Steering, suspension and ride comfort

The Black Series’ adjustable coil-over suspension and optional Dunlop circuit-ready rubber make its dynamic capacities something of a blank canvas. Our test car, riding on the track-minded tyres and AMG’s standard chassis settings, was a compelling advert for leaving well enough alone, though. The Mercedes was superb on the track, and full of welcome reminders of its purposefulness on the road. But reminders only; very few impositions at all.

We’re used to complaining about steering racks as direct as the one on this car, but when you’re given so much feedback, and when there’s plenty of steering weight and generous lateral grip, too, all you can do is sit back and marvel. This C-Class steers with the heft and incisiveness of a 1990s supercar, but none of the buttock-clenching scariness.

At low speeds, over the worst surfaces, there’s a muscular aggression about its damping that doesn’t always make for the most comfortable town ride. But at higher speeds, across country and on the motorway, there’s enough unchecked initial wheel travel to provide a fairly gentle, supple sense of control and a surprisingly quiet secondary ride. Push beyond that and – even in what is a middle-of-the-road setting for those twin-tube dampers – you’ll find negligible body roll, supremely clear and crisp responses to even small steering inputs, and more adhesion and composure than almost any performance special.

Is it as absorbing as any of the ultimate handling benchmarks of the past decade: 997 GT3 RS, Lotus Evora, Cayman R, even Toyota GT86?

Not quite – but it falls short by a margin so small that it’s hard to express. Ultimately, the Black Series’ weight and slightly brutish character preclude the dynamic delicacy of the very best. It is playful and adjustable in equal measure, and a tyre-smoking handful if you get brutish with the throttle. It’s fun to the extent that it’s of very little concern that it goes without the delicacy that marks out true chassis greatness. Given the big-engined, big-hearted nature of these cars, it’s hard to imagine an AMG Mercedes being better. And it’s also easier to live with than most cars of its talent, which is a very convincing deal clincher indeed.

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