For some, car enthusiasm and ownership means buying trash cans and knowing how much they can fix. For others, it means a fleet of charismatic hitters. For me, that means keeping the original (to the best of my ability, anyway) 2002 Mercedes-Benz C32 AMG that I intend to hold on to forever. Now that the car is finally at home 100,000 miles on the clock, I’m feeling enlightened.
As long as I’ve worked as a car clerk, my C32 hasn’t seen much use. I think I put about 3,000 miles on it a year. Part of that was because this ridiculous job often provides me with different cars to test, and part of it was because the 100,000 mile mark has always been a mental and emotional hurdle for me since I’ve owned the car. I got it when it was only 64,000 miles away. Now, 99,000 miles away and on the edge of the six-mile mark, I’m staying with the same idea I had when I turned 30 earlier this year: I never thought we’d get this far.
On the face of it, it’s a silly thing to worry about. Age is a silly thing to worry about. But it is still a milestone. When thinking about a used car, we generally talk about cars with five-figure mileage better than cars with six. This is doubled if the vehicle in question is old German. However, if I’m not planning on selling it at all, what should I worry about? What am I saving the car for? nothing. Am I not the one yelling at garage queens to drive their damn cars? Hypocrisy is bad, and it also makes you ugly.
So, I took her on a big road trip last month. I went all over Vermont, and logged about 1,100 miles. At first, I glance at the odometer, knock up, and have a small and calm feeling of myself. But as the days and miles went by, I stopped worrying so much. It was nice getting to know my car again.
Within the Mercedes-Benz hierarchy – and then DaimlerChrysler – the C32 is a member of the second-generation W203 C-Class, which succeeded the W202 and preceded the W204 chassis styles. Built from 2000 to 2007, the W203 sported a more rounded design than the 1990s-generation W202 and generally looked friendlier than the W204, which was the start of the more aggro Mercedes design today. Officially, two AMGified versions of the W203 came to the US: first the six-cylinder C32, then the V8-powered C55.
From its supercharged, 3.2-liter V6 engine, Mercedes got 349 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque when this car was new. I don’t know if that’s the case resident It makes, but I can tell you it’s fast as hell and it dives into and clears gaps in traffic in a spirit I don’t feel with many modern luxury sedans. The supercharger makes a cold whine during pregnancy, and the power is linear. And at only about 3,500 pounds, it’s a great reminder that the Performance C-Class was tossable and light on its feet.
Unfavorable to competition when it was introduced—BMW offered the M3 coupe design, Audi S4 offered a naturally aspirated V8, and both came in a stick—the C32’s relative unpopularity translates into a refreshing rarity today, two decades later. And the things I see are always black or silver, never the metallic blue Capri like mine.
The C32 isn’t the fastest car, the best track star, or the greatest processor out there. But it’s a beautiful cruiser, designed to sit on a highway at 90 mph and not a bat. There’s a reason the 90 mph mark appears in the middle of the speedometer, which a friend affectionately called a “bathroom scale.”
A lot can happen in the automotive field in 20 years, and from my position here, I think the C32 hails from a more honest time in the history of Mercedes-Benz and AMG. Contemporary AMGs are great, but also loud; They have quad exhaust pipes, greasy fenders, gap faces, raised hoods, whatever that feature may be.
On the contrary, the C32 is almost indistinguishable from the other W203 C-classes, except for the badge here and there, the polished exhaust pipes, and the different wheels. What matters is below, a kind of quiet bravado that no modern performance car no longer wears. How much efficient design do you need today to make up for the price, anyway? A lot it seems.
At 20 and 100,000 miles old, the C32 is still a mob, still returns 24 mpg on the highway, and its air conditioning still blows cold (because I replaced everything a few years ago). I shipped it to California for college and back. I cried for the boys in it. I took my first solo and remote road trip. I know all about how it’s supposed to work like the back of my hand: the sound it’s supposed to make, how it’s supposed to ride, and the transmission quivering at 1,500 rpm in first gear. The seat leather is wonderfully weathered, the trunk is large, and mechanically, it works perfectly. A few years ago I replaced the carpeted floor rug with a rubber one and I haven’t looked back since.
Now, the car is in store for the great service check it deserves. I have an estimate in hand for how much it will cost, and will honestly pay what the mechanic wants. The C32 has treated me well for a long time. Who am I not to return the favor?
And before the end of the year, we will hit the 100,000-mile mark and we will continue to do so. Age is just a number, and you don’t have to be precious about a car that still brings you happiness.
Got a tip? Hola Lee: [email protected]