C55 AMG Review
I swear I had no intention of performing a drifting demonstration outside my step-daughter's school gates. In a prior attempt to gain a little mid-corner throttle control, I'd switched off the computerized handling Nanny. And then forgot all about it. So when I attempted to merge with the after-camp traffic, I suddenly found myself laying down a good 20 feet of rubber, in a decidedly sideways fashion.
Needless to say, that was not an example of driving in the traditional Mercedes manner. One wafts in one's Merc. But let's face facts: the C-Class appeals to a younger, thrustier demographic. Turning a plain Jane C into a demented German hot rod can't piss away the model's air of emotionally reserved exclusivity– it never had any in the first place. So it's damn the brand, full speed ahead!
And speed there is, aplenty. The C55 holsters a 5.5-liter V8. The heavily modified powerplant generates a staggering 349hp, accompanied by an equally epic 376ft.-lbs. of torque at 4000rpms. Translation: AMG's mini-Merc is never, ever short of grunt. Grunt as in shove. Shove as in The Hand of God smacking you in the ass and sending you on your merry way.
To put some numbers to it, zero to 60 takes 4.9 seconds, with a top end well beyond the 155mph electronic speed limiter. To put an image to it, my impromptu tail sliding came complete with expletives and opposite lock.
LOTS of opposite lock. Despite its enormous accelerative abilities and diminutive footprint, the Mercedes C55 is no track-honed BMW M3. It's a muscle car writ small. The C55's rack-and-pinion steering system offers a leisurely 3.3 turns from lock-to-lock. The fact that you can have any gearbox you like so long as it's an automatic confirms the car's "horsepower uber alles" bias.
Of course, AMG has done their level best to make the C55 corner its level best. Affalterbach's satanic mechanics have modified and tuned the C's multi-link suspension to create firm, flat and fair cornering. The car hunkers down on seriously sticky 18" Pirelli P-Zero low profile tires. And its enlarged perforated brakes are almost powerful enough to stop time itself.
Put it all together and you've got a German pocket rocket that can negotiate bends at fantastic speeds with only a trace of initial body roll. Oh, and one small concern: that flashing triangle on the speedo warning you that power and grip are going their separate ways. Again, you can disable the death defying gizmo, steer with your right foot and take your chances. But even then, the computer retains the right to have the last say (excepting your insurance company). Trust me, it's no bad thing.
The comfort penalty exacted by this elevated body control is not as large as you'd think– at least until you crash into your first pothole. In fact, the C55's duality, its ability to cruise serenely yet mug a corner and murder a straight, raises an important question. Why the Hell aren't all Mercedes AMG?
The query comes into sharp focus the moment you lower yourself into the car's cabin. Unlike most modern MB products, the C55's cockpit is superbly constructed. From the meaty satisfaction of the leather-wrapped steering wheel, to the way the glove box lid snicks home, the controls and amenities feel like those found in Mercs of old: precise and durable. The doors shut with the time-honored bank vault thunk.
The fit and finish is far better than we've come to expect; especially considering the fact that the donor car is sold largely on the basis of its reasonable monthly payments. Rattles and squeaks are notable only by their absence. The Nappa leather seats are only slightly softer than an Amish church pew, but let's chalk that one up to low mileage. Like the rest of the car– especially the monster engine– you get the impression that the C55's chairs will only improve with age.
Unfortunately, the taste police failed to patrol the perimeter. While I'm a big fan of AMG's current wheels– they signal the car's mechanical strength with complete clarity of purpose– I'm not so sure about the rest of the body mods. The C55's side skirts, boot spoiler, meshed grill, etc. smack of back street tuning. An owner aspiring to The Fast and Furious look would have to do… nothing much. The car wash guys love it, but it doesn't say $55k to me.
Yes, that's right, $55k. That's a whole lot of money to pay for a car that looks like a car that costs $27k. The depreciation must be killer. Yes, but… for some of us, driving a dull car depreciates the soul. Get behind the wheel of the Mercedes Benz C55 and I guarantee you'll live fast and die old.
More by Robert Farago
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