8 / 10
If you’re smitten by the latest C-Class revolution but want just that little bit more by way of performance, then the Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG 4Matic belongs firmly on your radar.
The luxury German carmaker has launched its second AMG Sports variant, as the company looks to fill the gap between the regular C-Class models and the full-blown Mercedes-AMG C63.
Earlier this year at the Detroit motor show, the company released the GLE 450 AMG Coupe, (a BMW X6 rival) and in the process introduced the new AMG sub-brand to the global market.
Based on the C400, which is currently the most powerful production model of the C-Class line-up (and sadly, not sold in Australia), the C450 has been given a thorough AMG makeover with the goal of providing a more scintillating driving experience over regular C-Class models, as well as a more affordable alternative to the full-strength C63.
While this brand-broadening strategy might be new for Mercedes-Benz, German rivals Audi and BMW have been offering warmer versions of their standard models for years.
Audi has ‘S’ versions that sit under the fully-fledged ‘RS’ models, while BMW market hotter versions through the M Sport brand. Audi, in particular, is the most experienced in this area having developed a broad range of ‘S’-tuned cars over the years.
For Mercedes-Benz, the C450 AMG makes a lot of sense, particularly in markets such as Australia where the performance gap between the top-spec 150kW/500Nm C300 BlueTEC Hybrid and incoming 375kW/700Nm C63 S is huge.
The new Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG 4Matic utilises the same twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine found in its GLE 450 AMG Coupe sibling. Armed with a segment-leading 270kW of power and 520Nm of torque delivered to all four wheels, this AMG-fettled sedan is capable of sprinting from zero to 100km/h in a claimed 4.9 seconds.
It’s by far the most powerful vehicle in the segment, trumping even the Audi S4, which uses a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 engine developing 245kW of power and 440Nm of torque going to all four wheels.
The rival BMW 335i is less powerful still, relying on a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine with 225kW of power and 400Nm of torque going to the rear wheels only.
And it’s not just the engine that gets an AMG makeover, unlike the new Mercedes-AMG C63, which continues with its rear-wheel drive architecture, the C450 4Matic uses an all-wheel drive system that’s also been enhanced by AMG engineers to deliver up to 67 per cent of torque to the rear axle, as opposed to 55 per cent for the Mercedes-Benz C400.
The transmission is different, too. Where the GLE 450 AMG Coupe gets a nine-speed auto, the C450 AMG gets a seven-speed torque converter automatic with a similar range of driving modes to the C63 including Sport and Sport Plus.
The C450’s chassis is also the beneficiary of a fairly decent makeover from AMG, which includes the steering, front axle and three-stage adaptive suspension lifted straight from the C63. The brakes, too, have been improved.
On paper, the C450’s specifications look compelling. But does it all come together on the road?
Well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag as it turns out. At least, those were my impressions after a quick spin on a twisty road in Portugal recently.
First off, there’s absolutely no complaint in terms of outright performance, when you decide to give it a proper boot full. It’s not in the same league as the C63, but driven in either of the Sport modes, straight-line acceleration is certainly convincing.
Turbo lag is also very well supressed in the C450 and the seven-speed auto is a quick-shifting unit, especially in the Sport settings. There’s a proper manual mode, too, with the driver in total control – meaning no automatic upshifts, even at redline.
The C450 also gets the same electromechanical steering system as the C63, so while there’s loads of feedback, the weighting is a tad too light for my liking.
Driven sedately, the V6 is quiet and genuinely refined. But dial up the any of the more aggressive drive modes and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of snaps, crackles and pop sounds from the exhaust. It’s a tune that’s best enjoyed in the mid-range where there’s a decent growl emitted, as the initial throttle squeeze produces more of high-pitched trumpet-style note, more like a turbo four.
Work the car hard in the corners, though, and you’ll need to apply every ounce of the C450’s uprated braking power to avoid any understeer, it simply doesn’t feel as sure-footed as the full-tilt C63 under load. That said, it feels nicely balanced even when pressing, and you can certainly feel the benefits of the rear torque bias.
The C450 also carries noticeably less of a footprint on the road than its more powerful sibling; sitting on 18-inch alloys shod with 225/45s up front and 245/40s down back, as opposed to 19-inch wheels with 245/35s and 265/35s for the two-wheel drive AMG C63.
While the Mercedes-Benz strategy of attracting a wider customer base with AMG Sport vehicles clearly has oodles of potential, they have also been careful to protect the identity of the fully-fledged AMG models when it comes to exterior styling. Apart from the smaller 18-inch wheels, the key differences are the ‘diamond’ grille and there’s no powerdome bonnet for the C450. Personally, I think it’s a bit too tame for an AMG-badged model.
Inside, you’ll find a pair of rather stiff AMG sports buckets and several AMG badges. There’s also a leather-wrapped sports steering wheel and plenty of metallic accents and red contrast stitching to give the cabin a sporty, yet premium feel.
At the end of the day, there’s plenty to like about the C450. It looks brilliant, is quick by any standards, and with pricing expected to start from the low $100,000 mark – it won’t cost the earth.
Add in the rainproof all-wheel drive and claimed 7.2L/100km fuel economy, and it should be a decidedly tempting proposition for a whole new range of younger buyers after more from their C-Class Benz.
The Mercedes-AMG C450 4Matic will launch in Europe later this year, while Australians will have to wait until 2016 for their cars to arrive.