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First Drive: 2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG 4Matic

Let them eat horsepower! Mercedes' C450 brings AMG absurdity to the masses

As a luxury automaker, Mercedes-Benz certainly produces several versions of the “made it” car — the one you buy to show off exactly how successful you are at life. The most coveted of these models come from its famed tuning house, AMG, and they pack in the most elegance and performance Mercedes can possibly stuff into a passenger vehicle. Unfortunately, they’re often too expensive for anyone without cavernous pockets. So, what do you do if you crave Affalterbach’s finest but aren’t rich enough to own one?

For you, Mercedes has introduced AMG Sport, a new level that bridges the gap between the standard luxury lineup and the performance elites, debuting in the form of both the GLE 450 crossover and the C450 sedan. I took the latter on a jaunt through Knoxville’s twisty back roads to see if this new brand of AMG is worthy of its name.

Baller status

The Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG 4Matic houses a 3.0-liter Biturbo V6 that churns up 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. Power goes to all four wheels by way of a seven-speed automatic transmission.

At first glance, the C450 AMG is a clear mix of the base-model C-class and the 63 AMG performance car. Like its V8-powered big brother, the C450 AMG sports the single-bar grille nestled against a mesh of diamond-shaped chrome pins that radiate from the center logo. If it sounds fancy, that’s because it is. This is just the right amount of bling to separate it from the standard package, yet keep it more casual than the serious-looking AMG.

Other touches like the iridium silver diffuser on the rear and distinctive, sporty air vents convey the performance ambition of the C450.

Made for the loud, young, and affluent

Settling inside the cabin, it’s very clear that Mercedes is targeting young affluent folks who haven’t completely (or refuse to) grow up into professional adults. Instead of supple, genuine leather, the C450 AMG interior is filled with man-made MB-Tex leather with suede-like Dinamica inserts contrast with red stitching. There’s nothing wrong with these imitation materials, but they do feel like less like the Mercedes experience. Toss in bright red seatbelts and checkered-flag-emblazoned gauge faces, and you may be hesitant to take the car — and anyone behind the wheel — seriously.

What do you do if you crave Affalterbach’s finest but can’t own one without going broke?

Regardless of these small nitpicks, the interior is very streamlined and little clutters up the space inside the car, with only the “Comand” infotainment interface and drive select modes occupying the center console. For the dash, a very simple and elegant climate control layout separates minimal media functions from the 8.4-inch Comand screen.

Mercedes-Benz’s Comand system has been the centerpiece for modern Mercedes vehicles across the board, giving not only optional navigation functions, but providing a hub for a myriad of different settings. Here, occupants can go through several different screens and adjust almost every element of the car’s functions and tweak them as preferred. Driving settings can also change up the driving characteristics to their liking. This is done either through the menu or quickly selected by the button on the Comand console. With just a few inputs, the C450 can be configured like an airy, comfortable cruiser, or a fireball ready to attack the track. As we were winding up to cut through some infamous backroads, I chose the latter.

Riding ‘the dragon’

For those unfamiliar with “the dragon,” it’s a notorious stretch of road that runs through the Tennessee and North Carolina border. The windy stretch has been popular with motorcyclists for years, with performance cars quickly joining the mix.

The cars that come to challenge it aren’t usually luxury sedans, but the C450 AMG, among ‘Vettes, bikes, and spoiler-sporting modded racers, caught many by surprise. Under the hood is Mercedes’ 3.0-liter Biturbo V6 that pumps out a very satisfying 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. Laying my foot down and firing through the first kinks in the dragon’s tail, the power plant is quick to respond with little hesitation as it sends juice to all four wheels. Torque in the AMG Sport’s 4Matic is biased to the rear with a 40-60 split, giving the car enough sporty dynamics to be fun while confidently keeping me from going overboard with help from the front.

This is just the right amount of bling to separate it from the standard package, yet keep it more casual than the serious-looking AMG.

Also keeping me on my toes is the seven-speed Speedshift transmission tuned by AMG to quickly select gears as I accelerate, blipping the engine and rev matching automatically when I slow down. The dynamic programming of the ECU (Engine Control Unit) when in Sport Plus mode keeps me at the tachometer’s sweet spot and fully opens up the exhaust valves. It’s not as raucous-sound as a V8 would supply, but it barks with satisfaction.

With a curb weight of 3,727lbs, it’s not the lightest car on the road, but it never feels heavy or that it’s laboring to perform. The multilink independent suspension, which has been tuned by AMG to their specific standards, also made quick work of the series of switchbacks I encountered. The front suspension benefits from AMG-specific components as well.

All told, this translates into a very encouraging mid-size luxury sedan that is very encouraging when it comes to fun backroad detours. Capable of jumping from 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds (4.8 seconds specifically, claims Mercedes), the C450 AMG rarely left me feeling like something was lacking in the performance department.

Impressive when it needs to be

A sedan that manages to fit both luxury and performance comes at a cost. The C450 AMG Sport will start at $50,800, but throw in things like a fully-loaded Comand system, panorama roof, and drive assistants like the Distronic Plus cruise control with cross-traffic assist, and the bottom line can easily climb north of $60,000.

Mercedes and its sporty coupe has tough competition like the top of the line BMW 2-series, the M235i XDrive coupe, and Cadillac’s ATS-V sedan. Starting at around $46,000 and $60,000 respectively, it manages to land in the middle of them. In terms of price, the base price for the BMW edges it out, but when it comes to power, the 464 hp Cadillac takes it home. It’s also not stymied by the electronically limited 155 mph that German cars are usually stuck with.

On a daily basis, it maintains a stellar balance of being subtle enough for all occasions, but with enough of a sporty edge to make an impression when you need it.

At the end of the day, there’s plenty of things to like about the C450 AMG Sport to keep you happy until the lease is up. But sooner than later, go-getters that live for status will chafe at the idea of not having the best of the best, regardless of how good it is. Owning the C450 doesn’t mean you’ve “made it,” but you’re certainly on your way.

The C450 AMG Sport will populate dealer lots throughout the fall.

Highs

  • Responsive Biturbo engine
  • Quick, sporty transmission
  • Subtle yet sexy
  • uncluttered, streamlined interior layout

Lows

  • Faux interior works, it just doesn’t feel “Mercedes-y”
  • Lots of the good tech is a costly addition
  • Gaudy options like “look-at-me!” red seatbelts

Editors' Recommendations

Alexander Kalogianni
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Alex K is an automotive writer based in New York. When not at his keyboard or behind the wheel of a car, Alex spends a lot of…
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