The new Mercedes-Benz C 450 AMG 4MATIC
Mercedes may have found the sweet spot between the civil commuter C-Class and nut-job C 63 AMG with the new C 450 AMG 4MATIC
Last year, we drove the all-new C-Class and thought that Mercedes-Benz had done a commendable job of combining luxury and relative affordability. Then we drove the C 63 AMG - the compact hotrod that rushed our adrenalin like few others. But both these cars have driving dynamics that are worlds apart, and they serve either only the civilised citizen or the "hooligan". But what about the middle-of-the-road people wanting a bit of both?
To answer that question, we test the near-Dh300,000 Mercedes-Benz C 450 AMG 4MATIC, a car that Mercedes thinks has the goods to satisfy most, if not all.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
But first, a history lesson. The genesis of Mercedes' much-loved compact sedan - the C-Class - dates back to 1992. It came on as the replacement for the 190, and has become such an integral part of our roads that we wouldn't be surprised if some of you readers owned one.
The current generation W205 model has been around for a few years and we are quite familiar with its miniaturised flagship S-Class appearance, set apart by only its dimensions - 4,702mm long, 2,020mm wide and 1,429mm tall.
What it inherits from the S-Class are those curved LED daytime runners and the stacked LED headlamps. Mind you, Merc has been adopting this look across the range, thus
becoming more like Audi. Instead of the two-blade grille you get in the regular C-Class, the C 450 is endowed with the innovative diamond grille, adorned with chrome nibs, as seen on the A-Class. Below all that busyness is a wide-mouthed AMG-styled air-intake. On the front-side wing, there's an AMG badge, which you can point out to your friends, if they deny this car's AMG association. The rear lighting design is highlighted by wrap-around LED lamps with fine detailing just like on the S-Class - except this has a set of two strips instead of three.
But it's not all hunky dory. This is a handsome visual proposition that strikes a balance of sport and luxury, but the problem is it looks like everything else from the C-Class sub-brand. Sure, you have quad exhaust tips borrowed from the C 63, a lip spoiler on the boot, and the new 19" wheels with black-painted bits, but there is nothing on it that says 'I just spent Dh300,000'.
That being said, this is still arguably the best-looking German executive sedan - the over-engineered looks of the BMW equivalent just don't cut it and the all-new A4 is nothing but a scene on a billboard (until we test one, that is).
Where the C-class really shines is in the interiors. In fact, entry level German luxury has never looked this good. Merc has done well, mixing ergonomics and a fashion-forward design. Interior highlights in this C 450 include a beefier three-spoke multi-function steering wheel wrapped in alcantara and leather, stitched together in contrasting red threading, and the very-necessary paddle shifters for sporty driving and race-inspired chequered dials on the speedometer, which has been relegated to 280km/h from 320km/h in the C 63. Also, instead of the AMG-specific awkwardly shaped short shifter, things have been made easier by the shifter stalk on the steering column, freeing up space on the centre-console.
Other memorable cabin fixtures include the flowing one-piece centre-console base, which comes with a wooden trim, an organised set of toggle switches finished in a silver satin tone, and beautiful circular air vents that can be adjusted to any angle on the x and y axis. And just like that, Mercedes-Benz has made plastic fantastic again! There is also an analogue clock to retain some old school charm, but we'd have preferred it positioned higher up on the console.
Passengers will be further
enticed by the floating iPad-like media screen. The standard size is 7", but the C 450 gets you 8.4" of the rectangular arrangement and all things on screen are controlled by the innovative black touch pad which goes over the familiar COMAND rotary controller, like a cowl. The touch device is cool-looking and can be used to swipe and recognise handwriting, but has a reserved response, meaning we had to go back to using the iDrive-like controller more often than we liked.
Seating arrangement is snug in general, and the curvature of the front seats will suit the vertebral structure of most people. Some may find the padding slim and tough. The rear seats are good for those below 5'9". The rest will never have felt taller with their hair grazing the sloping ceiling. Thigh support is not the best either.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
The C 450 is not a true AMG model, so its motor isn't built using the 'one man, one engine' philosophy. Also, the nameplate wants you to believe that this has a 4.5L V8 engine under the hood, but it doesn't. Instead, what you get is a red aluminium cover over a wholesome bi-turbo 3L V6.
