For 2005, V8 power returns to the Mercedes-Benz C Class line with the C55 AMG sedan, which replaces the 2004 supercharged C32 AMG. The V8 makes 13 more horsepower and 44 lb-ft more torque than the C32.

AMG (Aufrecht-Melcher-Grossaspach, named for the two founders and the town where the company began) is Mercedes-Benz’s performance division, and it shows in the C55 AMG. Its 5.5-litre V8, built by AMG, produces 362 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, and will sprint from zero to 100 km/h in an estimated 5.1 seconds, while coddling driver and passengers in leather-clad luxury.

The engine bolts to an electronic five-speed automatic with Touch Shift and AMG SpeedShift technology. SpeedShift operates in a “direct-drive” mode in second to fifth gears, providing the sensation of a manual-equipped car in high-performance driving. It automatically downshifts during hard braking and prevents upshifts on hard corners.

An independent three-link front suspension and independent five-arm multilink rear suspension hook up to polished AMG-specific 18-inch double-spoke wheels that are 7.5 inches wide in front and 8.5 inches in rear.

The C55 AMG features sport seats with Nappa leather upholstery, ten-way power front seats with three-position memory, multifunction steering wheel with power adjustments, automatic climate control, cruise control, integrated garage door opener, split folding rear seat with ski sack, auto-dimming mirror, CD player, and Smart Key with programmable user-recognition.

Optional equipment includes bi-xenon headlamps with washers, infrared rain-sensing wipers, DVD-based navigation system, rear sunshade, and Harmon/Kardon sound system with six-CD changer.

The C55 is a sleeper, with elegant and understated styling surrounding the brute within. Supercharging’s nice, but there’s no substitute for cubic inches, and the C55’s boost in torque over the outgoing model makes it even more impressive when the light turns green. The staggered-size, high-performance tires ensure that every ounce of power makes itself useful, but the C55 never comes on too aggressively; the ride is smooth and comfortable, the handling is sharp, and it’s all very refined.

The less-expensive Audi S4 also carries a V8, but makes 340 hp and 302 lb-ft of torque; the slightly pricier BMW M3 also falls short, at 333 hp and 262 lb-ft. Surprisingly, the Hemi-powered Chrysler 300C tops the C55’s pulling power with 390 lb-ft of torque; although it has 22 fewer horses, it’s $29,505 less than the AMG. Still, don’t expect a stampede; they may both be DaimlerChryslers, but the C55’s three-pointed star holds a lot of sway.

The C55 AMG is built in Afalterbach, Germany.

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