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January 9, 2022 4:20 pm by

The Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG is a Used Car Hidden Gem

Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG


AMG gets lots of press for souping up high-end Mercedes-Benz models, such as the autobahn-storming, 621-horsepower CL65. But the engineers at Affalterbach also have a long history of tinkering with cars from the lower rungs of the MB ladder. In fact, the mid-1990s C36 — a humble C-Class stuffed with a stroked 3.4-liter inline-six — was the very first AMG car officially sold by Mercedes dealers.

It was a hit, and since then, AMG has pushed the small car, big engine formula even further, eventually leading to the flamboyant C63, which sports a bonkers 469-hp turbo V8 under the hood.

But one of the very best Mercedes-AMG collaborations is a much subtler affair. Unless you know what you’re looking for, you’d never guess that the understated C55 AMG, produced for just two model years (2005-06), is anything more than an entry-level C-Class. That is until it dusts you off the line.

The anonymity of the C55 AMG is one of its best traits. Not only does the bantam Benz shrug off the prying eyes of neighbors (as well as the local constabulary), but it also has yet to attract the attention of most collectors. That means prices for a used C55 remain quite reasonable — cheap even, considering the levels of performance it offers.

And that makes the C55 AMG a used car hidden gem.

Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG engine

Engine and Transmission

  • 5.4-liter V8 with 362 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque
  • Five-speed automatic “SportShift” transmission (no manual option in the U.S.)
  • 0-60 mph in under five seconds

Like all the best AMG cars, the C55’s story begins under the hood. Actually, it begins by swapping out the hood — in fact, the entire front end of the car.

But let’s back up a bit. AMG had already developed a performance version of the second-generation C-Class (known internally as the W203 series). The C32 AMG, sold for the 2002-04 model years (in the US), featured a supercharged version of that car’s 3.2-liter V6. With 349 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque, it was plenty quick.

However, rumor had it that BMW’s M division was developing a V8-powered M3 (as indeed they were). That spurred the Mercedes-AMG team to try and beat them to the punch. Problem was, the excellent 5.4-liter V8, which powered several other AMG cars from the period, didn’t quite fit in the W203 chassis. Their solution? Bolt on the front end of a different car.

That car was the Mercedes-Benz CLK (2003-09), which had been developed from the start to accommodate a V8. AMG took the front clip from the performance variant, the CLK55, and grafted it onto the C-Class sedan. And thus, the C55 was born.

The result was far less Frankenstein than it sounds. In fact, to our eyes, the CLK’s elegant front styling subtly elevates the C55’s looks. If there’s a monster, it lies between the wheel wells, where its big V8 lives and breathes. The naturally aspirated mill bumps horsepower up slightly from the outgoing boosted V6 (362 vs. 349). Twist is the real story, though. Torque is up 46 lb-ft to 376 total, with 300 coming as low as 2000 rpm.

An AMG-tuned “SportShift” five-speed automatic gearbox sends all that glorious power to the rear wheels and does a commendable job. While the lack of a manual (in the US) is lamentable, steering-wheel-mounted shift buttons allow the driver to control the cog swaps. Work them properly, and they propel the C55 AMG to 60 miles per hour in under five seconds, which is mighty impressive for a nearly 20-year-old C-Class.

Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG

Suspension and Handling

  • Wider front track and upgraded suspension components
  • 18-inch wheels and larger, vented brakes

One of the side benefits of swapping in the CLK’s front end was giving the C55 a wider front track, increasing its cornering abilities. And AMG didn’t stop there. They went through the entire suspension, fitting stiffer bushings, springs, and dampers. They also upgraded the wheels to 18-inchers and added braking capacity via larger, vented discs.

Beefing up the underpinnings does come at the cost of some comfort, though. In a comparison test at the time, Car and Driver harped on the C55’s overly stiff ride, noting in particular that “impact harshness on sharp bumps was high.” So the C55 probably isn’t the best car to daily if your commute involves miles of broken pavement.

