Mercedes-Benz AMG has a history of high-performance cars stretching back to the 1960s. Originally conceived to develop motorsport vehicles, much like BMW’s M division, Mercedes’ performance arm later evolved into offering officially sanctioned turn-key customer cars.
The first AMG model to be sold directly through Mercedes-Benz dealerships was the C36 AMG, which was first revealed in 1993. When DaimlerChrysler acquired 100 per cent of AMG in 2005, it granted the firm a much wider and better-supported platform from which to operate.
Myriad models have rolled off AMG’s production line in Affalterbach since it opened in 1976, including the likes of the fabled SL73 AMG, the race-bred CLK GTR and even high-performance variants of Mercedes’ now ageing off-road stalwart, the G-class.
With the brand’s existing range now consisting of more than 20 models, narrowing down which might suit you could take some time. However, if you’re looking for a used example and you’ve got a budget in mind, the task is much easier. But be warned: while secondhand AMG models may not be prohibitively expensive to buy, you should expect to pay a considerable amount to keep the car properly serviced.
So if you’re looking for a used high-performance Mercedes-Benz and can stomach the potential running costs, here are some suggestions to suit most budgets.
C36 AMG (1994-1998) - from £5000
The C36 AMG was the spiritual successor to the venerable 190E 2.3-16 and 2.5-16 Cosworth. Designed to rival the likes of the BMW M3, it was based on Mercedes’ W202 generation of C-class.
Besides a modest ‘Sport’ body kit, the C36 received uprated suspension, 17-inch alloys and a heavily developed 3.6-litre straight-six engine. With 280bhp and 284lb ft, the Mercedes could sprint from 0-60mph in 6.0sec and reach 152mph.
Back when it was unveiled, the C36 cost a not insignificant £38,250 – and that was before you started ticking options boxes. Today, however, you can pick up immaculate examples with less than 100,000 miles on the clock for around £5000.
Models produced in 1995-1996 have a four-speed automatic transmission that is usually trouble-free. Those made from 1997 onwards get a five-speed automatic that can be problematic, so check the transmission fluid and make sure the gearbox behaves properly on a test drive.
The build quality of this generation of C-class is acceptable, but check for any signs of corrosion. Otherwise, notable problems are few and far between, so it’s wear and tear that’ll cost you. Make sure the brakes, suspension and tyres are in good condition, or budget for replacement items.
E55 AMG estate (2003-2006) - from £10,000
The E55 AMG estate proved itself to be one of the fastest ways to move a wardrobe from point A to point B when it was launched in 2003.
Besides immense power and pace, the E55 majored on everyday usability with that huge boot, a cosseting interior and plenty of equipment. You could even get seven-seat versions, ideal for those with larger families.
With a hefty 5.4-litre supercharged V8 sending power to the rear wheels through a relaxed five-speed automatic transmission, the two-tonne E55 can sprint from 0-62mph in around 4.8sec and reach a limited top speed of 155mph.
Mercedes of this generation are prone to corrosion, so inspect the wheel arches and underside carefully for any signs of rust. And on the test drive, make sure the car feels taut and composed, as worn suspension or slack steering can be costly to put right.