A car with a 260 kW engine still means something nowadays. Nobody supercharges six-cylinder forks with a compressor these days. I think Jaguar was the last one, and today a similar concept is over, instead of a compressor, combustion engines today have electric motors and batteries to help them. We will remember cars with supercharged engines. And I’m glad that my good friend lent me his old fast German station wagon for a few days to see for you how such a car works and if it’s worth sacrificing a lot of money for fuel (not just fuel) so that he can call you Mr. .
Mercedes-Benz from Affalterbach was pure handwork
Just as the small-series Alpina tuned special parts for pre-selected cars and assembled them on special production lines at BMW, AMG decided to assemble specially ordered Mercedes-Benz cars at its premises near Stuttgart in the small village of Affalterbach. AMG has more than fifty years of tradition in modifying and preparing Mercedes-Benz cars for racing or competition purposes, but in some larger series, AMG cars only started to appear in the nineties. AMG has always been about a compact eight-cylinder and absolutely exemplary workmanship, both the bodywork and especially the interior. Each engine was assembled by hand at a special workstation by one experienced engine builder. The engine did not go from operator to operator according to assembly operations, but one specific person was always responsible for it. It is also signed on the intake cover plaque.
The third generation of the small “c-shaped” Mercedes came with a new concept. At that time, it received a brand new V6 engine with a ninety-degree cylinder opening and a Lysholm-type compressor from the IHI company. It is a rather unique solution. At that time, a similar type of compressor with counter-rotating helices was also used by the unique six-cylinder Mazda working in the Miller cycle, known from the Xedos 9. However, in the Mercedes it is a much larger compressor, which reaches maximum Lysholm screw speeds of up to 20,700 rpm. The compressor can suck up to 1200 kg of air per hour. The output of the 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine is already the 260 kW (354 hp) mentioned above, and the engine generates 455 Nm of torque. This is a huge difference to the naturally aspirated V6 engine from Mercedes, which was its model. AMG managed to add a straight 100 kW (137 hp) and heaps of torque to go with it. That is also why the engine was assembled by hand by specially trained engine engineers and all components were specified by suppliers only in the highest quality.
Expensive and exclusive
Big money has always been paid for the AMG brand. The regular executive sedan W203 200 CDI ranged in 2003, from which our test car is based, on the price tag of 27,608 euros, and for the top version of the C32 AMG you had to pay more than double, to be precise, 57,536 euros. That’s also why the AMG doesn’t drive like a regular brand name of the time, but driving it is about something completely different, even if it doesn’t scream it to the world at first glance. At that time, Mercedes was quite visibly involved in the carousel of F1 races, and the AMG C-class station wagons were even the official cars of the medics on the track in one season. That is also why David, the owner of this AMG, had the authentic decals made on his silver station wagon. This is still a hell of a quick “rescue” to this day.
The car could accelerate to 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds, despite the rather outdated and slow five-speed automatic transmission for today’s times. It is Mercedes-Benz’s own design and pays for a very reliable cabinet. The car has a conventional open differential at the rear, but the traction is dry to give. It was enough for me to drive a little outside the city, and sometime around the third turn in the district, I understood that the céčko does not normally drive this nicely.
The ride is a combination of comfort, speed and great grip
I drove the car during days when it was dry outside and the slowly coming autumn still signaled only nice warm weather. Michelin Pilot Sport 5 tires have excellent grip not only on the front axle, but also traction on the rear axle. When the engine gradually inhales around three thousand revolutions and flies forward with a powerful linear force behind the roar of the compressor, the car has no tendency to spin the rear wheels at all. Flexible acceleration is the domain of AMG cars, and it is no different even in the case of the little “Czech”. The engine of its horse doses the driver quite delicately. It is an exceptionally smooth and, above all, sovereign supply of power. The whirring of the six-cylinder slightly drowns out the hum of the compressor and the ride has such a specific charge.
The chassis, now equipped with new Koni shock absorbers, is quite stiff by Mercedes standards, but enables really quick reactions in corners. The steering is not sporty fast, nor is it too heavy, but you can read the road under the wheels perfectly. It is also not a problem to check the grip of the rear axle. An experienced driver in an AMG can drive very cleanly and at such a smooth speed that can astonish even today, if you open it up to full throttle somewhere where there is space and conditions. The gearbox also allows manual mode, where you shift by moving the lever to the left or right, but don’t expect from it the reactions of today’s modern gearboxes. It is better to leave the automatic in the obligatory “child” mode and, depending on your mood, press the button for either comfort or sport mode. In both, the gearbox is slow, but extremely smooth and unobtrusive. The first violin is played by a supercharged engine and a very competent chassis.
Every doping costs something
The powerful performance of the car and the ability to flow smoothly and really quickly through wider districts also has its dark side. That is fuel consumption. “Medvédéz”, as a friend cutely nicknames his AMG station wagon, still has an appetite for petrol. You only fill up here with better Natural 98 fuels or even higher octane numbers. It is not a big problem to see a two-digit consumption number starting with two on the display of the on-board computer. Enthusiastically driven districts seriously mean consumption of 20 liters or more. You can normally drive this car for around thirteen, but if you really control yourself and work carefully with the gas pedal, you can get just under ten liters. But you have to be the champion of the economic rally.
Then, of course, there is also maintenance, which must not be neglected. As the owner tells me, he never had any major problem with the “Medvédez”, but he had to start counting on the fact that specific parts that are only on AMG and not common to all Mercedes C-Class (W203) cost some extra money. The car has high-quality high-performance brakes, suspension, and some parts of the chassis. The most expensive thing would be to have to deal with some more fundamental repair on the engine, but luckily these tend to be exceptionally durable. So only operating fluids, filters and a few other things were changed, especially on the chassis, which already required a minor overhaul.
Of course, this car costs many times more to maintain and run than a regular C 220 CDI, but at the same time it is still very affordable to buy. C 320 AMG prices normally range from 250,000 to 400,000 CZK depending on condition and mileage, the facelifted eight-cylinder C 55 AMG is usually a bit more expensive. This is very good money for a ticket to the world of really “big” cars, where you typically need large sums just to purchase them.
At the time, the competition was the BMW M3 (E46), although its character appealed to different types of drivers, but it did not offer a station wagon body. The price of a nice “Emka” from those years does not fall below a million, so you can buy an AMG “for a bargain”. And the AMG actually has a more reliable engine, doesn’t have a complicated gearbox and when it comes to driving, it doesn’t falter as much as some might think.
Unfortunately, even the embellished AMG version does not avoid the typical pain of Mercedes C-class (W203), and that is corrosion. Those cars can suffer from rusted door bottoms, fender edges, thresholds and the trunk lid. So there is always something for something, but a well-preserved specimen definitely has its potential. We will surely remember similar cars even more in the future.
|Mercedes-Benz C32 AMG (2001-2004)|
|Motor||V6 in a 90° angle, IHI compressor|
|Volume of cylinders||3,199 cm3|
|Performance||260 kW (354 hp) at 6,100 rpm|
|Torque||450 Nm at 4,400 rpm|
|Gearbox and wheel drive||5 st. automatic, rear wheel drive|
|Wheelbase||2 720 mm|
|Body dimensions||4 530 mm x 1 720 mm x 1 420 mm|
|Standby weight||1 535 kg|
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h||5.2 seconds|
|Maximal speed||250 km/h|
|Fuel consumption (measured long-term)||15.4 l/100 km|
|Market price||depending on condition and mileage, in the range from 230 – 600 thousand CZK for perfect specimens|