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Reader test: Mercedes C55 AMG

2009-11-17 08:22

Rudi Rautenbach

The Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG – the gentlemen’s power overdose...

The specialist tuning firm AMG has been producing hand-built Mercedes-Benz sports saloons (and other enticing derivatives) for some 42 years, and is home to some of the most sensational road-going sedans our roads have seen. The C55 is one such example, and possibly one of the finest motor cars ever produced by AMG.

The C55 AMG is an unassuming car. Telltale signs to it being not just any old C-Class are the different lower facia, headlights and a slightly longer bonnet (42mm to be exact) and the four huge AMG-branded tailpipes complete the picture from behind. 


Pop the bonnet, and one is met with hand-built (signed by a certain Herr Sergio Vanetti) 5.4-litre V8 that is capable of pumping a blood-curdling 270kW of extreme power. With 510Nm of torque on tap at a low 4000 r/min, it leaves many unsuspecting challengers in its wake and provides jet-like acceleration. 


So often people want to compare this car to an M3 or the RS4, but as us AMG purists always say “if AMG wanted to build an M3 they would have”. This car has a character of its own, and portrays itself as the gentleman’s sport sedan. Its suspension is somewhat conservative compared to the more rigid BMW M's, and the five-speed automatic transmission relies on little driver input, yet makes excellent selection choices, sometimes with a little encouragement needed through the steering-mounted paddles. 

Motoring costs

As many would agree, one does not drive a C55 AMG consciously keeping an eye on the fuel consumption. For those interested, it yields an average of about 14 l/100km, but this figure depends on one’s driving style. Cruising at 120 km/h would see a respectable 10l/100km, but adopting a more “sportier” driving style, it can easily shoot up to 20l/100km. Who cares in this car?

Tyres are the largest non-fuel related contributor to driving cost. Shod with 245/35 Pirelli P-Zero’s (incidentally the same tyres used on the Lamborghini Gallardo – according to a leading tyre specialist shop), they seldom last more than 20 000km on the rear. After 55 000 km, it’s now on its third set of rears. Fronts last about twice as long. Perhaps a different brand would see more life, but the grip offered by those Pirelli’s instils confidence in both wet and dry weather, and that’s what really matters in the C55 AMG. 

Services and repairs are covered by a standard six-year/120 000km MobiloDrive maintenance plan, taking care of those (expensive) services. Customer contributions are staggered from 60 000km onwards. I chose the “MobiloDrive Plus” plan at purchase, offering me a zero customer contribution until 120 000km. 

This was around R10 000 extra on the purchase price of R565 000. I chose the added peace of mind, as AMG parts are all imported and could see one out of pocket with several thousands of rands when you least expect it. Oil consumption is within specification, and needs around a litre of oil every 7 500km, not unusual for a race-bred engine. Oil is around R200 per litre, but a quick stop at the dealership and a cup of coffee in the coffee lounge takes care of this, as the service plan also covers oil consumption between services.  


The cabin continues the success story. Appointed in luxurious black nappa leather (with Alcantara inserts on non-wearing surfaces), the seats are quite comfortable and up to the task of hugging legs and shoulders through those twisties. 

The instrument panel houses circular instruments (a welcome change from the old half-circle design) with red needles and white letters on a black background, and the AMG V8 emblem underneath the tachometer reminds one of the powers lurking within the depths of this beast. A speedometer marked to 320km/h is nestled alongside the tach. Controls are all within easy reach, and laid-out in traditional Mercedes-Benz fashion. COMAND, the Mercedes-Benz satellite navigation, audio and phone system, is standard and uncomplicated, and basic functions can be performed from the steering wheel. 

Personal experience

For me the C55 is an easy car to live with; luxuriously comfortable and immensely powerful as a daily driver and one of the best cars I have ever driven. 

With precise and well-balanced dynamics, complimented by that thundering V8 soundtrack and performance, one cannot ask for more. Now three years old and having completed almost 55 000km without missing a beat, the car instils confidence and hauls like few others can. 


The C55 has been replaced by a monster of another kind, the C63 AMG. Whilst it is definitely a worthy successor, the recession has probably forced many C55 owners to rethink the situation, and perhaps hold on to their precious gems a little longer. This is reinforced by the overall shortage of good used C55 stock, and low-mileage clean examples are hard to come by.


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