Believe it or not, once upon a time Mercedes was not producing more powerful and agile versions of its best sedans. AMG was a separate tuning company not exclusively owned by Mercedes Benz. They operated much the same as any other tuner, such as Brabus or Lorinser. Most automotive manufacturers dismiss the aftermarket world and few would ever market an aftermarket design through its own dealership network.
The relationship between Mercedes and AMG was different and the two brothers from Großaspach, Germany were able to catch their biggest break in the early 1990s. Mercedes Benz realized that it needed to compete in the sports sedan market and its down right boring C280 model was just not enough when up against a BMW M3. The two companies soon signed a contract allowing AMG to use the extensive worldwide dealer network that was at Mercedes’ disposal to market and sell their cars. The first was to be called the C36 AMG. There is some debate as to what was actually the first AMG car, but this was certainly the first to be sold by Mercedes as an AMG model. Racing collaborations had taken place in previous years, but never sold to the public in this fashion.
The C36 proved to be a success, even though many AMG enthusiasts may dismiss it. The car was more powerful than an M3 and the limited production run made it desirable to Mercedes buyers looking for a special vehicle. Production of the C36 stopped in 1998, but Mercedes would soon after take a controlling 51% share in AMG and begin using it as an exclusive tuning arm.
Hit the jump for more details on 1995 C36 AMG.
The C36 was based on the now demised C-class generation, introduced in 1995, known internally within the company as the W202. Like other AMG cars, the C36 was a limited production model, only 200 examples were imported to North America until production halted in 1998.
Exterior tweaks to the typical C-class include a new front apron that carries foglamps in the airdam. When combined with the new side skirts and rear apron, AMG says it reduces lift at highway speeds helping to make the handling even better. Other external clues include carbon-fiber trim on the B-pillar, an AMG decklidbadge, and 17-inch 5-spoke wheels. Those AMG monoblock wheels would become synonymous with high performance Mercedes models for the next decade and help many identify the less dramatically styled variations quickly.
Once inside the C36 it is easy to tell that Mercedes was not quite ready to take too many liberties with one of its best selling models. Afterall, AMG was essentially an unproven tuning company at this time and had yet to sell cars on the mass-market. A set of white-face gauges replaced the standard black unit immediately drawing the driver’s eye to the electronically limited 155mph limit. Standard AMG treatment today still includes these white gauges and we would have to say that it is one of the simplest and best ways to make an interior subtly more exciting. The 36 also had a two-tone AMG spec steering wheel and some various AMG badges throughout, but other than that it was strictly Mercedes luxury in the cabin.
The 4 valves/cylinder, inline six engine is based on the unit found in the C280, but with a 1.1 mm increase in bore diameter and a huge 18.9 mm increase in stroke length. The compression is also slightly stepped up to 10.5:1 while the electronics have been recalibrated, more aggressive camshafts have been fitted, and a free-flowing exhaust bolted on. The result is 276 horsepower at 5750 rpm and 284 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm, 82 more horsepower than the C280 and 36 more than the BMW M3.
A genuine manual transmission is a missed feature, however the five-speed automatic which can be shifted manually through the gates is quite effective. The C36 uses 12.6 inch vented disc brakes up front and 10.9 inch units in the rear, salvaged from the 900 lb heavier SL600 and just like it’s big brother, provides excellent braking performance. The halt from 60 mph is completed in 114 ft, slightly longer than the M3 and C43, however from just 30 mph its 28 foot stopping distance is actually one foot better than the M3. Once the traction control has been switched off the handling is also excellent with a 66.5 mph slalom run and a 0.87g rating on the skidpad. On paper at least, this tuner car had beaten the mighty M3 developed internally by BMW.
The C36 sold for about $50,000 depending upon options chosen. With it being a rare Mercedes in the United States, these models have retained some of their value, but can still be had a great price.
The market for these cars was in its infancy when this was developed and thus the BMW M3 is really the only model that Mercedes was attempting to chase with the C36. For some reason, this first effort by Mercedes and AMG tends to go unnoticed in the history books, especially when compared with the original M3 models. Nonetheless, the two companies had showed the world that it was possible to simply tweak a standard formula for their entry level sedan and end up with a sports sedan.
First AMG C-class model
Capable and Efficient V6
Better Performance from M3
Not Distinct Enough From Base C-class