Cheap AMG Faceoff: 1996 C36 AMG vs 1999 C43 AMG

AMG — three letters that strike fear in the heart of sport-luxury sedan owners — fear in the heart of the competition by being blisteringly fast in a straight line, and fear in their owners wallets because they are notoriously complex and expensive to repair.  However, that combination of speed and cost-of-ownership is a wonderful recipe for a cheap (entry to market) luxury sedans.  Today we’ve got a face-off of Mercedes-Benz W202 C-class speeders — a 1996 C36 AMG vs 1999 C43 AMG.  Both are tips from FuelTruck.

First up is this 1996 Mercedes-Benz C36 AMG offered for $4,200 in Las Vegas, NV via craigslist.  The C36 started as a basic C-Class but was shipped to the AMG factory in Affalterbach and modified with a hand-built 3.6 liter version of the M104 inline-6 producing 276 horsepower and 284 ft-lbs of torque.

The C36 also received a  lowered/stiffened suspension, 4-speed automatic (later 5-speed) gearbox from the bigger E-Class, big brakes, an AMG specific body kit, and AMG wheels.  A few years ago I used one of these things as a daily driver/family car and it was perfectly adequate for normal driving, but would really scoot when you got your boot into it.  It feels much faster than the 5.7 seconds to 60mph stats, probably because the auto stopped it from getting a good launch off the line. 

Fighting the C36 for every minute of your attention is this 1998-2000 Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG offered for $4,700 in Cardiff, CA via craigslist.   The C43 was the successor to the C36 and used a 4.3 liter version of the M113 V8 borrowed from the E-Class.  Power was up slightly to 302 horsepower and 302 ft-lbs of torque thanks to AMG massaging of airflow.  Shifting is accomplished with a 5-speed automatic gearbox, but it features the same tight suspension and big brakes borrowed from the E55 AMG.

What do you pick?  The silky inline-6 or the brutish V8?  For my money I’d go with the C43 because I’ve already owned a C36 and variety is the spice of life.  See another cheap AMG badged driver?