dates : 3rd October 2004
7th October 2004
C55 AMG version of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is so special it
would take a couple of hours to describe each and every detail
that has been re-engineered for this supercar in a four-door
Perhaps the most distinguishing feature to the layman is the
extended nose on the C55, giving it a sleeker, sharper look
than its more conservative C-Class stable mates.
This was not done purely for cosmetic reasons. Fitting the
5,5-litre all-aluminium V8 into the C-Class body required more
space in the engine bay for items like larger radiator
elements and other ancillaries.
The result is a frontal look with headlights more horizontally
laid-out, and a deep spoiler that reduces lift by a claimed 30
There are other AMG visual clues. The car rides lower than
standard on distinctive 18-inch alloy wheels, 7,5J wide in
front and 8,5J at the rear. The track is wider than standard
and the fenders have been subtly flared to accommodate the
wider wheels and tyres.
At the rear, the distinctive AMG apron has been restyled to
house the fat twin tailpipes, signifying that V8 power has
replaced the previous C32 AMG, which uses a supercharged V6
The AMG-tweaked V8 produces 270 kW, 10 per cent more power
than the V6. Torque is up by 60 Newton metres over the V6 to
510 Newton metres, making this new Merc a performance
It will accelerate to 100 km/h in just 5,2 seconds, and surge
effortlessly, almost brutally, to its electronically-limited
top speed of 250 km/h.
Perhaps even more exciting than the engine is the new
transmission package that Mercedes has introduced on the C55.
This is the AMG Speedshift, which has been tailored
specifically to the sporty V8 sedan, and is yet another
variation on clutchless, paddle-shift performance
transmissions seen in cars like the BMW M3 and the new Audi TT
Unlike these Merc rivals, the AMG Speedshift still utilizes a
conventional five-speed automatic transmission.
However, it features a manual programme that does not allow
any automatic up-or down-shifting once a gear is selected.
This offers the control that sporty drivers have always missed
in a full, fluid drive automatic.
The two other programmes are C for Comfort and S, which stands
for Standard. In Comfort the shift points are programmed early
in the rev range for gentle driving, while in S or Standard
mode they occur at higher revs.
Shifting can be operated in any of the three modes, either by
the centrally-mounted gear-lever or by the buttons on the rear
of the special AMG steering wheel.
The latest version of the Mercedes-Benzís Electronic
Stability Programme, or ESP, has been employed in this car, as
illustrated by its almost uncanny prowess through a
As Clint demonstrates in this safe track environment at
Wesbank Raceway at speeds of up to 140 km/h, the C55 will
brake individual wheels to ensure that the driverís chosen
path is adhered to, even when the tyres under extreme loads of
have broken traction.
Body roll is at an absolute minimum and the carís progress
is fluid and fast.
Grand-standing to show the carís fun aspect and enormous
reserves of power is something every AMG driver would like to
do. But not on the public road system!
To enable this spectacular oversteer attitude, or tail-slide
in laymanís terms, the ESP was dialed out using a special
switch installed on this particular car for demonstration
Production models have a limited switch out function that
enables limited oversteer, but the ESP still kicks in when the
car gets seriously out of shape.
Suspension specifications include lower and stiffer springs,
special damping and even re-enforced wheelbearings, suspension
arms and a high capacity rear-axle cooler.
When indulging in such antics, the AMG sports seats hold the
driver and front passenger firmly in place. These have
increased lateral supports in both the squab or seat base and
the backrest. They are covered in Nappa leather with Alcantara
inserts for subtle, sporty look.
Although the C55 AMG has been configured with sporty driving
as a priority, it features more than its share of creature
comforts, as a car costing R585 000 should!
These include rain-sensing windscreen wipers, and Thermotronik
climate control that uses sensors continuously monitoring
interior and ambient temperatures and humidity.
Top quality audio and a satellite navigation system are
standard, as is electric adjustment on the seats and steering
Bi-Xenon lights are also standard, and the driver will always
be aware he is in a special C-Class thanks to the AMG-specific
instrument cluster with a speedo calibrated to 320 km/h.
In the past 10 years some 20 000 of these special AMG-developed
Mercedes C-Class machines have been sold worldwide.
This 5,5-litre example, which has its engine hand-built and
signed by the individual technician responsible for its
assembly, is the most impressive example to date.
At just under R600 000 itís expensive if viewed as a rather
ordinary-looking medium-sized sedan. But for those who
appreciate the ultimate in engineering and road dynamics, itís
actually something of a bargain.
Car Torque is