After driving it last month, we concluded that the all-new 2016 BMW 340i (review here) is the new benchmark in the sport sedan segment. Its suspension geometry, the handling, and the new engine made it one of the best new cars we drove in 2015. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG arrived at our doorsteps for evaluation. We had already sampled the new C-Class (chassis code W205) in C400 form, and it earned itself a glowing review, so I was interested to see how the C450 fits into the successful lineup.
Those who purchased 2015 C400s (our review) might feel a bit cheated by Mercedes-Benz. After all, with all of the hype behind the new C-Class, including a late-year introduction for the hot C63, the C400 sat at the top of its segment for a few months. Halfway through 2015 though, Mercedes-Benz announced that it would be replaced with the C450 AMG, which was an excellent midway point between the four-cylinder C300 and the mental C63 (review here). Great – but would the C450 actually be deserving of the legendary name of Mercedes-Benz’s in-house performance division? To find out, we spent a week with a hot-off-the-press C450 AMG equipped with 4MATIC all-wheel-drive and a series of options checked off.
AMG as a brand is expanding its North American presence over the next few model years. This is done via the introduction of a couple of new models that are 7/10 versions of the full-on AMGs. The C450 and GLE450 AMG Coupé are the first we receive, soon to be followed by a series of others. These engines aren’t hand-built like the full bore AMG models, but they do have AMG sport suspension tuning, a red accent on the engine bay, a sport exhaust system (more on this later), AMG exterior accessories, and some special interior bits. Does the C450 AMG feel exactly like the C63 that we gave last year’s “Best Sports Sedan” award to? Not quite, but it’s certainly something special.
Beneath the C450’s bonnet is a 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6, not too different from the one in the outgoing C400. Tweaked significantly for this application, the V6 pushes out 362 horsepower at 6,000RPM, and 384 lb-ft of torque at 2,000RPM. These are increases of 33 horses and 30 lb-ft, respectively, and the car feels like it packs significantly more than that. It’s worth mentioning that neither the BMW 340i nor the upcoming Audi S4 offer dual-clutch transmissions – both offer ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmissions. Mercedes-Benz has always manufactured their own transmissions, and the seven-speed automatic in this car is exceptional.
This car accelerates like a bat out of hell, and that’s no exaggeration. There’s an ever-so-slight hint of turbo lag from the twin-turbo V6, but if the car is kept in the right gear (either by using the paddle shifters or leaving the Agility Select in the “Sport” or “Sport+” settings), it’s virtually unnoticeable. Throttle response is impeccably sharp, and the chassis is simply remarkable. The C450 AMG feels like a completely different animal from the C300 that it shares its skeleton with – there’s simply no comparison there.
But even after I got used to how balanced the chassis can feel with the suspension settings dialed in correctly, and how responsive the new boosted V6 can feel, nothing could have prepared me for the most unexpected part of this car. When out for a test run the day I received the C450 AMG, I had all of the variables in their sportiest settings, and the transmission in manual shift mode. I went into a long tunnel, and decided to open the sunroof a little bit to hear the exhaust. To my surprise, the exhaust was easily the best part of the car – it makes pops, crackles, and sharp bangs like the screening of Tropic Thunder. It quiets down in the “Comfort’ setting, but the noise this car makes is not far off from the Jaguar F-Type V6 (review here).
With rivals like BMW and Audi, held in very high regard for their handling and purity, the Mercedes-Benz has some pretty tough competition. Somehow though, they’ve managed to make a car that keeps a smile on the driver’s face planted just as firmly as the suspension and chassis right through the corners. The steering is electrically assisted but is very responsive, tackling each curve with eagerness and confidence. The Agility Select system alters steering weight to adjust response in that regard, but there isn’t much analog feel here. No surprise, because we’re in the age of computers and technology.
After spending a week and approximately 500km behind the wheel of the C450 AMG, I was interested to see how it did on fuel. The internal computers were indicating that I had averaged 11.6L/100km in combined driving. It’s probably worth mentioning that even with a heavy percentage of highway driving, I was making full use of the sport exhaust and light-hearted nature of the car. On straight highway hauls, I was observing numbers as low as 9.4L/100km, which is great for a car offering almost 400 horsepower. The tank will accept 68L of premium 91-octane fuel.
Okay, so this car is good to drive – that’s the understatement of the century. But how does it stack up against the 340i, the Infiniti Q50 (see review here), and even the now-obsolete C400? Results will be subjective, but the AMG badges on the side of the C450 feel a lot more appropriate than the M-Sport badges on the 340i. The Q50’s 3.7L V6 is outdated by about a decade, but still provides instantaneous response. Both Germans are more competent handlers, and the C450 is right at the heels of the 340i in this regard. The overall package, and the size of the grin on my face, makes the C450 a clear segment leader in my books.
Enter the C450 AMG’s cockpit, and you’ll be treated to almost all of the things that buyers of the C63 pay for. The one-piece AMG seats are optional, but our car had the extremely comfortable red AMG Nappa leather seats that have full adjustability and adjustable lumbar support. The cockpit is beautifully finished, with Dark Ash open-pore wood lining the dashboard and metallic accents throughout. The small column-stalk shifter (that’s no bigger than other manufacturers’ windshield wiper stalks) makes for a ton of space in the actual center console, and the well-organized layout means the cabin feels airy and bright at all times.
The infotainment is COMAND-based, like everything else in the comprehensive Mercedes-Benz family. As with other current C-Class models, there is a touchpad located atop the actual controller, which I found to be a bit redundant. The system itself is a breeze to use, and the 8.4” screen, though not a touchscreen, has a brilliant display. The reverse camera is very high resolution and displays a clear image in all lighting conditions, and the Burmester audio (standard on all C450 models) boasts unmatched clarity through a variety of different music genres.
The C-Class can be had for as little as $43,800 for a base C300 sedan, and all models sold in Canada come with 4MATIC all-wheel-drive as standard equipment. A step up to the C450 AMG will run you back a hefty $55,900, which is right in line with the 340i’s entry price. Our C450 was equipped with the Premium Package, which adds COMAND with navigation, Parktronic, and the integrated garage door opener, for $4,500. The AMG Nappa leather is $1,990, the stunning Obsidian Black Metallic paint is $890, Active LED lighting for $1,200, and finally, a heads-up display for $1,500. The sticker just crested the $65,000 mark before taxes and other fees – again, just dollars off the sticker on the loaded 340i we drove.
In my eyes, the luxury sport sedan segment is one that had gone a bit dry in recent years. The previous-generation C-Class (excluding the C63) was nothing to get excited over, and the 335i also became rather numb, leaving the Audi S4 to lead the class. With a series of new entries this year though, things have changed for the better – we can only expect good things from the forthcoming 2017 S4, too. For now though, there is a king, and he hails from Germany. The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG is a car I got into expecting it to be very good, but not all that exciting. This car took all of my expectations and shattered them, with a charming personality that caused me to fall in love all over again each time I got behind the wheel.