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2024 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance First Drive Review: Not Your Papa's PHEV

It might weigh as much as a Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye, but this compact super-sedan sure can scoot.

2024 Mercedes-AMG C63
It may not have the same sonorous soundtrack as the old C63, but the 2024 model will shred rubber just as easily as any before it.
Mercedes-Benz

Science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." If I were a necromancer, I'd wake ol' Art from his dirt nap and show him the 2024 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance. This small luxury sedan packs one helluva wallop with a complex plug-in hybrid system that borrows some of its tech from Formula 1.  Yet for the most part, it feels about as normal as can be.

Through a combination of a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 gas engine up front and an electric motor out back, the 2024 C63 delivers an impressive 671 horsepower and 752 pound-feet of torque, fed to all four wheels by way of a nine-speed wet-clutch automatic transmission. Instead of being tuned for maximum efficiency, the small 6.1-kilowatt-hour battery is engineered for maximum input and output.

Even though the C63's e-motor is 'round back, it can still send its energy to all four wheels through the AWD system's various shafts and axles. The electric motor also has its own two-speed transmission, kicking in around 87 mph, where it reaches its maximum speed of about 13,500 RPM. Mercedes' hyper-potent turbo-four also receives electric assistance, spooling up its turbocharger earlier than if it ran on exhaust gases alone.

There's no time to think about all of that on the track, though. Spain's Ascari Race Resort is quite the interesting course, offering a variety of on- and off-camber sweepers, tight technical sections and a couple straights. Each bit tells me something different about the C63; and while there's plenty to like, this sedan faces uphill battles in some ways.

No bones about it, this car is heavy. The C63's electro-wizardry adds roughly 600 pounds to the outgoing AMG's curb weight, which at about 4,600 pounds is in line with a Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye. The heft is obvious on the sweepers, where I can feel the mass fighting against the grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires. While manufacturers engineer a proclivity into most cars for safety's sake, some of that in the C63 comes from sheer momentum. Standard four-wheel steering provides some added agility in tighter corners, though, and once I get most of the weight over the front axle, the car loves to turn in.

Ascari's highly technical portions give the C63 a proper workout. Even with all that mass, it can still hustle through tight corners.

Mercedes-Benz

When the C63 straightens out, it's time for Race mode to work its magic. In addition to stiffening the standard adaptive dampers and tuning the transmission for maximum attack, a Boost Mode takes the whole package one step further. In conjunction with AMG's built-in Track Pace app, drivers on certain tracks can use the gas pedal's kickdown detent to access 100% e-motor thrust (normally limited to 80%) at designated spots on the track. The gauge display shows "BOOST" prominently when it's time to use the kickdown, and it also tells me when to lift as I approach the braking zone. It's a clever bit of gamification, although it's not available on every track. In those situations, Boost Mode will engage manually via a button on the steering wheel.

The battery doesn't deplete as fast as you might think during track antics. Since the juice caboose's whole point is to send and receive power as much as possible, on-track regeneration is surprisingly good. Lift-off regeneration is light in Track mode, mostly to preserve a "traditional" deceleration feel, but the electric motor can feed an impressive 100 kW of power back to the battery pack. Over the course of two track stints between 6 and 8 laps in length, I'm never left high and dry on the electron front.

If your local track doesn't have an entry in Mercedes' Track Pace app, you can still engage Boost Mode through the dial on the steering wheel.

Mercedes-Benz

The 2024 Mercedes-AMG C63 is fun on the track, but most of the car's time will be spent on the same roads as everyone else. Thankfully, it's a hoot and a half there, too. On the tight roads in the center of Málaga, Spain, I get by with electricity alone. The 6.1-kWh battery doesn't offer much in the way of range -- EPA estimates are still TBA, but I'd guess a figure below 10 miles -- but with a 201-hp max output, there's enough around-town thrust. An Electric mode forces EV operation, but a light foot in Comfort mode achieves practically the same effect.

As I wind my way through the many mountains surrounding the city, the C63's curb weight isn't as apparent. It's a fun car to chuck around twisty roads, thanks to four-wheel steering and a combination of electric and gas propulsion that never leaves the well feeling tapped. I run out of road well before I run out of accelerative force. With the car in Sport or Sport Plus modes, there's the right amount of spirited-driving suspension stiffness on offer, and the exhaust note is pretty bitchin' for a four-cylinder. The 9-speed transmission is happy to shift on my command, but I think the computers do a pretty good job of it as well, so I generally leave the automatic to its own devices.

The C63's interior is based on the standard C-Class, so there are a few chintzy plastic bits in here, but on the whole it's a comfortable, nicely arranged cabin.

Mercedes-Benz

Three regenerative braking modes are available, in addition to a fourth mode that turns regenoff. The lightest setting is what the car defaults to, and what it switches to after the battery is topped up. The two stronger modes are great for those of us who love to drive with mostly one pedal. Its strongest setting is quite potent, but alas, it doesn't offer true one-pedal driving, leaving me to press the left pedal to come to a complete stop.

The new C63 is the softest-riding one yet, but it's still a little crashy over bad roads and highway expansion joints. It lacks the outright composure of air suspension, but I think there's already enough weight underfoot, so the adaptive dampers will have to do. AMG's new sport seats offer plenty of lateral bolstering, which is nice at speed, but Mercedes clearly scrimped on the cushioning, so the car's inherent stiffness shines through.

Suffice it to say, there is a lot happening under the 2024 Mercedes-AMG C63's skin. But it certainly doesn't feel that way from the driver's seat. Sure, there are user-configurable settings out the wazoo, but it all gels. Is it heavy? Yes. Is it expensive? We don't know yet, but the answer is probably also yes. Nevertheless, this new generation of AMG vehicles keeps the underlying tenets of the sub-brand close to heart: Take a normal car, shove a giant-ass amount of power into it, and have a blast rocketing toward the horizon.


Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of CNET's staff are our own, and we do not accept paid editorial content.