then the car would snatch as the traction control caught it. Off the line you could mat the throttle from idle in warm, dry conditions to get no wheelspin and 0-60 in 4s.

The only other 'performance' modification was a front strut brace. The gains are marginal but the steering feel and mid corner grip are slightly improved.

After I found out that the next generation steering wheel bolts straight on I found one from a facelift (first generation) A45 AMG because the buttons are correct, whereas the 205 C63 has different buttons. I then had the wheel retrimmed in genuine alcantara. Continuing the 507 theme I found a genuine grille for sale, which has a black outer part but retains chrome on the rest. The Harmon Kardon sound system is alright but I upgraded all the door speakers to Morel items. It wasn't as good as I'd hoped and only sounded decent when turned up loud, I'm sure it needed a new amplifier etc to make a bigger difference.

Not being a fan of black wheels I found a set of 205 C63 ones that suited the 204 in my opinion. The rear fit was very similar at 9.5J ET56 vs 9J ET54, the fronts were 8.5J ET38 vs 8J ET45. Although that meant the front wheels filled the arches better it lost something in the steering department so I wanted to go back to the stock sizing. Amazingly, I spotted a set of genuine forged 507 wheels that a 507 owner had spare so I snapped them up for £2,000 with worn out tyres. To keep these in good condition I picked up a set of 18" pre-facelift five spokes with winter tyres, 8J 225/40/18 all round. Those plus the differential allowed the C63 to work in the snow. 225 section tyres plus 500+hp made for a slithery rear end but it was far more progressive than 265 summer tyres.

Driving Experience

The 204 C63 offers 'character in spades' as a certain Chris Harris once said. In short, this is what sold it to me in the first place. The M156 rumbles going slowly at lower rpm, then the note hardens in the mid range where it starts to come alive and then roars to the redline where it really flies. You do forget how muscular it really is until you drive something else. That said, for it to be a fast car it does need revving hard and the chances to do that are relatively few on the road. Probably a good thing so that you savour it more when you use it all. For a mid-segment car the 204 is surprisingly well insulated, which makes it a great long distance companion but does sadly mute the engine too much. You pay a hefty premium in fuel consumption to drive a C63, so to not have enough of the sound reach you inside is a shame. Yes you can modify the exhaust but I didn't want to do this for several reasons. It sounds awesome outside as stock, any louder it becomes antisocial and the note turns raspy with anything more than a secondary decat. With the windows down you get another 25% more sound but to truly savour the tunes coming out of the tailpipes you need to crack the boot open. Only then do you realise how much it burbles on the overrun and cracks on the upshifts, all natural before the contrived nonsense took off.

The steering is deliciously creamy and being hydraulic never feels like it gets too light at low speeds. Manufacturers seem obsessed with making electronic systems so light at low speed that it ends up feeling like a cheap city car, the 205 falls into this trap a bit but actually feels great up to speed. There isn't a whole lot of actual feedback and feel through the wheel but it's direct and accurate.

In terms of handling I found it good but not great. I like a car that has strong front end bite and the 204 C63 doesn't have it. The 205 switched to double wishbone suspension up front and that has excellent grip mid-corner. It was only as tail happy as you made it, the linear engine power curve and naturally aspirated response didn't give you any surprises. The traction control keeps everything in check to the extent you don't mind your wife driving it. In Sport mode the TC gives you enough slip to feel alive but collected a slide before it got out of hand, a solid compromise for the road. I didn't drive with TC off much because Sport wasn't holding me back, other than the odd cheeky burnout...

The seats are superb and have the biggest side bolsters I know of in a 'normal' road car. They give you all the lateral support you need but you could also do long journeys without getting aches. A fatal flaw is how high they sit though, even set right down I was only a few centimetres from touching the ceiling. As soon as you step into a BMW you remember how things should be. The steering wheel is canted over at almost 30 degrees, which feels OK but a little bus like. By way of comparison my replacement is more like 22 degrees and angled more upright, perhaps it's a necessity from the seat being so high.

