Test Drive: The New Mercedes-Benz C Class AMG Models
Test Drive: The New Mercedes-Benz C Class AMG Models
We have fun behind the wheels of the all-new 2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG Sport 4MATIC, 2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 and Mercedes-AMG C63 S
How do you improve on the best selling performance car at Mercedes-Benz? First you add two new models to the AMG lineup to provide drivers more choice. Then you make each of them stand out in their own way. Faster, substantially more fuel efficient, more luxurious and overall more impressive than the previous generation C Class AMG—which saw a run of more than 40,000 cars—the updated models are certain to shatter that record. We got behind the wheel of the new cars in Portugal to experience them on beautiful country roads and on the track.
With the new generation of C Class AMG sedan and wagon models comes the second in Mercedes-Benz’s AMG performance line extension, the C450 Sport AMG 4MATIC (following the GLE450 AMG 4MATIC Coupe). Sadly, no versions of the C Class wagon are available in the USA, including the AMG models. While the nomenclature is confusing just think of the C450 Sport AMG as the best of both worlds, and of Mercedes catching up to its formidable national rivals.
The enhanced version of base model cars establishes a new mid-level performance option to the brand’s fans and potential customers, something Audi has offered in its S line and BMW has offered in its M Performance line for years. Previously Mercedes-Benz offered its customers the choice between base models and AMG-badged high performance models. Now each manufacturer offers base models, performance models, and high performance models—Audi’s RS line, BMW’s M line, and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG line, which has been renamed Mercedes-AMG to further clarify both the group of high performance cars within the Mercedes-Benz family as well as car-specific naming.
The addition of this new mid level performance option, the C450 AMG Sport, badged as a 2016 model, offers enough performance for many drivers at a substantially lower price than the C63 and C63 S (which are badged as 2015 models). Mercedes treads this thin line perfectly, offering strong base models of the C class for most, a new performance model for those who want the best of both worlds, and high performance models that push the edge even further than before for the most demanding drivers.
AMG models differ from their base model peers in both their visual styling and in what you don’t see: nearly every component of the powertrain (each engine is hand built by a single technician at AMG’s Affalterbach factory), drivetrain, braking and exhaust is designed with performance in mind and different from those found in the base models. While all of those aspects have been modified to deliver both the style and performance worthy of the AMG badge, there is still a big gap between the C450 AMG Sport and the AMG C63 and C63 S, and that’s perfectly ok. It’s great, in fact.
The C450 AMG Sport competes with the Audi S4 Sedan and BMW 335i xDrive M Sport Sedan. First, it receives an AMG-tuned version of the C400’s 3-liter V6 engine, boosting it to 362 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque, amply powering the car (unlike the C63 models the engine is not made by hand in the AMG factory in Germany). It gets an upgraded transmission that’s faster than the C400’s and rides on AMG’s Adaptive 3-stage sports suspension, new front axle and AMG tuned rear axle. One of the biggest differences between the C450 AMG Sport and the AMG C63 models is its drivetrain. The AMG Sport uses the full time four wheel drive (which Mercedes calls 4MATIC) found in the base models, and the C63 models use rear wheel drive. Brakes are upgraded and AMG tuned, as is steering, handling, and driving mode tuning. Visually the car’s exterior receives sportier body panels, a unique grille, badges, wheels, spoiler, tailpipes and trim. It sounds better, too. Interior features include AMG seats and a special instrument cluster with a chequered flag design. What you won’t see, however, is AMG badging inside the car, which is reserved for the C63 models. This could all be much simpler, but the result is a more agile, capable daily driver that’s accessible to many more buyers.
The C450 AMG Sport 4MATIC sticks to corners with steering that is among the best we’ve experienced in the category. It delivers ample power when you need it; we passed quite a few trucks on country roads and highways, and its 0-60 in 4.9 seconds is spritely (the C63 does that in a mere 3.9 seconds). It brakes as powerfully, and sounds sporty with its pops, purrs and vrooms. The car offers all of Mercedes-Benz’s latest technology too, from its driver assistance programs to its new entertainment and operations system. It’s an exciting addition to the C Class lineup that is sexily stealthy.
For all its merits though it can’t replace the thrill of driving the 469 hp C63 AMG, or the new 503 hp C63 S edition, which provides even more of everything. For drivers who demand the best performance and have the money to spend the choice is a clear one, though we’re happy to see the C450 AMG Sport provide a lot of thrills to a lot more people.
As an added bonus, cars destined for the USA and Canada are made in Mercedes-Benz’s Tuscaloosa, AL factory.
Images by Evan Orensten