Buyers Guide: 1995-2000 W202 C-Class AMGs

Richard Simonds and Gary Anderson

















1995-2000 W202 C-Class AMGs

First foray by Mercedes-Benz into factory-built high-performance sedans



The W202 C-Class sedans introduced in 1993 were the next step in the evolution of the Baby Benz 190E series. The success of the W201 190E 2.3-16 in the late 1980s designed by Mercedes engineers working with Cosworth engine developers was enough encouragement for the product planners to create a high-performance version of the C-Class sedan. Under a contract of cooperation signed in 1990, Mercedes-Benz worked with previously independent tuner-company AMG to add some serious performance capability to the sedans, with the first product, the C36, introduced to the market in 1995.

The C36 was built around an AMG-designed inline 6-cylinder engine with double-overhead camshafts, initially producing 268 horsepower. To support the added performance potential, appropriate modifications also were made to the W202 drivetrain, suspension, tires, and trim. The more-powerful engine and modifications changed the character of the sedans while retaining their drivability and comfort for everyday use. With initial positive response in the marketplace – but hearing the cry, “More power!” – AMG revved the output on the engine to 276 horsepower in 1997.

For 1998, AMG and Mercedes got a bit more aggressive and designed the C43 around the V-8 engine from the basic E430, engineered and tuned to produce 302 horsepower. Interestingly, the V-8 C43 engine weighed 44 pounds less than the inline 6-cylinder C36 it replaced. As with the preceding design, the C43 was enhanced with some performance modifications to accompany drivetrain, suspension, tires, and trim. The goal remained to provide demanding customers with high performance without sacrificing everyday drivability.

And with an even higher-performance engine from AMG built around the new 5,439cc V-8, by the end of 1998, a select few customers – perhaps fewer than 100 – opted to have their C43 on order converted to a C55 before shipping.  

The success of the C36 and C43 models and the E-Class AMG performance models convinced the Daimler Board of Management that performance sells and adds to the corporate image, a formula that goes back to 1903 when Emil Jellinek ordered high-performance vehicles from Daimler and was successful in the motorsport races in Nice, France. With this encouragement, Mercedes-Benz acquired a controlling interest in AMG in 1999, which expanded to full ownership in 2005. The result – Mercedes-Benz had its own factory-based “hot rods.” Now the Mercedes-Benz buyer didn’t have to purchase a stock sedan and send it to a tuner/modifier for performance enhancements, but instead could get one straight from the factory through a Mercedes-Benz dealer. Yes, “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” worked then, and still does.

Reasons to Buy

  • The basic W202 chassis has proven itself since 1993
  • Safety features such as ABS and ASR traction control were becoming widely used throughout all models by this time
  • The AMG performance enhancements to engine, drivetrain, and suspension make it fun to drive
  • At this point in their lives, the cars offer great performance value at a reasonable price
  • Components are generally simple to repair with few electronics in the C36, and a bit more in the C43
  • For a small sedan, the C-Class uses space well and is smooth and easy to drive
  • These cars are very versatile, capable on the track and comfortable as daily drivers


Reasons Not to Buy

  • Bio-degradable wiring harnesses installed on the 1993-1995 models are expensive to replace
  • Some few examples may have been driven hard; inspect carefully for condition
  • Rust can be a problem depending upon where the car has lived and how it’s been stored during its lifetime
  • With only 5,221 C36s produced – 979 sold in the United States – and even fewer C43s, some trim parts may be difficult to find
  • The AMGs don’t have manual transmissions available, a cause for concern for many hard-core track enthusiasts



  • Engine wiring and harnesses condition
  • Condition of seat padding and springs, though replacements are readily available
  • Regular coolant changes to protect aluminum engine components from corrosion
  • Lower control arm bushings on the front suspension need replacement earlier than expected
  • C36s suffer from leaky head gaskets on the right rear corner


1993-MayW202 C-Class enters production
1993-SeptemberC36 AMG introduced at Frankfurt

W202 C-Class restyled

C36 production ends

1997-SeptemberC43 AMG introduced at Frankfurt
1998-JulyC55 available on special order
2000-MayW202 production ends


Value Guidelines

Model SeriesC  CondB  CondA Cond
C36 AMG – 1995-97$6,000$8,200$10,900
C43 AMG – 1998-00$6,700$9,000$13,500
  • A Condition – Potential class winner at regional concours
  • B Condition – Safe and attractive for club events
  • C Condition – Complete but requires repair or restoration


