Family Tree: AMG C36-C63 saloons
Everyone knows their BMW M3 history. But how well do you know the AMG cars that fought them every step of the way?
Back in the 1980s the BMW-Mercedes DTM battle had spilled onto the street as the Cosworth-tuned 16-valve 190E battled BMW's original M3.
But as the '90s unfolded, the focus switched from revs and agility to muscle, and four-cylinder engines just weren't going to cut it. The result was new breed of brawny four-seaters. BMW's side of the story is well documented, so this is the AMG C-class family from 36 to 63.
AMG C36 (W202 1994-1997)
Arriving in 1994, shortly after Mercedes has taken control of AMG, the C36 was Stuttgart's answer to BMW's new six-cylinder E36 M3.
Starting with a C280, AMG's men yanked out the engine and dropped in hand-assembled 3.6-litre straight six good for around 280hp and 276lb ft. Unlike the BMW, an automatic gearbox was mandatory, as was a four-door saloon shell.
Styling was er, subtle, and with a 0-62mph time of 6.7sec, so was performance, at least compared to the insanely rapid M3. But the C36 was a great sleeper, and there was plenty more to come.
AMG C43 (w202 1997-2000)
Arriving in time for the W202 C's mid-life facelift, the C43 ordered super-size at the engine shop.
Swapping the C36's straight six for a 4.3-litre V8, the C43 pumped out 310hp and 302lb ft of twist, and marked the first appearance of the wagon body option.
AMG C55 (w202 1999-2000)
C55? Yes there was, but we don't blame you if you've never heard of it. Fewer than 60 were built, including a handful of estates, and getting one involved first purchasing a new C43 and then sending it to AMG at Affalterbach for some serious mods.
How serious? Serious enough to involve messing with the rear floor to give clearance for a bigger diff man enough to cope with the extra power from the 347hp 5.4-litre V8. And serious enough to leave you with a conversion bill for a sum that would have bought a lesser Benz outright.
aMG C32 (w203 2001-2004)
The AMG-C dropped two cylinders for its W203 incarnation, but added a supercharger to make amends. The result was 354hp and 332lb ft of torque, all sent to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission.
It didn't sound anything like as good as BMW's E46 M3, but it was just as quick (5.2sec to 62mph) and offered a few things the M3 couldn't: a proper auto that didn't give you whiplash when it shifted gears in traffic, two extra doors, and best of all, the wagon option was back.
There was even a C30 AMG diesel with a 231hp inline five, and a seriously rare C32 Sportcoupe, both deservedly unpopular.
AMG C55 (W203 2004-2007)
Bit of a forgotten AMG, this one. In 2004 Merc ditched the supercharged six and went back to a V8. But it wasn't the crazy new supercharged 55 Kompressor motor doing the business in the bigger AMGs.
The naturally-aspirated 5.4 put out 367hp, which whittled the 0-62mph time down to 4.7sec, and the interior was massively improved with a proper gauge pack and at least vaguely sporty looking three-spoke steering wheel.
There wasn't much to tell it from the C32 at the front beyond a grille that lost its side frame, but at the back there were two pairs of pipes, one at each side.
AMG C63 (W204 2008-2015)
Call this a tipping point. Until now you'd probably buy an AMG C-class because you wanted something a little more practical, more relaxing and a little bit more exclusive than an M3. Now you'd buy one because it was every bit as good to drive.
Heart of the C63 was an all-new naturally aspirated V8 that turned out to be one of the greatest engines ever committed to a car. Pumping out 457hp, it thrived on revs, producing its 442lb ft of torque all the way up at 5000rpm. Use those revs and could get you to 62mph in 4.5sec.
Some people always crave more though, so a Performance Pack option added a limited slip diff, and uprated brakes. And an improved pack in 2011 included a power boost to 487hp.
AMG did go even crazier in 2012, presumably after a drinking competition gone wrong at Oktoberfest, creating the Black Series version of the C63 coupe it had introduced the year before.
There was coilover suspension hiding under massively flared arches and an engine upgraded to 510hp, but unfortunately, just as with the older CLK Black, these goodies were reserved for the two-door cars.
AMG C63 (W205 2016-)
And this brings us up to date. The name stayed the same but the latest C63 features a turbocharged 4.0 V8 related to the lump in the nose of the AMG GT Benz designed to take on the 911.
And this time there are two distinct flavours. The standard C63 gets 469hp and 476lb ft, while the S boosts that to 503hp and adds an electronically controlled rear diff that helps it reach 62mph in 4.0sec.
Actually, make that three flavours, because there's also a C63-lite, a less manic and more affordable hot C with a name we've heard before: C43 (unless you live somewhere where it's called the C450, of course).
With standard four-wheel drive and a turbocharged V6 putting out 362hp and 0-62mph in 4.9sec, it's a very different kind of AMG. The kind Audi dealers hate.