It’s a long time since the likes of AMG’s original 190E 3.2 set the template for generations of compact sports saloons.

In the decades since, the concept has been refined in more ways than one. Luxury and technological sophistication now matter almost as much as anything else, and AMG packages both better than any of its competitors.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
A digitised owner's manual is useful, but it doesn't give instructions on how to operate the Race Start launch control, which is quite involved

The C 63’s key advantage is that it’s a C-Class, so it brings innovations filtered down from bigger Mercedes-Benz models along with a material lavishness that you simply won’t find in any of its rivals.

The SL’s Frontbass audio system comes as standard, as do the S-Class’s latest Collision Prevention Assist Plus crash mitigation and Attention Assist fatigue-monitoring systems.

The C 63’s fixtures and fittings bristle with more matt chrome than any rival sports saloon and almost all feel solid and expensive. The glossy black plastic of the centre console is less attractive and prone to dirty fingermarks and, to us, the silvery plastic on the steering wheel seems slightly low-rent.

But the feathered aluminium trim across the dashboard and door consoles is worn very well indeed, and finding a button or knob that lets the side down on perceived quality is impossible.

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Cabin space is good in both rows, and although the boot is quite shallow, it’s big enough to swallow all but the very bulkiest items. The instruments are conventional analogue dials and fairly plain, but with its lap timer, boost gauge and engine and transmission oil temperature readouts, the AMG mode of the central trip computer screen adds the performance drama.

As for standard equipment, the C 43 comes with 18in alloy wheels, a sporty bodykit, leather upholstery, red seatbelts over the standard AMG Line C-Classes. Upgrade to the C 63 and you'll find a mechanical locking differential, LED headlights, a Nappa leather upholstery and splitting rear seats, while hardcore S comes with 19in alloys, an electronic locking diff, cruise control, performance seats, and a leather and microfibre steering wheel.

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