On the plus side, the C55’s setup is decidedly old school. Unlike other AMG variants from the era, the C55 has no finicky hardware to worry about, such as Benz’s notoriously pricey-to-fix Active Body Control system. That may give you peace of mind — even if the ride does not.

Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG interior

Exterior and Interior Features

  • Benefits from 2005 C-Class refresh
  • Standard features include premium audio and automated emergency braking
  • Limited rear-seat space

The C55 benefits from the 2005 model year refresh of the C-Class, which refined the exterior styling and overhauled the interior. Changes inside include a new dashboard, gauge cluster, and center console, giving the car a more upscale feel. At the back, the C55 sports quad exhaust pipes — one of the few visual clues hinting at its high-performance abilities.

Inside the cabin is everything you’d expect to find on a loaded C-Class, including keyless entry, heated side mirrors, dual-zone climate control with air filtration, and a Bluetooth-enabled Harmon Kardon audio system with 12 speakers and a subwoofer. AMG also bolted in 10-way power-adjustable sport seats covered in high-end Nappa leather. While the front chairs offer plenty of space for occupants of all sizes, the rears are tight.

Safety is about as good as expected for a 15+ year-old car. Standard equipment includes not just basics like anti-lock brakes, stability control, and driver and passenger airbags but also advanced-for-the-time features such as side curtain airbags and automated emergency braking assistance. HID headlamps were available, too, as an option.

Used C55 Prices from KBB

Buying Advice

  • Limited production run and availability
  • Still a good value compared to similar AMG models
  • Pretty reliable thanks to the absence of complex mechanicals

Owing to a short two-year lifespan (2005-06) and limited production volumes, the C55 AMG is a somewhat rare car. Only 1750 examples made it to our shores. As a result, finding a used one for sale can be a challenge.

In a search on Autotrader, we found just eight C55s listed nationwide, ranging in price from around $10,000 for well-kept higher-mileage specimens to more than double that amount for low-mile garage queens. Quite a few recently crossed the auction block on Bring a Trailer, fetching anywhere from $9750 for a nice-looking 85k-mile example to $26,000 for a babied 26k-mile beauty in rare Fire Opal Red.

Those prices are remarkably low for such a rare model from AMG. We suspect there’s nowhere for them to go from here but up. Compared to a first-gen E55 AMG, which features the same powertrain and has been racking up prices as high as $41,100 on BaT, the C55 seems downright cheap.

Reliability is also a strong suit for the C55. Without any turbocharges, superchargers, or active suspension components to go bad, it’s one of the most straightforward cars ever to come from AMG. Car review YouTuber Doug DeMuro calls it “probably the most reliable AMG C-Class in existence” in a related Oversteer column.

Nevertheless, before you spend thousands on a used C55, we highly recommend hiring a Mercedes specialist to evaluate it. For about $250, they’ll provide you with a thorough inspection of the entire car. This can reveal potentially deal-breaking issues, such as hidden accident damage or excessive engine wear, or minor things that you can use as bargaining points, like worn brake pads or aging tires.

Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG

Details and Specifications

  • Engine: 5.4-liter naturally-aspirated V8 (M113)
  • Horsepower: 362 hp @ 5,750 rpm
  • Torque: 376 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
  • Transmission: 5-speed automatic (722.6)
  • MPG: 14 city / 20 highway
  • Fuel capacity: 16.4 gallons
  • Fuel type: premium unleaded
  • Drive type: rear-wheel drive (RWD)
  • Curb weight: 3540 lbs
  • Turning circle: 35.3 feet
  • Exterior colors: Alabaster White, Barolo Red, Black, Brilliant Silver, Capri Blue, Desert Silver, Diamond Black, Granite Gray, Iridium Silver, Mars Red, Obsidian Black, Pewter
  • Interior colors: Ash leather, Black leather
  • Original MSRP: $54,450

Photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz and Wikimedia Commons


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