The first time you hit the gas in one of Mercedes' newest AMG models, you might think it's powered by rocket fuel. Well, not really. But as your cranium hits the headrest, it becomes quite clear that there's no ordinary V6 under the hood.
The C32 sedan and SLK32 roadster are the latest in a series of specialized models from AMG, a DaimlerChrysler subsidiary that modifies engines and suspensions of basic production cars for high performance. On the road, it takes a conscious effort to slow to the flow of traffic. Mercedes claims 0 to 62 mph in 5.2 seconds. We believe it.
The engine in these models is based on a 215-horsepower 3.2-liter V6 first introduced in 1998. But like all hand-made AMG powerplants, this version produces class-leading horsepower—try 349 at 6,100 rpm—and torque. The biggest contributor: a supercharger that spins up to an astonishing 20,700 rpm.
The C32 ($50,000) and SLK32 ($54,000) both use a five-speed automatic transmission featuring SpeedShift, which allows the shift lever to be tapped sideways to switch gears. SpeedShift changes gears 35 percent faster than a standard Mercedes automatic. Or, you can let sophisticated electronic controls do the shifting for you.
Judging from our test drives along Portugal's Mediterranean coast, handling is well balanced but crisp. Overall, the cars deliver the performance that their badges promise. Their simple mission is, as Mercedes-AMG boss Ulrich Bruhnke says, "Throttle depressed, driver happy."