If you apply the law of averages, you will find that this engine's displacement sits perfectly between the 4L V8 found in the C63 and the base model's turbocharged 2L inline 4-cylinder. And you can apply that formula to just about any output figure. Say, for example, torque, which is our favourite word and number. You get oodles of it with turbo engines, and here you get 520Nm, which is available from as low as 2,000rpm. And that's roughly the average of the C63's 700Nm and the C250's 350Nm. The same applies for max power, which is 362bhp in this case. Doing the duty of multiplying torque in the C 450 is the AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT seven-speed sport transmission.
This car is so quick, low-slung supercars from 20 years ago will wish they were a German family sedan. You can clock 0-100km/h runs in 4.9 seconds even without switching on the complex algorithms required for launch control. But what takes the cake is the throttle response - dab the throttle and you feel like you've been kicked in the rear once. Continue to keep your right foot planted and you're hurled forward. Thankfully, unlike blown engines of yore, turbo lag is virtually non-existent.
Whether on the track or meandering through the city, a good reliable set of brakes is a good friend to have and you'd be happy to know that, through those slim-spoke alloys, you can see massive ventilated rotors. Fortunately, there is great linear pedal feel and good stopping power. The rear-biased all-wheel drive 4MATIC system means the car is decidedly grippy around corners at most speeds.
As we roamed the highways at speed and crawled through mall parking, the C 450 did enough to comfort us with its ride quality. But long hours will bring some displeasure. Turbo charged engines usually sound a bit mechanical, but in this, however synthesised it may be, both the engine and exhaust noises are in tune with each other. When revved, the light burble grows to a throaty growl with the occasional crackle, and it's a great and strange thing, especially because you don't expect this kind of visceral noise from a family sedan.
The C 450 gets the C 63 AMG DYNAMIC SELECT that alters the ego of the car, varying engine noise, dynamic mounts, gearing and ignition mapping at the touch of a button.
Mercedes claims fuel economy figures of 7.6L/100km on a mixed cycle, but in real world driving, when you are rushing to work, late for a game, or just in the mood to put down all 362 horses, the fuel gauge drops pretty quickly. But you can make peace with the environment as this emits only 178g/km. driving like a grandparent, of course.
Regardless of the way you drive, you can always count on the coasting function that decouples the engine from the drivetrain when your foot is off the throttle, and the auto/start function to keep fuel wastage to a minimum.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
The C-Class may be a compact, but Mercedes has baked in practicality expected of a modern car. For example, the boot gives you a clean floor with less obstructive sidewalls, offering 480L of cargo space. Additionally, you also get a deep under-trunk void and a fancy collapsible box for your stuff.
The Burmester audio system with 13-speakers, nine-channel DSP amplifier and a total output of 590 Watts - not to mention those perforated metallic speakers - is just mind-blowing. The thermatic dual zone climate control A/C, thankfully - in the three days of testing - kept us insulated from possible baking in the heat. The Garmin-produced navigation is easy to use and legible, however, the newly introduced touchpad doesn't have the sensitivity of today's smart phones.
Mercedes may not be known to be as safe as some of its Scandinavian counterparts, but it has pretty much everything you could desire of a luxury car - plenty of airbags (seven, if I remember correctly), blind spot monitoring, a 360-degree bird's-eye view camera, collision prevention assist and a heads-up display. It also comes with attention assist that warns of driver drowsiness - which I can't seem to understand or appreciate - and collision prevention assist plus, which helps to avoid rear-ending cars. We never intend on testing any of them, and you shouldn't too. And, finally, I like that the side mirrors fold inward when you lock the car.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C 450 AMG 4MATIC drives down the middle path between AMG aggression and a take-your-kids-to-school mode of transportation. It satisfies speed and luxury in equal measure and is a good compact luxury German sedan, if you can ignore the marginally stiff ride - and the fact that this is a Dh300,000 C-Class.