C55 AMG
"Markas, you grab the C and meet us up top." Those were my orders when we started our AMG experience, and I am grateful. While most in the group were scrambling for the keys to the bigger bling, I was more than happy to get in the "starter car." If I had been hooked up with the SL there's a good chance you would have seen me on the evening news leading a 15-car, three helicopter chase across state lines that would have surely seen me incarcerated or worse.

No, this suited me just fine, and it turns out gave me all I could handle for the warm-up drive out to the high desert. As we jumped on the freeway and trained up in NASCAR-style fashion, I figured I'd have to get pretty deep into the throttle to keep up with some of the other players. But as my foot explored the depths of the pedal I was greeted with a stat message from the engine room: "Plenty of power here, sir, and plenty more where that came from." Thank you Scotty, proceed at Warp 2. This is not your father's C Class, and that's where the AMG separates itself from the rest.

My job requires me to notice detail and pay attention to the little things that make up our magazine. I always notice the AMG badge on a car. It doesn't matter if I'm stopped at a light or skimming across a desert highway (well within the speed limit of course), I notice. The C55 isn't the ass-hanging-out kind of attention-getter like a tricked out Honda with a ridiculous body kit and $6000 rims. It's understated, smooth, classy. In a world of overachievers, the C55 falls into the class of cars I personally love: The M3s, S4s and S60s of the world. The working class heroes. It's the kind of car that is exceptional right out of the box, made that much more fantastic with AMG treatments. The C55 blends power and performance in a practical package that can serve double duty as everyday transporter and thrillride.

Even though I would have loved to take this one out with a stick, I still had a blast slithering around corners and careening down long straightaways. Like the rest of the crew I waded through all the fine cars we had for the day, and to be honest I felt like a kid who has just experienced Six Flags for the very first time. Every time I got out of one I was immediately ushered into another and much of the experience blended together. The C55 will be remembered as a solid platform with much more to offer than initially meets the eye. Now, if I could just get a bit more seat time... -Markas Platt

E55 AMG
When speaking of unbridled performance, exotic luxury and super sexy styling, a four-door sedan isn't what typically comes to mind. Yet the E55 has all this and more. Powered by a supercharged V8, the sedan runs from zero to 60 mph in only 4.5 seconds. In contrast, the twin-turbocharged SL65 with 604 bhp is only a fraction of a second faster. Selling for less than half the SL65's asking price, the E55 is a genuine value.

Try as you might, it's difficult to find fault with this car. It's visually pleasing: AMG body treatments include a wider front airdam and unique rear apron, as well as a set of 18-inch twin-spoke wheels shod with 245/40-18 and 265/35-18 performance rubber. The spacious cabin is impressive throughout. In addition to all the luxury refinement and creature comforts Mercedes is known for, the E55 is accented with special trim unique to AMG. Aside from sculpted 10-way adjustable sport buckets, the AMG sport steering wheel and myriad sophisticated electronics, subtle details such as the Black Birdseye maple trim are a welcome touch. About the only consistent interior complaint was with regard to the cruise control arm, which is easily mistaken for the turn signal due to their close proximity.

While styling and luxury refinement is all part of the Mercedes-Benz package, AMG has always been more about performance. With 469 bhp under the hood (nearly 170 over the E500) and locomotive torque (516 lb-ft at 4500 rpm), the E55 accelerates with piledriver force. Much of this power must be attributed to the intercooled supercharger, which provides instant boost that pulls throughout the rpm range for deceptively smooth acceleration. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, which is a bummer, but getting there in a matter of seconds isn't. The exhaust note is pure V8, but surprisingly quiet.

LIke the others, the E55 is equipped with AMG's Speedshift five-speed automatic transmission, which is as smooth as the engine's power delivery. The system offers seamless gear selection at optimized shift points. It also allows manual shifting via the shifter or steering wheel controls. The fully adjustable AMG-optimized air suspension is equally impressive, continuously tuning the suspension settings to enhance road holding and ride characteristics. Additionally, the ESP traction control has been recalibrated to allow more lateral slip.

Overall, the E55 is many inspiring things all wrapped into a single cohesive package. It provides the perfect balance between class-leading luxury and state-of-the-art hot rod performance.-Robert Hallstrom

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