Car: Mercedes-Benz C32 AMG
Owned since: 2009
Previously owned: 1986 1.3 Vauxhall Astra GL (first car and obviously the greatest/fastest), 1998 1.4 Vauxhall Tigra (fun little car), 1998 Porsche Boxster 2.5 (great car), 2002 1.6 Honda Civic (I'll explain below...)
Why I bought it:
"My wife and I had just had our son and I'd sold the Boxster to buy a family friendly car. I was told that, as the Porsche was my car, she got to pick the car to transport our new addition to the family in. We test drove a few Golfs (nice cars) but she liked the Civic the most so we ended up with a 1.6 Civic. Fast forward 18 months and I'd realised how much I enjoyed driving and how bloody boring a standard 1.6 Civic is! All my mates were driving 3 or 5 Series BMWs and I've always tried not to follow the herd so I started looking at other marques. I didn't want anything from VW and the Civic had put me off Japanese cars, so I started looking at 'old man Mercs' and found a few AMGs in particular that were right in my price range. I'd narrowed it down to either a C32 or a C55 AMG. The C55 has a naturally aspirated V8, whereas the C32 has a supercharged V6. Both had pretty similar performance and there was only a few grand between them. I did some research and picked the C32 as it had the most tuning potential if I got bored of 354hp and craved more power.
"I arranged to view two on the same day, a silver one and a black one. Both cars were the same year, had similar mileage and were in similar condition. I chose the black one for two reasons: firstly, because it looked so much better (to me) than the silver car and, secondly, there were two different rear tyres on the silver C32. A rear wheel-drive supersaloon without matching tyres? What else had the owner cut corners on? I walked away quickly and didn't look back!"
"I'll be honest, the Porsche taught me a very hard lesson. I bought it with rose tinted glasses and didn't get it checked out and it turned into a total money pit. £9,000 in three years of ownership for an early Boxster just in maintenance bills. Add consumables on top of that and I soon realised it had the running costs of a 996 Turbo. So when I was looking at C32 I researched, researched and researched some more. I knew all about the intercooler contaminating the gearbox and other issues with the cars and the first thing I did with both cars I looked at was check the paperwork. My car had a full service history and had the intercooler fix done two years before I bought it. C32s get some stick for this issue but if you ask me this is no worse than Porsches cylinder lining problems or RMS. All the cars out there will have had these issues sorted by now. I can honestly say my 32 has been very mechanically reliable...
"But then there's the rust! Yes, mechanically robust, pity it's in a body with tin worm. The early 2000s are well documented as Merc's fall from grace regarding quality but I didn't think the rust would be such an issue... I plan to get a full respray done as all four corners and the boot have signs of rust!"
Things I love:
"It's a proper Q-car. It could be a C180 with some nice wheels but no-one realises it's faster in a straight line than a 996 911 (don't mention going fast around corners). I had some fun with a 996 C4S once and he couldn't get past me on the straights. It's fully loaded with memory seats, COMAND, climate control and the Bose upgraded sound system to name but a few. It has a big boot, can fit four full-sized adults in and looks great in black. The one comment I always get from dealers and specialists is the fact they don't see many 32s, so I like the fact it's a bit of a rare car.
"Whenever the 32 goes for a service I get given a nice new Merc as a courtesy car. Every time I hand the keys back for the courtesy cars I get a little twinge that the 32s interior is getting old, that the dash lights are all orange ... and then I turn the key in the ignition and drive it. AMG engines are things to behold, no matter how old they are!"
"I have only one criticism really. Compared to the Boxster the steering feels numb (not as bad as the Civic, mind you) so really sticking the car into the corners can be a bit of a guessing game sometimes. And yes, it's a bit wobbly in the corners but, then again, it's a saloon car!
"Look after the car and it will look after you. I get the car serviced at main dealers and other jobs done at specialists. AMG running costs seems just about on par with all other performance marques to be honest. Budget £600 for a major service (with oil from Costco) and about the same again for consumables throughout the year. Treat springs as a consumable as they are a known issue on W203 Mercs but you can pick these up easily enough. I've had a few other issues, but to be honest the car is getting on a bit now so they are to be expected and none of them have stopped me using the car.
"One bit of advice for anyone thinking of getting a 32 is about the intercooler pump. It's the same pump as the one on the Ford Focus RS, the exact same Bosch part number. Pump from Merc: £300. Pump from Ford: £90. A Bosch part in an AMG box or a Ford box? Guess where my money went!"
Where I've been:
"Mercedes owners clubs and events are everywhere. The people are really friendly so I've attended a few meets and I've always had a good time. I did a VMax a few years ago and it was a bit elitist but I've never come across that at a Merc meet. Highlights were an AMG event down at Brooklands. As I was driving toward the main building a Porsche Carrera GT and three Porsche 918s drove past us, so from a petrolhead point of view that was a good start to the day! I met David Coulthard and he really came across as nice guy with some good stories about F1. I've also done a track day around Goodwood (which was a proper bucket list achievement for me) and will never forget the sound of a V8 C63 at full chat down the pit straight. I want to do Le Mans at some point too and take the 32 - another one to tick off the list!"
"I'm of the opinion that if a car manufacturer opens a showroom and puts cars in it, it's an offer to come and test their cars. I've test driven plenty of cars (sorry sales people!) and the most impressive car was an Aston Martin. I've driven both an '07 and '09 (facelift) DB9 and set myself the target of owning one in the next few years. I'll probably end up putting the AMG in storage..."
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