Early history of the Mercedes-AMG C-Class: lighting the fire for budding petrolheads

The C36 was technically the first Mercedes-AMC C-Class, but it was the 190 models before it that really set the scene. Picture: Supplied.

The C36 was technically the first Mercedes-AMC C-Class, but it was the 190 models before it that really set the scene. Picture: Supplied.

Published Jun 7, 2024


By: Double Apex

Mercedes-Benz South Africa will introduce the latest C63 AMG into the local market in a matter of days. Before that happens, we thought we’d take a look at the early lineage of high-performance, range-leading C-Class AMGs. Sit back and enjoy the History of the C-Class AMG.

Mercedes-Benz 190E (W201) – DTM Race Machine

The story of the high-performance C-Class goes back to the 190E. This (W201 series) was the precursor to the C-class as the company’s naming structure changed after the 190E was introduced.

There were several derivatives in the 190E range. But things got really interesting when the first sixteen-valve engines began to appear in 1984. This culminated in the 190E 2.5-16 Evolution and 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II. These are the cars that lit the fire for so many budding petrolheads. The Evo II fought hammer and tongs against all comers in the German Touring Car (DTM series), not least of all its rivals from BMW, the E30 M3.

Mercedes-Benz 190E-25-16 Evo-II family. Picture: Supplied.

The 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II boasted 173kW, as standard, from a highly modified engine. The race engines, meanwhile, were tuned up to a whopping 274kW. Just 502 units of the highest-performance variant were built for homologation purposes. As a result values have skyrocketed.

The Evo II delivered on track, too. Mercedes drivers Klaus Ludwig, Kurt Thiim and Bernd Schneider took the top three places in the DTM in 1992. Forever changing the public’s perception of the ‘Baby Benz’ in the process.

Mercedes-Benz C36 AMG (W202) – The First C-AMG

The 190E made way for the first C-Class in 1993. The W202 series sold over 1.9 million units worldwide, proving the market demand for a smaller Mercedes. Among these was the very first collaboration with AMG, called the C36.

Mercedes C32 AMG (W202) F1 Safety Car. Picture: Supplied.

The peak W202 broke cover in 1993. AMG took Mercedes’ own 2.8-litre inline six and punched it out to 3.6-litres. Special pistons, a modified crankshaft and a higher compression ratio resulted in a peak power output of 206kW with a healthy 385Nm of torque. This allowed the small sedan to sprint from rest to 100km/h in just under six seconds. More impressive was the top speed of 250km/h.

Additionally, the C36 was differentiated in its appearance to match the power upgrade. The Mercedes C36 adopted a lower ride height, different front and rear bumpers, side skirts and larger alloys. Incidentally, the Mercedes-Benz C36 AMG was the first official Safety Car of Formula One in 1996. The relationship between F1 and Mercedes-Benz has spawned many official F1 C-class based support vehicles since then.

Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG (W202) – The First V8

The C-AMG recipe was a success. But the company could not rest on its laurels, especially as its products were being constantly compared to those from Munich and Ingolstadt.

Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG. Picture: Supplied.

As a result, in September 1997, about halfway into the W202’s life cycle, an eight-cylinder engine found its way into the C-Class for the very first time. The C43 AMG featured a 4.3-litre V8 that developed 225kW and 410Nm. It was only fractionally quicker in the sprinting stakes than its predecessor, but had better in-gear acceleration thanks to its more impressive torque output from the V8.

AMG aficionados may know of the W202 C55. However, this was a special option, essentially an upgrade, whereby a 5.4-litre V8 was dropped into a C43. Only 59 are reported to have been built. As a result it is one of the rarest AMG cars of them all.

Now read Part 2 and Part 3 of the Mercedes-AMG C-Class history.

* This article originally appeared on Double Apex and is used with their permission.