Technical Specifications: 1995-2000 C-Class AMG Sedans















Years Produced1995-19971998-20001998-2000
Engine Size and TypeDOHC I-6


4,266cc V-8 


5,439cc V-8 

Horse Power



Torque lb-ft280302376





Accel. 0 - 62 mph6.4 sec.5.9
Max Speed155**155**na
Whlbase (inches)105.9105.9105.9
Length (inches)177.4177.4177.4
Weight (pounds)3,5493,4613,461

18 city

22 hwy

17 cidy

22 hwy

  • * C36 engine upgraded to 276 horsepower in 1997
  • ** Electronically limited  in conformance with Euro0-pean regulations       


Ask an Owner | 1999 C43 AMG

My wife Lue was driving a 1998 C230 sedan, which was proving to be a good car for us. I liked everything about it, but wanted more. Power, that is. I had read about the C43 AMG version of this C-Class car, but unfortunately, the dealer did not have one available, except on special order. 

So we had to wait two slow months for delivery from Europe. As I had hoped, the C43 met all the requirements I was hoping it would, and has to this day. It had the convenience of four doors for friends and children to ride with us in comfort. Needless to say, 300-horsepower in the same 3,400-pound sedan as my wife was driving made for a great ride with all the rest of the AMG goodies – long trips are a pleasure; the ride is stable, handling is responsive, and braking is outstanding.

As I understand the origin of my car, the C43 is powered by a tuned version of the 4.3-liter M113 V-8 engine originally developed for the W210 E430 model. The transmission is an AMG-modified version of the 5-speed automatic gearbox found on the 1998-2000 R129 SL500. Modifications were made to achieve a crisper and better-adapted gearbox to higher-rpm upshifts. Also, the braking system was adopted from the W210 E55 AMG.

Soon after we purchased the car, we received an invitation from some good friends in Florida. How about a real test trip – California to Florida and back – with our new C43? What a great idea! 

Departure date was April 10, 2001. Our first stops were to see friends in Kingman and Phoenix, Arizona, then a visit to Carlsbad Caverns near El Paso, Texas. On the long open stretches across the Southwest, we could really let the horses loose. Whee! What a ride, and what a car, cruising at a hundred miles per hour whenever conditions were suitable. After visits to relatives in Weatherford, Keene, and Houston, Texas, we figured we could use another treat and enjoyed a couple of wonderful days on our first time in New Orleans, Louisiana, and then on through several southern states to Florida. Crossing the border into Florida, and driving at a pretty good pace, we spotted the law waiting for us as we came over a rise. Fortunately, at least then, Florida apparently had a policy to give courtesy tickets to tourists – at least the lucky ones – when they were pulled over for the first time. The highway patrol trooper told us, “Just don’t get another ticket while you’re here, and have a nice vacation.”

We spent a day in traditional St. Petersburg, our hosts took us to the NASA Kennedy Space Center near Orlando, and we boated on the gulf. We couldn’t believe all the alligators watching us from the riverbanks during our boat trip … causing a bit of apprehension.   

The trip home was straight through, stopping just for an occasional break, and we pulled into our garage three weeks after we left, with more than 6,000 miles under the wheels. We didn’t have a bit of trouble, and it was pure joy driving our C43 from coast to coast.                                 

Now, more than a decade later, the car is still up for an occasional wild ride. When an MBCA track day was scheduled at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, California, the hot laps were great fun. The AMG is still more than capable of driving fast … more than just fast, but really fast. Although I didn’t reach the 155 mph that was promised out the door on the stock C43, I had no doubt that with a little more length on the front straight, I could have made it, and it was as responsive on the tight corners. It’s the whole design that’s quick!

Maintenance and repair have been minimal; I replaced the transmission controller under warranty, a mass-airflow sensor, front crank seal, plugs and radiator. Oops, brake pads and rotors, too. With the odometer reading 150,000 miles, I think that shows excellent reliability.

My conclusion after having owned and driven one of these high-performance compacts for nearly 12 years: If you find a clean C43 for sale, grab it.

Care to join me for a Sunday Drive?

Shannon Christian
Central California Section
This page, top to bottom: This is a current photograph of  Shannon and Lue Christian’s C43, purchased new in 1999, and now with 150,000 miles under the wheels. A view of the car from the rear. The interior of the C43 was distinguished not only by the shape of the AMG seats with heavy side bolsters for enthusiastic driving, but also by their iconic two-tone black and white color scheme and matching steering wheel.