Quinta do Lago, Portugal – Amid the flashbulbs and breathless chatter surrounding the new C63 and C63 S sports sedans from Mercedes-AMG, it would be easy enough to overlook a similar but more subdued model parked quietly nearby. That would be a mistake. The new 2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG 4Matic coming this fall might lack the rip-roaring brawn of its V-8-powered siblings, but it’s a crackerjack of a car in its own right. It some ways, it even outshines its costlier and faster brethren.
No twin-turbo V-8 here. Instead, the C450 uses a smaller, lighter, twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 making 362 hp and 384 lb-feet of torque. Obviously, the C450 can’t match the V-8 cars in straight-line go, but the drop is less than you’d probably guess: Mercedes claims 0 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds versus 4.0 for the C63. Like the base Mercedes-AMG C63, top speed is electronically governed to 155 mph.
As in the C63, a seven-speed automatic is standard, but it’s a different unit than in the V-8 cars. Nonetheless, the C450’s 7G-Tronic Plus shifter offers the same full manual control (via paddle shifters) and a choice of increasingly aggressive shift programs. While ultimately not as light-switch quick as the AMG Speedshift MCT unit, manual shifts in Sport Plus mode are satisfyingly brisk.
The C63’s AMG-designed front suspension, crafted largely of aluminum, essentially carries over into the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG 4Matic. Indeed, the C450’s three-stage AMG adaptive sport dampers closely mimic those in the C63, allowing easy adjustment of suspension stiffness at the touch of a button. Of course, the C450 goes a step further via the addition of 4Matic all-wheel drive. Torque is split 33 percent front and 67 percent rear, delivering the lively handling dynamics of a rear-drive car with a measure of useful added traction up front. Plenty of buyers in snowbound states are sure to welcome the all-wheel drive, too.
Driven in the twisting mountain roads above the seaside resort town of Quinta do Lago — where the late Ayrton Senna owned a home he planned to return to after that fateful 1994 F1 race at Imola — the C450 feels like no kind of compromise at all. Sure, the C63 and C63 S are quicker, but the C450 is electrifying in its own way. First, it seems lighter, nimbler than the V-8 cars; the nose points with delightful quickness. Second, the electromechanical speed-sensitive sports steering offers the same sublime response and feedback as the C63, with a choice of four modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus) to tailor effort just the way you want it. And third, thanks to the C450’s reduced torque and added 4Matic system, it powers out of turns with absolutely no drama or threat of tail-wagging. It’s a blast to drive hard.
Best of all, under full throttle in Sport Plus mode, the engine computer slightly delays ignition and injection during gear changes, quickening the shifts. A happy byproduct of this action is a Jaguar-like snap and crackle from the exhaust. The rifle-shot sounds are even more pronounced during downshifts. Once I realized this, I found myself quickly backing off the gas entering corners just to hear the engine bark and spit in the overrun. Lovely stuff.
Compared with the V-8 cars, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG 4Matic makes some trade-offs in the cockpit, but you’d hardly notice. Instead of the rich Nappa hides in the C63 S, you’ll find standard synthetic MB-Tex upholstery (leather is optional), while the audio system is a Audio 20 unit instead of the superlative Burmester rig in the C63. That said, you can order carbon fiber and aluminum trim just as in the V-8 cars.
At an expected base price of around $53,000, the C450 AMG 4Matic will make an alluring option for buyers not willing to shell out for the top-model C63 S. In fact, at roughly $10,000 less, in many ways it seems a smarter buy than the standard C63.
This much is indisputable, though: AMG has really got its groove on.
2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG 4Matic Specifications
- On Sale: Fall
- Base price: $52,000 (est)
- Engine: 3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/362 hp @ 5,500-6,000 rpm, 384 lb-ft @ 2,000-4,200 rpm
- Transmission: 7-speed automatic
- Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan
- L x W x H: 187.2 x 71.3 x 56.1 in
- Wheelbase: 111.8 in
- EPA Mileage: 18/26 mpg city/highway (est)
- Weight: 3,800 lb (est)
- 0-60 mph: 4.9 sec
- Top speed: 155 mph