'We are all set to join the front runners in what is now a very competitive segment and I am confident our cars will be attracting a lot of attention,' said Joachim Schmidt, the DaimlerChrysler board member responsible for Mercedes-Benz marketing. He claimed the models developed by AMG, the former tuning specialist that is now a DaimlerChrysler subsidiary, were superior to any competitor.
Replacing the C43 and C55 models, the new AMG C-class cars carry a premium of about £9,300 in Germany. When right-hand drive versions reach UK showrooms in autumn, they are likely to cost between £42,000 and £43,000 and Mercedes-Benz UK is estimating the SLK 32 AMG will cost £45,000. 'We expect to sell 300 saloons, 200 roadsters and 150 estate models each year in Britain. That is low volume, but it is sufficient for us to get a foothold in a market we consider to be very important,' said a spokesman.
Developing 354bhp and 330lb-ft of torque, AMG's 3.2-litre V6 provides all three models with the power for rapid acceleration and effortless high speed travel. The combination is at its best in the saloon, which is as quick off the mark as the roadster and scorches to 62mph in just 5.2 seconds.
Unlike most other high performance units, the engine uses 95 RON fuel and complies with the EUIV emission regulations to be introduced in 2005. Significantly, it is mated with Speedshift, a five-speed automatic transmission that is claimed to be unique in offering the dynamic appeal of a manual change with technology that guarantees the optimum ratio for maximum acceleration is available at the flick of the gear selector lever.