How Mercedes C-Class AMGs Have Changed in 20 Years, From Someone Who Owns One

Visually, how does a 2002 C-Class AMG compare to the new car? Let’s take a look.

byKristen Lee| PUBLISHED Sep 22, 2022 4:48 PM
How Mercedes C-Class AMGs Have Changed in 20 Years, From Someone Who Owns One
Kristen Lee/Mercedes
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Two decades of advancements in cars can bring us some truly eye-opening changes. We live through small and incremental automotive design updates all the time, but to see them presented side by side paints a hell of a picture. About two decades separate my 2002 Mercedes-Benz C32 AMG and the 2024 Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance. Hardware-wise, they couldn't be any more different. But as it stands, they're both still C-Class AMGs, and therefore deserve a visual comparison. It's always fun to see how things have progressed.

Obviously, no one's driven the new C63, so today we can really only talk about the stats and, more importantly, the design.

In 2002, my C32 came with a 3.2-liter supercharged V6, good for a claimed 349 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. It weighs in at around 3,500 pounds. Conversely, the C63, after having spent a very long time with V8s, now has a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder hybrid that puts out a combined system output of a claimed 671 hp and 751 lb-ft of torque. That represents a whopping 92 and 126 percent increase in horsepower and torque, respectively. I'm not crying, you're crying in the corner.

This is also not to mention the fact that the new C63 now weighs 4,654 pounds—which is an increase of around 1,100 pounds, or a 31 percent addition in weight. That "C" moniker for "compact" is doing some serious work here, isn't it? Jokes aside, though, the C63 S E Performance is a technological wonder, filled to the brim with Formula 1-derived equipment that makes it faster, more powerful, and more efficient than our tiny brains could have ever dreamed of 20 years ago.

Looking at the two cars next to each other, though, it becomes clear that Mercedes' design philosophy also underwent a huge shift.

In 2002, when the number of new AMGs for sale could be counted on your fingers, they were all about subtlety. The luxury was defined by hiding in plain sight. It was your secret to know and yours only. If you look at the C32, there's really not a whole lot that gives it away as anything other than an ordinary C-Class. Fenders aren't any wider, the front grille isn't any gapey-er, and there are two tailpipes instead of four. There's even a hood ornament, which helps me visually place the front of the car when parking. In those days, the AMG way was to stuff a powerful engine under the hood of a car most people wouldn't toss a second glance at.

This is no longer the case. The C63 has a huge front now, with massive holes for breathing, chiseled headlights, a furiously sculpted hood, a lip spoiler, and quad-tailpipes. There is no hood ornament anymore, and there hasn't been for a few years now, but I'm sure the car's face is full of proximity sensors happy to scream at you even if you get too close to a poodle. Today's AMGs want you to know they're AMGs, dammit, and they all wear the appropriate accouterment to announce themselves as such.

Inside? Completely unrecognizable. There's no gear selector lever, the gigantor screen dominates, and there are just so many more different textures and materials now. However! The new C63 still keeps its seat adjustment controls on the door.

It's plain as day that modern AMGs are far more luxurious than the ones of the past. The interior leathers are so much softer, the sound systems are of higher quality, the onboard safety and assistance tech is out of this world, and the option books are more extensive than a diner menu. But what also comes with that is an aggressive design that now leans more heavily toward sport than refinement.

Mercedes is hardly alone in this trend. Everyone's cars are sleeker and meaner-looking than ever. Rounded shapes, with the exception of Rivian, are out. I wish I had a time machine just so I could show me that this is what 20 years of C-Class AMG evolution would bring us. Would I believe me? Maybe. But give it another 20 years and we'll be right back here again, having the same conversation.

I think mine sounds better, though.

Got a tip? Holla at me: kristen@thedrive.com