Like the look of a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG but don't like the price tag? Adjust your aim to the C450 AMG Sport instead. It's not going to disappoint, as Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG Sport packs a 362bhp three-litre V6 and sends drive to all four wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission. Available as a saloon or estate, it's also gets uprated brakes and purloins a lot of suspension components from a C63 AMG. That recipe is going to have a lot of people very excited indeed.
The Mercedes-AMG C63 AMG is a great car. We love it and would gladly auction off body parts to get hold of one, but we accept that this car isn't always a particularly viable choice. There's the cost, the running expenses and the fact that it'll set all the car alarms off in your street when you start the thing up. What if you could get 90 per cent of the excitement of the full-on AMG at 60-odd per cent of the cost? That's the formula of the C450 AMG Sport, a model that might well be a sleeper hit. Okay, so big-engined petrol cars are always going to be a niche product in the UK but here's one that's not too ridiculous and yet has a broad range of talents. We've been impressed by the ability of the latest C-Class to date. This one could be the best of the bunch.
Power comes courtesy of a breathed-upon version of the 3.0-litre twin turbo six-cylinder engine, Mercedes claiming a figure of 362bhp at 5,500rpm with a meaty torque figure of 517Nm between 2,000 and 4,200rpm. The power figure in particular deserves to be put into perspective. It's exactly the same as Mercedes got from the old supercharged 5.4-litre C55 AMG model of 2005, but now they're getting that power from an engine almost half the size and which delivers far greater economy. That's what you might call progress. Progress won't be the first word that springs to mind when you floor the throttle in the C450 AMG Sport. It'll probably be a one syllable utterance as you bludgeon through 62mph in just 4.9 seconds. Even if you opt for the estate version, you'll only take a tenth longer. That's quick and the reason it steps off the line so quickly is that it smacks virtually seamless gearchanges through the modified 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox. That and the fact that drive goes to all four tyres.
Design and Build
Looking at the exterior of this C-Class, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was the most conservative of styling directions. Any notionally car-literate person would be able to tell you it was a Mercedes C-Class, even if they'd never clapped eyes on the thing before. It's tidily executed, with hints of the latest S-Class in its detailing. The long bonnet, a passenger compartment set well back and short overhangs define the C-Class's classic proportions. The AMG Sport trim means a more aggressive front end treatment with bigger cooling ducts, dark door mirror cappings and smoked chrome exhaust pipes. The saloon version gets a discreet boot spoiler while the estate version features a small roof spoiler. The 18-inch wheels nicely fill the arches. Drop inside and you'll see where this Mercedes differentiates itself. It's radically different to its predecessor with a broad centre console swooping between the front occupants. This being an automatic vmodel, a large one-piece centre console panel performs an elegant sweep from the centre air vents to the armrest. There's also an 8.4-inch COMAND Online infotainment display. Materials quality is much improved on a C-Class these days and there are some slick details like the five metallic round air vents and the touchpad in the hand rest over the Controller on the centre tunnel. There's even a head-up display option. An extra 80mm in the wheelbase helps rear seats space and there's a best in class 480-litres of boot space for the saloon version too, with 10-litres more if you opt for the estate.
Market and Model
The C450 AMG Sport is priced to face down rivals like the Audi S4 and the BMW 335i M Sport that cluster around the £40,000 point. The asking figures include the COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS system. When a danger of collision persists and the driver fails to respond, the system is able to carry out autonomous braking at speeds of up to 125mph, thereby reducing the severity of collisions with slower or stopping vehicles. The system also brakes in response to stationary vehicles at a speed of up to 31mph, and is able to prevent rear-end collisions at speeds of up to 25mph. Talking of brakes, the C450 AMG Sport gets upgraded 360mm front and 320mm rear ventilated steel discs with anthracite-coloured brake callipers. Each C-Class gets pelvis airbags for driver and front passenger as well as window bags, sidebags for the outer rear seats and a kneebag for the driver. The front passenger seat can also be fitted with automatic child seat recognition, which deactivates the airbag when a child seat is fitted and reactivated once it has been removed. The sound system is also worth a mention, utilising the Frontbass system, which uses the space within the cross-member and side member in the body structure as a resonance chamber for really punchy bass response.
Cost of Ownership
We mentioned the identically-powered C55 AMG model of 2005 earlier. A decade ago, that car returned 23mpg and emitted 293g/km of carbon dioxide. Nowadays the C450 AMG Sport offers all the same grunt and all-wheel drive traction but returns a NEDC combined fuel economy figure of 37.2mpg with emissions of just 178g/km. Let that fuel figure sink in for a moment. In just ten years, economy has improved by more than 60 per cent in ostensibly like-for-like Mercedes C-Class variants. We've been accustomed to Mercedes featuring a whole host of efficiency measures such as start/stop, advanced aerodynamics and low internal transmission friction, but the current C-Class has been on a diet to help things improve. Despite being a significantly bigger car than before (some 95mm longer and 40mm wider), weight has been cut through extensive use of aluminium in the 'body in white'. In fact, use of aluminium here has gone up from around 10 per cent in the previous generation C-Class to around 50 per cent now, with the result that around 70kg, or the weight of an average adult, has been trimmed from the body structure.
Mercedes-Benz has pulled a blinder with the current generation C-Class. It's a car that has really hit its stride and this addition to the range has us pretty excited. The C450 AMG Sport is concussively quick yet doesn't pair that pace with crippling running costs. Yes, it's clearly going to be more expensive than a turbodiesel to get from A to B, but the added all-weather security of 4MATIC all-wheel drive is going to swing quite a few votes its way. An estate version is also offered, which might well be one of the coolest cars of the year. It also sets up a scintillating three-way battle between BMW, Audi and Mercedes. There can be only one winner and right now, we'd be putting our money on the car with the three-pointed star.