What happens when you combine (some) of the fire-breathing capabilities of a C 63 AMG with the refinement and civility of a C 400 C-Class? Chances are you’ll get the Mercedes C 450 AMG Sport, which crankandpiston has been driving lately
|Model||Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Value today|
|Mercedes C 450 AMG Sport||V6, twin-turbo, 2996cc||367bhp @ 5500-6000rpm||384lb ft @ 2000-4200rpm||4.9secs||250kph||1690kg (217bhp/ton)||$69,300|
|The best balance between sport and comfort?|
|Practicality is still an issue with any AMG model|
Thanks to what celebrity actors would call a ‘scheduling conflict’, a Mercedes C 450 AMG Sport has landed on my driveway for the next couple of days. But what to do with it? I mean, the C 450 sits right under the ballistic C 63 missile and only slightly above the C 400 C-Class as, effectively, an ‘AMG-lite’ model. To break that down, the C 450 offers the same comfort and civility as the C 400, but costs $11,000 more and whose AMG Package only delivers 34bhp more, some 136bhp less than the full fat C 63. So, what’s the point?
Don’t be so quick to judge though, young grasshopper. First off, let’s break that $11K down, $7500 of which covers some impressive options, including sunroof, AMG seats, sports steering wheel, and Heads-Up Display. Suddenly that extra 34bhp and 30lb ft of torque doesn’t seem so expensive, does it?
Let’s get to the meat. How does it drive?
Particularly appropriate, since on the road, the punch from that extra grunt can genuinely be felt. Granted, the upgraded twin turbochargers on the same 3-litre V6 deliver this 10 percent extra not so much in a straight-line at full pelt. Moreover, it’s the initial ‘punch’ of the delivery that really sets the C 450 apart from the smoother pick-up of the C-Class. While not as volcanic as the C 63 (to be expected), there’s still some serious guts to play with between the corners and when overtaking.
When combined with the revised steering and suspension setups, it produces outstanding levels of precision with surprisingly little effect to the ride comfort. Feedback through the AMG steering wheel, which is slightly smaller than the standard, is crisp if perhaps lacking a little engagement given its power assistance coupling, but plenty of grip at the front end means cornering is incredibly direct. There lacks the traditional ‘AMG’ lunacy too, the 4MATIC all-wheel drive channeling torque and horsepower to all four wheels for maximum traction. Purists may baulk at that, understandably or otherwise, but the results speak for themselves. Chances are, on the move in the C 450, you’ll feel like Lewis Hamilton at the Opera: still fast but enjoying the finer things in life.
And that brings me to the interior…
….specifically to begin with, Burmester. In 2006 I went to the Las Vegas Electronics Show (CES), at which the German wizards were showcasing their 10-stereo amplifier system to their signature B80 MK line. Let me be clear, love does not describe the feelings this brand elicits: rather, it is a complete meltdown of the senses. So much so that I came back to Dubai and asked around for prices. Big Mistake. Huge. Their entry-level amp comes in 20kg of device and $6,000 of price tag. That was that.
But as I sit inside the C450, I notice the familiar logo, read that the 590W Burmester amplifier is a $931 optional extra, and my heart skips a beat. Just knowing that this company has been involved in the specification of the audio system is argument enough to dig into the pockets a little deeper, since the company has clearly looked into making the C-Class cabin as good a sound as budget permits. With the C 450, I’m effectively driving a sound system with wheels.
Not that you should but, have you noticed that when you pump up the bass on Rihanna, the entire car trembles? Or how Mark Knopfler’s guitar scratches at higher volumes? Not here. The level of clarity, accuracy of sound and tempo are only comparable to home HiFi systems. And I do mean HiFi. Every word is clear, every string audible and, most important, every beat lasts as long as it’s supposed to, all contributing to the musical experience you’d get from a V8 Aston Martin.
What’s the verdict then?
That for me sums up what Mercedes-Benz is all about: all-purpose engineered and styled luxury, without frippery, in a package that makes it look as natural as scratching your nose. Standing over the competition effortlessly. I can now forgive the unintuitive user interface (we will soon be plugging our tablets into cars anyway, I am sure) or that the screen sticks out and that the user manual is, inexplicably, in the boot. I can even forgive that the infotainment system can only connect one phone at a time through the Bluetooth, since it combines direct steering, gutsy acceleration and impressive agility with one of the best regular driving experiences available to man.
Sure, the 503bhp C 63 may be top of the line, but the energy and visceral impact of that rear-wheel biased drive means it ultimately feels more like a sports car than a premium saloon. An excellent one, but a sports car nonetheless, while the more refined C 400 offers the elegance of a mid-sized Mercedes albeit without the performance ‘punch’ that goes with it. But the C 450? Here Mercedes offers a perfect balance between the two, and I can’t think of any candidates I like more than this ‘AMG-lite’. If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to check down the sofa for an extra $11,000…
*Images courtesy of Mohammed M’Nasria
Technical specifications available on page 2