Overall rating: 4/5
A slew of new 'AMG-lite' models are due to be launched under the AMG Sport banner, offering up decent options that sit halfway between full-on AMG cars like the new C 63 and regular Mercedes-Benz models. One of the first is this, the C 450 AMG Sport 4Matic. It'll not be on sale in Ireland for some time yet, but it makes for a well-polished all-rounder, with the added security of all-wheel drive.
In the Metal:
Mercedes didn't make the C 450's job any easier by launching it to the media at the same event as the Mercedes-AMG C 63. The latter looks considerably more purposeful and hunkered down. Nonetheless, in isolation, the C 450 AMG Sport is a handsome car, with just the right amount of muscularity to make it interesting. In a bright colour it's very eye-catching, but buyers that would prefer to go under the radar will approve of how subtle it looks in a more subdued paint finish. As with the C 63, we reckon this model looks far better in estate guise.
Inside, the C 450 gets its own specific treatment, with lots of black Artico (man-made leather) and red stitching, plus bolstered sports seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel as standard. The instruments even mimic those of the full-on AMG model.
While the C 63 is undoubtedly the performance flagship of the C-Class range, and its dynamics reflect that positioning, the C 450 gives a rather good account of itself, as we found driving in convoy with the former on a twisty and challenging back road. The C 63 pulls away in the straights and is the more exciting car overall, but the AMG Sport model clings on gamely and is quite fun when you switch it into Sport + mode especially. That brings with it a more audible engine note and the biturbo 3.0-litre V6 sounds great. Throttle blips on down changing and gratuitous pops from the exhaust are all present and correct too, reminding you it's no C 180 CDI with a body kit you're driving.
Yet on the motorway the C 450 is considerably quieter than the full-on AMG model, making it more relaxed and comfortable when that's what you want. Where the C 63 tips the balance in favour of performance and engaging dynamics, the AMG Sport car favours everyday usability, with a healthy dose of fun thrown in to justify the badge on the boot. The ace up the C 450's sleeve is its 4Matic four-wheel drive system. While we didn't get to appreciate the added traction on dry roads at the launch, it should make for a fantastically usable sports saloon/estate even when the weather turns bad.
What you get for your Money:
Right-hand drive production of 4Matic (four-wheel drive) examples of the C-Class is not due to commence until 2016, so pricing for the C 450 isn't even up for discussion as yet. Saying that, there's a rather large gap between the current C 250 AMG model (confusingly, nothing more than a trim level, with styling updates rather than any real AMG involvement) at €51,470 and the new C 63 car, which starts at €96,000. We'd expect a single and generously appointed specification for that price level.
Although the C 450 comes with four-wheel drive, it has been tuned to feel distinctly rear-driven. Only 33 per cent of the engine's output is sent to the front wheels. This model also comes with bigger brakes (360mm discs up front, 320mm at the back), specific tuning of the electromechanical, speed-sensitive power steering and AMG Ride Control sports suspension with three stages of damping adjustment.
Ostensibly living in the shadow of the Mercedes-AMG C 63, the new C 450 AMG Sport model actually carves out its own niche. It proves to be the better all-rounder for those that are likely to spend more time driving their car at 'normal' speeds and the standard 4Matic four-wheel drive means it'll be brilliant in all weather. One to watch for 2016.