The suspension is on the firm side but not unbearably so. I thought it could be a little softer and not lose much (if anything) in handling. The 205 C63 I tried does ride more softly and is all the better for it. The car dealt with bumps, including mid-corner ones, without issue and a single rebound before settling. At the end of my ownership on 82,000 miles the dampers would benefit from renewal. Having fixed calliper brakes front & rear is now rare due to manufacturers using electronic rear parking brakes, the six & four piston items on the 204 C63 look the business. Switching the brake lines to braided ones brought a more solid pedal feel and made it easier to engage the HOLD function at rest. The engine braking on the 6.2 is immense to the point you could go down any hill on the gears alone and deceleration on the flat was akin to moderate braking. As such my discs & pads lasted around 30,000 miles plus however much they were already worn when I bought the car. A simple upgrade to 390mm up front was tempting but not necessary and would have stopped me using my 18" winter wheels.

The MCT 7 speed gearbox has it's strengths and weaknesses. The actual shifts are very good and in any of the sportier modes the shift time is plenty quick enough, around 100ms at best I believe. Controlled Efficiency starts off in second and is super smooth (once warmed up). However, as the name suggests it upshifts ASAP keeping revs to under 1,500rpm on a light throttle. When prodded it's a bit too reluctant to kick back down and takes away from the effortless nature of the engine that's there from 2,500rpm upwards. Sport mode is actually very well judged for the road because it will adopt shift patterns similar to C when you're taking it easy but is far more responsive under half throttle to drop a gear. The intelligence of the shifting is the best I've come across, where many other cars in Sport simply hold revs too high even when cruising. Sport+ is a mode I didn't often use because it was a bit too keen for normal driving, although would still drop down the revs after a longer pause when cruising. The downshifts are less jerky than in S as it blipped the engine. S+ is good for flatout acceleration runs so you hit the limiter bang on and can concentrate on the road. For spirited driving I preferred to use Manual mode so there was no unexpected downshift to unsettle the car on corner exit, although you could learn when the various auto modes would downshift. The time taken to actually swap cogs in M is just as short as in S+ but there is a pretty big lag between pulling the paddle and the shift being actuated, so the total time was too slow for my liking. AMG were clearly aware of this because they include a shift indicator that flashes Up in red, which is when you should pull the paddle. This is calibrated so that in the lower gears where you're ripping through them faster it flashes up at a lower rpm than in the higher gears. You could just about spot the red in your peripheral vision and if you pulled the paddle then the system worked well, but miss it by a few milliseconds and you'd butt into the limiter. When cold the gearbox is lethargic and tardy to engage the clutches but once warmed up it's not bad. Definitely room for improvement but as my first automatic I was pleasantly surprised overall.

In mixed use the natural gait of the C63 returns high teens mpg. On a long motorway run at near 80mph it'd show low twenties but a calculation always proved the reality is 1mpg less than the readout. When going for a hoon it'd drop to around 11-14mpg, which is similar around town. I am fortunate enough to afford the fuel bills and used to daily commute about 55 miles in the C63 to work. Aside from those journeys it got used a fair bit to go to France as we have family there. A range of 250-280 miles was the norm and this is somewhat tiresome as you are filling up a lot. The 66 litre tank once swallowed 66.6 litres, a feat I didn't repeat more than once!

Selling

Why did I choose to sell such a special car? At one point I thought this could be a forever car. Commuting gave me time to enjoy it with just me in the car but ever since March 2020 I have been working from home so my use of the C63 plummeted. In part that was a good thing but the times I was using it were mostly with my family and on longer journeys, largely motorway miles to places like France. Whilst the C63 can take that in its stride I wasn't getting the same level of engagement out of it and cruising with a V8 is an unnecessarily expensive business, especially since fuel prices shot up. I can still afford to run it and the lower mileage helps on that front. However, I wasn't taking it out just for the sake of it on a drive as much as I'd like. When I did I found it too heavy and it left me wanting on the handling front, there's only so much an awesome engine will satiate my thirst for thrills. If you have to have just one car the C63 is a darn good choice, but for me it never truly fulfilled everything I want.

