REVIEW DATE: 23 Jul 2010
The ultimate Mercedes-Benz C-Class opens the door to the supercar club. Steve Walker takes a look at the DR 520.
Big power outputs have never held any fear for Mercedes-Benz. The company has proven over the years that however much brute force other manufacturers are willing pack into their vehicles, it will happily go one, or preferably ten, better. This policy has led to some spectacularly fast cars carrying the three-pointed star, a few with more power than was strictly good for them. So when absurdly powerful road rockets are two-a-penny in your back catalogue, what do you do when you really need to grab the public's attention? Something like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class DR 520 might suffice.
To launch its Specialist Products Division based at Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands in Surrey, Mercedes needed a truly specialist product and the DR 520 is it. The Specialist Products Division is a department at Mercedes which is designed to help customers with an above average budget find their ideal car. That might mean a classic 300 SL Gullwing from the 1950s or a state-of-the-art Mercedes McLaren SLR. The department will also produce its own exclusive limited run versions of existing products from time to time and that's what it did with the C-Class DR 520. This car amounts to a heavily modified version of the formidable C-Class C 63 AMG.
Most C-Classes leave the production line with a middling four-cylinder diesel engine and live out a useful life as a mile-munching company car or dependable family transport for a private buyer but at the top of the range, the C 63 AMG is quite different. This is the Mercedes-Benz compact super saloon complete with a 6.2-litre V8 cranking out 450bhp. It's the Mercedes answer to the BMW M3 and the DR 520 version of this car is positioned as an alternative to specialist M3 models like the CSL and GTS which turn the lunatic dial up to eleven.
"The DR looks a fitting way to launch the Mercedes Specialist Products Division"
The DR 520 car benefits from the AMG Performance Pack Plus which can be fitted to the standard C 63 AMG. Engine-wise, it includes forged pistons, special connecting rods and a revised crankshaft. There's no turbo on the C 63 just a whole lot of cubic capacity and the DR 520 keeps to that formula, the difference being that it has a power boost to 520bhp and torque increased by 50Nm to 650Nm. It's worth pointing out that the C-Class isn't a huge luxury saloon, it's a compact executive model weighing around 1,700kg and measuring 4581mm from nose to tail. 520bhp is a lot of power in a car like this and it enables the DR 520 to hit 60mph from a standing start in 4.1s. Choose the 'practical' estate version and 0.1s is added to that time but the top speed is the same, an artificially limited 187mph.
Despite performance that's bordering on the insane, the DR 520 isn't all that extreme to look at. It certainly doesn't conform to the huge spoilers and vast wheelarches formula as seen on the even more specialised Mercedes-Benz Black Series models. What you get in addition to the C 63 is an upgraded braking system with red callipers, some DR 520 badging and, if you choose the saloon, a carbonfibre rear spoiler. Things get a little more extrovert inside where the impressive sports seats bear the DR 520 legend and virtually everything that can be is swathed in leather or Alcantara. An AMG Performance steering wheel is also added.
The car features a three stage ESP system that seems likely to come in handy but can be deactivated or switched to a compromise Sport mode if the fancy takes you. The Sport mode allows for a greater degree of understeer or oversteer before it intervenes by braking the relevant wheels or cutting engine torque. It all makes for a more involving driving experience and real tearaways can turn the whole ESP system off and drive as nature intended but Mercedes recommend that you save this for the racetrack. In both "Sport" and "ESP off" mode, the ESP reactivates under braking but then reverts to the desired mode once the pedal is released.
Only 20 DR 520 models are going to see the light of day and they're exclusive to the UK market. The price is £10,000 above the price of the C 63 AMG which is hardly affordable but in the context of supercar packing 500bhp plus, overall asking prices just north of £60,000 are not unreasonable. The estate and saloon models get titanium finish alloy wheels and a comprehensive equipment list while a 3-year 60,000-mile warranty is included despite the cars status as a UK-only special edition.
6.2-litres and 520bhp is never going to spell low running costs but at least residual values should be buoyed by the DR 520's exclusivity. The best bet is to take the prohibitive running costs and purchase price on the chin, consoling yourself with the surging acceleration that takes hold when you bury the throttle. Expect to average 20-25mpg on a run if you're lucky and to pay top group insurance. If that puts you off, then you're unlikely to be the target market for one of these anyway.
It's long been the Mercedes-Benz philosophy that there's always room for more power and the C-Class DR 520 shows that such thinking is alive and well within the company. 520bhp and a 4.1s 0-60mph time puts this enhanced C 63 AMG model up into the supercar class.
The DR looks a fitting way to launch the Mercedes Specialist Products Division as products don't get much more specialist and there should be little problem selling the 20 models which are planned.
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