Blown Job : Mercedes-Benz C 32 AMG revisited

Car Specifications
Engine: 
3199cc
Cylinder Layout: 
V6, 18-valves
Top Speed: 
250km/h (electronically limited)
Transmission: 
5-Speed SPEEDSHIFT Auto
0-100km/h: 
5.2 seconds
Power: 
354bhp at 6100rpm
Torque: 
450Nm at 4400rpm
Features: 
  • Balanced Chassis
  • Engine pulls strongly
  • Nimble handling
  • Not at all nose-heavy

Cult Car Central revisits the Mercedes-Benz C 32 AMG                                     Original Review HERE

Vital Statistics
Car: Mercedes-Benz C 32 AMG
Year of Manufacture: 2002
Owners: 3
Original Registration: 2nd Nov 2004
Mileage: 65+k km
Revisited: 14th March 2010
Everybody we know starts out as big fans of BMW's M cars, often seen loudly 'pooh-poohing' any vehicle to wear the three-pointed star... But that's before they actually sample Mercedes-Benz's finest rivals against M... AMG.

Like Rolex, newcomers to the passion that is cars tend to regard Mercedes-Benz cars as possessing a 'fuddy-duddy' image. However, stick with it long enough and you start to learn more about sports Rolexes (and how much more 'in-house' they are compared to so many other pretenders, but that's a whole'nother story)... and similarly, sports Mercedes-Benz machines.

 

In recent times, the engine capacities of AMG cars have swelled to ginormous proportions, which should cause some slight concern in Singapore, where the road tax is computed as a multiplier of the car's engine capacity. In a nutshell, we're looking at close to S$9,500 a year on just road tax alone for a C/E/S/CLK 63 AMG and marginally less for the earlier '55' counterpart.

5-speed SpeedShift; left-right worked the gears up/down

Of course, this isn't likely to be a huge concern to the people who are in the market for an AMG in the first place, since it's typically intended to be a 'daily runner' in addition to the exotics in their garages.

the bassy burble from the oval tail-pipes is addictive

However, for a car as compact as the C Class, one expects a certain amount of agility and adroitness to its handling dynamics (unlike the autobahn-devouring appetites of the larger '63' variants), which is where having an oversized V8 up front might not be the best idea.

'AMG' for real

Of course, never mind the fact that a V8 soundtrack is pure music to one's ears, it is telling to note that even BMW shoe-horned 'a small capacity V8' into the current M3, most likely in the interests of preserving the well-balanced handling characteristics of the compact 3er, not to mention the immense tax-savings enjoyed with a 4L vs a 6.3L (in the case of Singapore owners). 

IHI supercharger gives the 3.2L ample grunt

All this kind'a brings us to the C 32 AMG. We tried it when it was first launched in Singapore and we enjoyed it loads then... (Full press release HERE)

But what typically sets a Cult Car apart from the herd is its ability to transcend time and generation in terms of driving experience and ownership cachet. It's not just about new, newer, newest, because as time has so ably proven, so many 'good ideas' of whichever era have ultimately floundered, faltered, failed and ended up in the gutter.

The first thing that strikes us about the car is how pristine and well-kept everything is. No kerb-rashes on the gorgeous AMG alloy rims, the panels also seem to be pleasantly free from door-dings and apart from a few light scuffs, the interior is tip-top and certainly belies the car's 6-year vintage (even the mileage of just under 64,000km is remarkably low).

nappa leather 2-tone seats are comfortable yet supportive

Like the BMW M cars, AMG prides itself on functional yet discreet body addendum. The rims are necessarily oversized (although 17inch was standard, this car has 18s) to accommodate the larger brake callipers and cross-drilled disc rotors (345x30mm front; 300x22mm rear).

Of course, we can't forget the AMG body-kit consisting of a deeper air-dam, side-skirts and a muscular rear apron from underneath peek out a pair of distinctive AMG twin oval tail-pipes. Even by today's standards, the C 32 AMG's styling is refreshingly stealth: no bulging fender flares, multiple exhaust pipes, outrageous body-kits and/or all-of-the-above.

Basically, the C 32 AMG comes from an era where the saying, "speak softly, but carry a big stick" still meant something.

Car is about 6 years old but mileage is <64,000km

To the uninitiated, the AMG sill-plates and sports pedals 'could' have been add-ons inflicted on some lesser model C Class. Then you spot the 'C 32' emblem on the gear-shifter, the bespoke AMG instrument cluster (with 300km/h on the meter baby!) and sumptuous 2-tone seats that are still in the original Nappa leather two-tone cladding.

ESP off means ridiculously easy tail-out fun

As you sink yourself into the seats, they prove to be so comfortable and supportive that the last thing on your mind is 'sporty', but on the move, the contours and ergonomics of the front seats really hang snugly to you as you're carving up corners with wild abandon...

VIDEO HERE

With a veritable zillion ways to electronically-adjust the seats/steering wheel, it's almost impossible not to settle into an ideal driving position. Also the ergonomics of the controls for stereo, climate control and most importantly... ESP (on/off), are intuitive and everything is within easy reach of the driver.


Turn the key for the engine to explode to life. For a supercharged engine, the exhaust note is surprisingly sonorous with a delicious bass burble when the gas pedal is depressed.

VIDEO: Listen to it HERE

Despite some initial lethargy, this silver bullet really hustles with a near rabid pace when you plant your foot on the loud pedal, with the rising whine of the supercharger adding a delightful soprano accompaniment to the rousing concerto proceedings of the exhaust.