I originally had the car up for sale at a higher price in July 2022 and it quickly became clear I would need to reduce the price. I was able to sell off nearly all of the modifications, many of which as part swaps plus cash. The biggest of these were the 507 wheels which sold for £2,800 with Michelin PS4S tyres so I made my investment back there. All told I sold circa £3,600 worth of goodies and the car went for £21,250 against an asking price of £22,000. On 20th December 2022 I said goodbye to the C63, exactly five years to the day since I bought it. Only one person viewed the car and they bought it. I know it's gone to a good home, a smart gentleman in his early sixties from Birmingham who can also count a Huracan Performante amongst his collection.

What's next?

I did try a couple of S205 C63s and after reflection found they don't offer quite the character of the 204 but would better suit the use I have. If they weren't so expensive I would have given serious consideration to moving into one. A 205 C63 wouldn't give me everything I want overall though and for the same money I can split the role of my cars.

Before the AMG I owned a string of BMWs, including an e46 330Ci, e91 330i and e86 Z4 Coupe 3.0Si. I've always loved a straight six, just as much if not more so than a V8. The Z4 with a naturally aspirated six was just right for the road, the 3 Series Touring was too heavy for the same engine. This has showed me I need a turbo six for the family car, effortless power in the mid range where you use the engine most of the time. With my father in law having three 5 Series through work I was impressed with the refinement and space each time I had a ride or short drive in one. Therefore, I now own a 2011 F11 535i Touring with the N55 single turbo engine and a manual gearbox. After the C63 it felt a bit flat but it was great to have a new project car to get stuck into.

Since buying the car in July I have carried out a lot of maintenance and modifications to bring it up to my standard. The leaking oil filter housing gasket was sorted, new Sachs dampers all round, water pump replaced, complete refresh of front control arms/wishbones/droplinks and all fluids changed. To bring the engine alive it's been tuned with MHD (a platform you can use yourself and includes various off the shelf maps), supported by a metal charge pipe, bigger intercooler and sports cat. This takes it from circa 300/300 power & torque (ft/lbs) to somewhere in the region of just under 400hp and 460lb/ft. To me, for a road car this is ample and it's quick enough that I'm not missing the M156. It'll do 30+mpg on a run so I've got a useable range of 450 miles to a 70 litre tank and I can still dispatch slow traffic with ease.

I really liked but never truly loved the M156 sound, it's a bit too American for my taste. The N55 is never going to be on a dream wishlist but I enjoy the tone it makes. I have the fairly rare M Performance exhaust and there are undertones of Supra as you sweep through the mid range into the upper reaches. It's a big car but not that much heavier than the C63 and I think it handles more sweetly. The front double wishbone suspension gives the bite in corners I was missing and 245 section tyres all round avoids the understeer that many BMWs with low power and wide staggered rear tyres suffer from. I happen to really like the look of the F11, so again I don't feel like I'm missing out compared to the C63.

Anything else?

Well yes actually. Whilst the 535i is far better suited to the job it has I'm not going to get ultimate driving thrills from it. It's been too long since I've had a light car. After starting out in a Ford Fiesta I had a supercharged Mazda Eunos and a DC2 Integra Type R. All cars that are give or take 1,000kg. It's time to strip out all the excess and get back to basics, something that has oodles of feedback and can be taken on track without lunching consumables in one session. I can remember seeing the Lotus Elise in a Sunday Times article when it was released and thinking wow. For me, the S2 is the one. It's got baby supercar looks and includes improvements over the S1 without some of the extra weight of the S3. I've yet to make up my mind exactly which version, test drives will help, although it'll likely be either a 111S or 111R. There are options for more power if desired, including supercharging or a Honda K engine swap. I will then have what I consider to be an excellent two car garage for a relatively low outlay. By splitting out comfort and pure driving thrills each car delivers on its purpose better than one car ever could. PS: We also called our daughter Elise.

Thanks for reading, now enjoy the montage. :cool:
 
Lots of special memories made with the C63. Had a baby girl, moved house, toured most of Scotland.

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Awesome write up buddy, took a while to read through 🙂 Your w204 thoroughly deserves nice write up and a round of applause too 👏

Would you consider returning back to the fold? Perhaps an E class maybe?
 
