- The Washington Times - Friday, November 23, 2001

OK, kids, if you want a real hot rod, save your money for a dynamite car called the C32 AMG. You'll find it at your Mercedes-Benz dealer.
Obviously, I'm being facetious. This $52,000 car isn't intended for the teen-age set. Yet there are adults who have always dreamed of owning an upscale hot rod: a car that takes off when a heavy foot touches the accelerator pedal, and makes even a simple drive to the corner store a thrilling event. That car is a C32 AMG.
Powered by a V6 Kompressor engine, the C32 AMG develops 349 horsepower and produces 332 lbs-ft. of torque. I'm told it will do the zero-to-60 mph in under 5 seconds. During my test-drive on a shalom course set up for hard zigzag turns, I was amazed at how well it handled.
The Kompressor engine isn't a souped-up, air-polluting overhauled engine usually associated with teen-age hot rods. This engine meets the most stringent emission European regulations intended to be enforced in 2005. Nor is it a noisy engine. I'm told the rotors are teflon-tipped for positive sealing and longer life.
Part of the hot rod fun is in the shifting, and the C32 AMG allows for that input. The five-speed automatic transmission can be dropped into a SpeedShift mode, allowing the driver to decide when to up- or downshift. When in this mode and there is need for heavy braking, the SpeedShift automatically downshifts, allowing the driver to keep both hands on the wheel. The Mercedes-Benz people say this transmission provides up to 35 percent faster gear changing compared to a conventional automatic.
Hard acceleration puts a high demand on the brakes: Thus the C32 AMG has a two-piece front 13.6-inch vented disc on the front and the rear has 11.8-inch vented disc. Controlled by a four-channel anti-lock braking system, this car's brakes are in the league of race-car brakes.
With this kind of power, the C32 AMG has to have a good suspension. Mercedes used the suspension of the C-Class vehicles and upgraded the spring rates, shock dampening and stabilizer bars to accommodate hard driving through tight turns. Again, I experienced stability and adhesion of the 17-inch tires under track conditions and was amazed at how well this luxury sedan performed.
That's the interesting part of this hot rod. This is not a sports car where you have to struggle to get in and out of the driver's seat. Nor does it have a harsh ride. The C32 AMG is a luxury sedan throughout except when the driver's foot rests heavily on the accelerator pedal. Then Doctor Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde came into play.
Dr. Jeckyl crept into the picture unexpectedly and almost got me into trouble with the law. I drove my test car from the track to my home, a distance of about 300 miles. On a couple occasions I found myself speeding without realizing I was doing so. I resorted to cruise control to keep my desires under control.
The 2002 C32 AMG is loaded with other thoughtful features, such as 12-way adjustable power seats with three-position memory, plus tilt and telescoping steering column as well as power windows with express up and down. There are also auto-dimming rear and driver side mirrors.
My test car had a 10-speaker Bose sound system. I had difficulty trying to figure out how to operate the AM/FM system, which required a study of the owner's manual. However, a C32 AMG also has the latest in roadside assistance access to a concierge. I would have called, but my test car didn't have a phone. Oh well, hot rodders can't expect to have everything.
MOTOR MATTERS


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