From the Archives: 2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG

Impressive, futuristic without being intimidating, but above all really, really good at everything. Your writer tends to brainstorm recollections of a car after he has experienced it, and usually it takes time to reach a conclusion. Not so with the C450. My experience began inside a dealership, moving into the parking lot, and, as such, I was familiar with both the C450s exterior and interior by the time I came to drive it.

There’s a subtle level of detail in each. The exterior particularly works for me, with more classic sedan proportions than the front-wheel drive CLA. I could sit in the back of the C in perfect comfort while the driving seat in front was adjusted for my driving position. l am 5’11 and 170lbs. The steering wheel has some nice suede-feeling stuff in you palms.

Driving is an exercise in minimalism. The shift knob is on the right of the column and feels like a wiper switch—up for drive, down for reverse, and push the silver knob on the end for park. It is shocking how highly automated the driving experience has already become. It has plenty of the smooth civilizedness you would expect from a $60k Mercedes-Benz when pottering around town.

Our test route featured some freeway and a winding hill road. The right foot/butt test reveals a disarmingly good drive. Big roaring AMG motor. Rear-wheel drive feel. A planted, solid feel with a taut chassis and direct, responsive steering makes the car very easy to place on turns at speed. In town, the same steering was feather-light, with an excellent turning circle for car park footling.

The brakes seemed particularly stellar, and, while the outright stopping power was impressive, it was the feel which was outstanding, allowing easy modulation of rate of deceleration. Thus the performance is fully exploitable. Turbo lag was imperceptible to this tester. Overall, the package felt AMG, and easily capable of bringing out the Teutonic barbarian in one’s driving.

For many years certain Swiss cantons have had traffic switch off engines while waiting at intersections, not allowing the continual wasteful idling of motors as cars wait for the light to change. Systems were developed to allow the engine to automatically switch off when the car stops moving, restarting as soon as the driver lifts off the brake and prods the gas. As part of fuel-saving measures, all the German makers now offer these systems in the US market too. A few years ago, your Luddite left-handed writer managed to confuse the BMW system. It would switch off rolling through toll booths, but stay running at city traffic lights. The Benz system seemed considerably more intuitive, with no perceptible delay as the engine restarted in the instant between lifting a foot off the brake and onto the gas. Even in this Eco mode the C450 retained a sporting character, responding enthusiastically to a stab of throttle.

Inside the C has a higher central console than the E class, making the C feel considerably more compact. There’s a funny little joystick affair to control the infotainment. We commented on the nice dark-stained wood insert on the console, and learned that apparently Mercedes searched hither and yon for someone who could bend wood just so “… eventually they found this dude in Sweden who could… it’s the centerpiece of the interior design… anyway, that’s what the training video says. There’s more on the doors…” a MB rep told me, and indeed there is, and one has to admit it does look pretty classy, integrating high tech with olde worlde materials without it looking cheesy is good design indeed.

Hitherto, your writer has heaped scorn on the Mercedes-Benz-branded all-wheel drive system, 4matic, being more a C63 AMG/rear-wheel-drive-only kind of a guy, but I am rather eating my words with the C450 AMG, even as I realize this is not a full-fat AMG. I love the C450 AMG, not because it is charismatic—it isn’t—but because of its sheer excellence.