A couple months ago, I was fortunate enough to get some (limited) seat time in a Dodge Challenger Hellcat — an American, 707 horsepower ode to excessive power with a manual transmission. And while I respected the car for what it was (utter insanity), and was glad I got the chance to drive it, my takeaway was a feeling of disappointment. On public roads its abilities were truncated; you just can’t enjoy its power without a track.
The Hellcat is by no means a bad car — far from it, it’s fantastic — but its existence is emblematic of my main gripe with modern performance cars: what’s the point of all that power if you don’t get to use it? I’m no crotchety fist-shaker who doesn’t dare drive more than five miles over the speed limit, but I am a sensible person who wants to enjoy a car, every day and within reason. AMGs have traditionally occupied the same territory as the Hellcat — they’re hyper-tuned, über-fast versions of everyday cars with power in excess. But Affalterbach’s C450 AMG isn’t that car, and it’s better for it.
The C450 AMG is, as you could probably guess by the lack of AMG’s de rigueur three-character alphanumeric in its name, not a traditional offering from Mercedes’s performance sub-brand. Rather, it’s an entry point for those looking to land a sweet piece of the AMG brand without the requisite price tag, as well as a gap-bridging model between standard C-Class models and their pumped-up, skunkworks brethren. That sounds like an underwhelming sell, but it’s a standout in its lineup simply because the result is AMG’s rare use of restraint.
Mercedes C450 AMG Specs
Engine: 3.0-liter biturbo V6
Transmission: seven-speed automatic
Drive System: rear-biased 4Matic AWD
Horsepower: 362 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 384 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
0 to 60: 4.8 seconds
The C450 AMG uses a hand-built twin-turbo V6 that puts out 362 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque — that’s enough to do 0-60 in 4.8 seconds. For what it’s worth, for almost $15,000 more you can have the base C63, which grants you two more cylinders, 107 more horsepower and 93 lb-ft of torque, and it’ll drop that 60 mph stint down to 4.0 seconds. But what you don’t get in that car that you do get in the C450 is a 4Matic AWD system with a 33/67 percent torque split, front and rear respectively.
On the road that translates to usable performance. The 4Matic’s rearward bias means the surefooted traction of an AWD system, but there’s still a rear-wheel-drive characteristic to it. The car cedes some traction at the back for some ever-so-slight sliding, but it is by no means out of hand. It’s calculating and inspires confidence; safe yet fun.
Put your foot on the gas and hear its throaty growl. Take it off and the machine gun-like “pop-pop-pop” on the overrun follows.
The lower power output means that you can put the car through its paces without flying off the road. Step on the gas, let the revs build, click the paddle to shift and do it all the way up to your own driving limit. You can be certain that you aren’t letting too much of the car’s ability go to waste, and the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 still has a maniacal AMG quality to it. Put your foot on the gas and hear its throaty growl. Take it off and the machine gun-like “pop-pop-pop” on the overrun follows.
If there were grievance to be had, one could argue that in filling a market gap, the AMG brand has been diluted. But in doing so, AMG made a sport sedan that’s everything you need it to be: capable, fun and comfortable, ideal for daily road use as well as spirited Sunday drives. And with an entry price that undercuts its “real AMG” equivalent by nearly $15,000, it comes in at an incredible value, brand identity be damned.