Icon buyer: how to choose a mighty Mercedes AMG, CAR+ September 2015

Published: 01 August 2015

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Howard Williams fell in love with AMGs the day he started working for Mercedes-Benz back in 1979. He’s now head of specialists Haden in Birmingham, so we asked him to pick his three favourite AMG models.

C43 AMG (W202)

Engine: 4266cc V8, 306bhp, 5.7sec 0-60mph, 155mph
Price: £3k-£10k, 1997-2000 

Is this a good idea? 
‘The C43 is probably my favourite AMG. It was the first AMG fully assembled by Affalterbach, and the first C-class with V8 power. And it’s a proper weapon with the whole package; that power but with the brakes, suspension, steering and transmission to suit. And it’s no one-trick pony – it’s a very rounded and complete car; fast, comfy and easy to live with.’

How much?
‘The more you spend now, the less you’ll spend later. £3k will buy you something leggy and in need of regular attention, £5k something tidy and clean, but £8-£10k will get you something close to mint.’

What’s going to break?
‘Mechanically these are incredibly robust cars that can handle a lot of miles if they are decently looked after. A full service history is a must-have. But check the body very carefully for rot and rust.’

Crippling running costs?
‘That depends greatly on how well its been previously maintained, which is why you should buy the best example you can afford. Budget around £650-£850 a year for servicing and tyres. And if you worry about filling up on a regular basis, this isn’t your type of car.’

Mercedes C43 AMG, at £3-£10k this one's a bargain

SL55 AMG (R230)

Engine: 5439cc V8, 476bhp, 4.7sec 0-60mph, 155mph
Price: £20k-£25k, 2003-2006

Is this a good idea?
‘The SL is one hell of a car. In fact it’s two fantastic cars in one. You get one of the finest roadsters ever produced, with superb styling, a luxurious cabin and that fabulous folding roof. And on top of that you’ve got a blistering performance car with a supercharged V8 engine. So you can waft roof down around town or annihilate sports cars on country roads. It’s quite ludicrous that you can get this for A-class diesel money.’

How much?
‘Prices start at below £20k but the clever money is spent closer to £25k. That’s where the cherished and unmodified cars with FSH are priced. As ever, more now means less later.’

What’s going to break?
‘If you’re unlucky, the hydraulic pump for the Active Body Control, which handles pressures of up 180bar, can go if the pipework corrodes and leaks. A replacement pump will cost £1k, so have the hydraulics checked thoroughly.’

Crippling running costs?
‘It depends on how it’s driven, of course, but it’s pretty light on tyres and discs considering its performance. I think £500 a year should cover it.’

Mercedes SL55 AMG - 5.4-litre V8 and 0-60 under 5sec, what's not to like?

E63 AMG (W212)

Engine: 6208cc V8, 525bhp, 4.5sec 0-60mph, 175mph
Price: £35k-£40k, 2009-2012

Is this a good idea?
‘This generation E63 proves that there’s an AMG for everyone. If you have a family but still want to have fun, then this is your car. Like the SL55 AMG, you get two highly desirable cars in one – a vast, comfortable and family friendly saloon (or estate) that can swallow everything and cross continents with ease, and a tyre-smoking rocket that will laugh in the face of a Porsche 911.’

How much?
‘Okay, £35k is a big chunk of money, but given that five years ago the E63 was almost twice that new, you are getting a huge amount of first-class engineering and technology for the money. A complete service history is vital.’

What’s going to break?
‘After the dip in quality and reliability of the W211, the AMG version of the W212 has proved almost bombproof. It’s always worth checking the car hasn’t been bent on a wet roundabout – quite common given their performance – so make sure the tracking is spot on and the hub carriers are A1.’

Crippling running costs?
‘At around £750-£1200 a year, they’re slightly higher than the C and SL.’

Mercedes E63 AMG strapped with the famous 6.3-litre AMG engine

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars