It is surely no secret that there are certain cars that we auto reviewers fight to review, and it often requires careful negotiating on the writer’s part to be awarded the review from the editor bosses.

The current generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class may not be on the same level of desirability as, say its exotic AMG GT stablemate, but it’s nevertheless a car I was eager to log more seat time in, even though it had just gone through a recent comparison test with the BMW 340i. I may have even had to agree to review some distasteful, econo-turd produced in some Communist nation before the editor granted my wish.

And you know what? It’s worth it.

The C-Class was all-new just a year ago, with the C 400 topping the lineup with a smooth and lusty turbocharged V6 engine being the heart of that great machine. And before the new car smell had barely faded away, that C 400 became obsolete thanks to the car you see here: a new C 450 AMG.

Keen eyes will notice those three magical letters tacked on to the end of the name: AMG – the revered performance division of the prestigious Stuttgart brand. Recent years have seen AMG offer up the world’s most tasteful muscle cars, most of which feature hand-built and wholly-beastly V8 engines that bellow a most sinfully baritone exhaust note.

This car, however, is a bit different. It’s not a full-on AMG car, but rather a “regular” Mercedes-Benz that’s been warmed over by the go-fast gurus at the performance division. The heart remains a biturbo V6, but now the engine provides a very healthy 362 horsepower and a whopping 383 lb-ft of torque from as few as 2,000 revs (and fitted with some sassy red accents).

The folks at Mercedes-Benz say the C 450 will hit 100 km/h from a standstill in 4.9 seconds, but we say they’re just being modest. This thing pulls ferociously from dawdle to dizzying speed with a particularly robust mid-range kick that’s especially fun for backroad passing.

The C 450 now becomes the middle child in the C-Class range with the perfectly capable four-cylinder C 300 remaining as the entry point and a new C 63 AMG (the full-beans AMG) featuring 469 thundering V8 horsepower. But the C 450 suffers no middle-child syndrome, but instead resembles more of a Goldilocks pick, proving itself neither too timid nor too boisterous for everyday use and catering to the broadest driver spectrum.

An honest-to-goodness two-door coupe: 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé

Certainly the crowd enamoured by the bigger badge number on the back (and three-pointed star on the nose) will snatch them up regardless of performance capabilities, but enthusiasts should not feel too shortchanged for not buying a C 63. Sure, the full AMG car throws down more impressive numbers, but it also costs a heck of a lot more, and the C 450 is truly no slouch, even when it comes to tickling enthusiasts’ ears with the occasional belch and pop from the tailpipes.

Regardless of C-Class, they all come with a seven-speed automatic (though the C 63’s is tuned for quicker shifts). This transmission is a great pairing for the 3.0L V6, always making the most of the broad torque curve and not constantly hunting and pecking for gears the way some of the eight- and nine-speed transmissions on the market tend to do.

The ride and handling trade-off is very well-balanced too, thanks to the AMG Ride Control variable suspension. Drivers can select a cushier comfort mode or a stiffer sport mode electronically, and together with Dynamic Select (ECO, Comfort, Sport and Sport+), the throttle response and shift points are modified to allow several very different driving experiences.

My test car wore the now-familiar 18-inch five-spoke AMG wheels that are both handsome and functionally easy to clean. Still, those looking to capitalize on the C 450’s impressive AMG chassis tuning will want to order up the optional 19-inch wheels with proper summer performance tires. The “performance” all-season Continentals on the test car gave up traction much too early for such an otherwise exciting and capable car. The excellent 4Matic all-wheel drive is standard on the C 450 (and C 300) in Canada – and definitely contributes to the car’s surefooted handling when driven aggressively out of a corner, and it aids acceleration from rest, too.

Brakes that measure nearly the size of pizza pans arrest speed smoothly and swiftly, time and again for the C 450.

Stylistically, there is little to distinguish a new C 450 from last year’s C 400 aside from a new grille design that features a bunch of chromed dots on a black background and is in keeping with some of the other new designs like the flagship S-Class. The current C-Class is a well-proportioned design that looks the part of the premium-priced machine that it is.

When the new C-Class launched last year, its interior was almost universally praised as being not only a dramatic improvement over the previous generation, but a new benchmark that raises the standard for the class. The centre console is dominated by three big round vents that sprout from a large swath of dark-stained, open-pore ash wood. The large, bright COMAND infotainment screen tops the centre control stack, which is a design treatment not universally praised (though is highly functional). This system, now controlled by Benz’s combined dial-with-touch-pad-mouse-thing works well. That said, as with all of these complex systems from modern automakers, new owners should expect to spend a few hours to properly familiarize themselves with its operation.

The front sport seats are firm but highly supportive, and adjustable in enough ways that drivers should be able to find a setting comfortable either for long drives or short, spirited ones. Our test car was trimmed in cranberry red Nappa leather that looked (and smelled) great. The rear seats are reasonably spacious for two adults and a bit cramped with three, particularly as the centre passenger will need his or her legs splayed around the large driveshaft tunnel. The trunk measures a class-leading 480 L.

I am fortunate to have spent a fair bit of seat time in the current generation C-Class in various trims, and its appeal never diminishes. The combination of truly high-end styling both inside and out, coupled with the traditional rock-solid feel Mercedes-Benzes are known for, and now with some really gutsy performance, makes for a car that’s truly lust-worthy. But, like most premium products, the C 450 doesn’t come cheap. Starting at just under $56,000 and approaching nearly 70-large with the options on my tester, this mid-level C-Class surely won’t be for everyone.

4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Audi S4
BMW 340i xDrive
Cadillac ATS 3.6L AWD
Infiniti Q50S AWD
Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
Volvo S60 R AWD

But for those who can get their hands on it – whether paying with hard-earned dollars, or simply bartering your way into the driver’s seat as I’ve done – the 2016 C 450 AMG 4Matic is worth the cost.

Pricing: 2016 Mercedes-Benz C 450 AMG 4Matic
Base Price: $55,900
Options: Paint, $890; Red AMG Nappa Leather, $1,990; Dark Ash Open Pore Wood Trim; $250; Premium Package (COMAND with Navigation, Parktronic, Integrated Garage Door Opener), $4,500; Active LED lighting system, $1,200; Head-Up Display, $1,500
Destination: $2,495
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $68,825

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