Thanks to the Kleemann pulleys and ECU, the surge from the supercharger kicks in hard and brutally and it's easy to see how the century sprint can be dispatched in approximately 5 seconds...

ergonomics are perfect; seats snugly supportive without losing comfort

The rate at which the driver's helm inputs are translated to near-instant direction changes is one to appreciate in person. The 3.2L V6 powerplant never makes the car feel nose-heavy, which also means the handling is engaging, as the car is nimble and light on its feet.

intuitive controls for seat/steering-wheel adjustment

The agile chassis inspires much confidence and coupled to the stellar brakes, few cars in this price band can come close to offering a similar aural-visual sensory overload as the C 32 AMG.

ESP can be disabled sufficiently to allow some slip for some slippy, sideways action, not that Motor Prime advocates practising these shenanigans on the open roads of course...

Discreet styling only gives the game away if you know what to look for

The 5-speed automatic transmission is dubbed SPEEDSHIFT and shift operation is executed by nudging the shifter left/right (versus the usual up/down of most Tiptronic-style transmissions). There are also toggles positioned on the rear of the steering-wheel for even easier and faster shifts without removing one's hands from the helm.

Huge brakes offer stupendous stopping power; 18inch rims look the business

Considering this was from an era before DSG became so commonplace, the SPEEDSHIFT offers shifts that are blinding fast, smooth and it never tries to second-guess you, which also means the C 32 AMG can be driven as hard or as softly as you'd like.

Compared to a newer car like the Golf GTI, the C 32 AMG makes an interesting proposition because: 1) you aren't likely to see another in at least a square block, 2) RWD, 3) Stealth and 4) AMG yo!


Ride on the aftermarket KW adjustable suspension is a little firm and comes across as downright harsh over certain surfaces. We remember the original set-up as offering a pliant and well-controlled ride and tweaked to offer feelsome steering communication (the W203 is the first of the C Class' to feature rack-pinion versus the earlier recirculating ball systems)


Thankfully, the car can still be aimed with some degree of precision, which when coupled to its compact proportions, makes for an entertaining and lively drive.

We always hear about enthusiasts preferring to take the 'longer route' to work/home to enjoy the drive; well with the C 32 AMG, we did find ourselves taking the longer route from point to point in the course of our time with the car!


photos by dk

AMG and Mercedes-Benz
Since 1.1.1999, DaimlerChrysler AG has held a 51 per cent stake in Mercedes-AMG GmbH. It has been agreed that by the end of 2008, DaimlerChrysler will take over the remaining shares. The phased takeover of this vehicle tuning company based in Affalterbach, near Stuttgart, will secure for DaimlerChrysler the expertise, experience and manpower of a partner whose name has for many years been a byword for top-quality, high-performance vehicles and particularly sporty design.

At the operational level, the cooperation between DaimlerChrysler and Mercedes-AMG GmbH has also benn affected by the changed shareholding structure. Affalterbach is responsible, in consultation with Stuttgart, for the development of high-performance and luxury vehicles, and for sporty design. Mercedes-AMG is involved in the development of new model ranges right from the start, from the drawing up of the specifications book through to full-scale production.

This ensures that the sporting ambitions of Mercedes-AMG drivers are taken into account in the design of the basic vehicle and that the customary high Mercedes quality standards are fulfilled at all times.

Customer vehicles are built in tandem by the DaimlerChrysler manufacturing plants and Mercedes-AMG GmbH in Affalterbach, where all the necessary facilities are available to build either small-scale series or individually customised vehicles hand-crafted to the customer's specifications.

Customers enjoy the added advantage of being able to order their AMG-Mercedes via the Mercedes-Benz sales organisation. Since every AMG vehicle is a fully-fledged Mercedes-Benz, the full scope of Mercedes-Benz service and warranty applies to all vehicles.

All new Mercedes-AMG models also come with the Mercedes-Benz lifelong mobility and corrosion warranty, mobilo-life. The corporate aim of Mercedes-AMG GmbH is to offer customers tailor-made Mercedes-Benz vehicles of the highest quality.

Summary
Ostensibly to compete against the BMW M3 (with its naturally-aspirated 3.2L in-line 6 engine), the C 32 AMG had a huge Plus in its favour - four-doors. Fans of the blue-white Roundel lamented the loss of a sedan variant of the M3 with the E46; however this has made a comeback with the current E9x M3. Of course, critics were never terribly enamoured with the Benz's supercharger and automatic transmission combo. However, re-visited some 6 years later (this car was originally registered in 2004), we find that the C 32 AMG checks all the right boxes as a sublimely-balanced sports sedan, even by today's standards: comfortable, effortlessly fast, agile. - dk
Photos: 
5-speed SpeedShift; left-right worked the gears up/down
the bassy burble from the oval tail-pipes is addictive
'AMG' for real
IHI supercharger gives the 3.2L ample grunt
nappa leather 2-tone seats are comfortable yet supportive
Car is about 6 years old but mileage is <64,000km
ESP off means ridiculously easy tail-out fun
ergonomics are perfect; seats snugly supportive without losing comfort
intuitive controls for seat/steering-wheel adjustment
Discreet styling only gives the game away if you know what to look for
Huge brakes offer stupendous stopping power; 18inch rims look the business
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