Best write up I’ve read in a long time Steve. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

It sounds like you will fondly remember the car but the right time to move on.

I’m currently looking at Elise/Exiges at the moment too
 
Amazing write up! I'd go as far to say a it's a bit of a reference guide for potential new owners. The review echos a lot of how I feel about my C63 wagon as well and funnily, I'm also looking to move to a 5 series wagon next with a 540i xDrive as it seems to be the best option for family life.
 
Thank you for the excellent and detailed write up. Love the pictures and videos! I had my 204 (saloon) for 10 years and absolutely loved it. Lots of memories in that car including seeing the arrival of two kids! The car really does have a lot of character which is sadly lacking in the new EV/hybrid world. I probably should've kept mine but I was worried about increasing maintenance costs on an older car.
 
I enjoyed reading that, thank you for posting it. A very fair and balanced view of the W204 M156 C 63 AMG i’d say. Elise is beautiful. Enjoy your new car(s) 👍🏻
 
Excellent balanced write up. Enjoyed your candour about both sides of your time with it. Recommended
 
Excellent 👍
 
Nice 'end of term review' that.

One comment I would make about an S2 Elise - not sure how tall (or wide!) you might be and I'm sure you're aware of this but, I borrowed an S2 for a short period and found it an absolute pig to get in and out of. To the extent that after having misjudged where to pull up at a petrol station, I ended up getting out on my hands and knees, not the cool look I was aiming for to the other customers :D
 
5'11" and slim. It'll probably hibernate during the colder months so hopefully most of the time the roof will be off to aid extraction!
 
Great write up, well worth the read. Very interesting to read your thoughts into the C63. It has got me thinking in all honesty the only reason people buy this car is for the engine…but what an engine. However having picked up recently an F80 M3 and having had previous BMWs, it’s a bit like night and day in terms of the overall package. I loved my W204 C63 and have recently considered buying another one but the overall driving experience of the M Car i feel is a better product.
 
Very enjoyable write up Steve and a "must read" for potential W204 C63 buyers.
Enjoy the Beemer.
 
Love the write up and pictures. Excellent review 😁
 
Awesome write up - thanks for sharing.

How many miles did you rack up?

I’m in a similar dilemma with my 205 estate. It’s such a fantastic car but I want something a little more involving (manual), and track day friendly while I can. Unfortunately I don’t have the option of expanding the family fleet beyond 2 cars - the manual F11 and Elise sounds like a great combination. I actually came from a 340i estate, the flat 6 was a great daily but didn’t feel special enough as my one car to do it all. I may move to the new Civic Type R this year if I can get my hands on one, but I won’t be disappointed to hold on to the c63 for a while longer.
 
@Jamsxr 42,000 miles, went up quicker until 2020 and has since averaged out lower per annum.

I tried a 340i a couple of times, felt effortless and an excellent combo with the ZF 8spd. The steering is lifeless though, it's actually better in the G31 5 Series. If you can't a get a new CTR then the last one gets nigh on perfect reviews too. May as well take your time as the C63 is hardly a poor consolation prize.
 
Great write up. As the owner of a W204 C63 estate similar to yours for a similar period of time for similar daily duties, I agree with everything! Also what you say about the low speed lack of feel of the electronic steering of the 205 C63S, my new car, which does indeed weight up nicely at proper speeds.

Bravo! And for your next car I recommend a AMG GTS 4 door. It’s not light, but it’s a whole lot of fun with room for the family!
 
Great write up, thanks for doing this. Loved my C63 estate which I changed for the SL63. Same engine but as your say so much better to hear the engine from the outside. Easy with the top down. Did you not think of the C43 estate? Maybe a better compromise though the 535i is a top car in its own right
 
@c63chris I did consider the C43 but it's still a bit expensive. I was trying to free up cash by swapping the C63, rather than add more, so I had something towards an Elise. I'd probably have picked the B9 S4 Avant over a C43 though, had a test drive and it hit the sweet spot for a swift family car. Too much money again though.

I've spent quite a lot on the 535i since getting it, hoping that'll pay off and average down over the coming years. Despite only being a family of three the extra space is welcome and the refinement is a step above a C/A4/3 class of car.
 

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