PHOENIX - A practical supercar?

The folks over at Mercedes say yes, but it'll take a quick $52,750 out of your bank account.

"This is not something to be admired and put in a garage," says Mike Jackson, president of Mercedes-Benz North America. "It's an everyday supercar."

Mercedes' latest offering, which hit showrooms in April, wears the envelope of a sensible C-Class with a modified engine, body and interior by AMG. The C43 has the V-8 24-valve 4.3L engine of the E430 sedan modified by AMG to put out 302 hp - up 10% over its normal 275 hp. It will do 0 to 60 (0 to 97 km/h) in 5.9 seconds and hammers on to a top speed of 155 mph (248 km/h).

Mercedes partnered with AMG to co-develop the C43. The automaker builds a 4-door supercar each decade, and since the '80s has been doing them with AMG, a small but well-known tuner that has been modifying M-B cars since 1967. The C43 replaces the C36, which saw sales of 1,000 in the U.S. during its three-year lifetime. Mercedes will sell 5,000 to 6,000 C43s worldwide during three years, with the U.S. getting 1,500.

The process begins when Mercedes sends its standard 4.3L V-8 to the AMG factory in Affalterbach, Germany, for engine modifications. The powerplant is then shipped back to the C-Class factory in Bremen, Germany, where it is installed, along with the wheels, tires, brakes, instrument panel and seats in a C-Class body. The bare-bones C is then shipped back to AMG where special interior, suspension and body parts are installed.

The finished product is perfect for those who want the practicality of a sedan coupled with the performance of a sports car. "That person does not want a tradeoff," says Karin Makris, product manager-C-Class. "You don't lose sedan comfort or convenience."

The C43 is a total performance package, she says. Equip-ped with a heavy-duty driver-adaptive 5-speed automatic transmission from the S-Class, the C43 has aggressive and quick shifting. While some would complain about the lack of a manual gearbox, Ms. Makris says a manual is unnecessary because of the high performance of the automatic. Even European manual-loving customers will only be able to buy the C43 with an automatic.

"We think that this automatic transmission is very suited to the car," she says.

The C43 also is equipped with racing-derived 4-wheel vented disc brakes: 13.1-in. (33-cm) discs on the front and 11.8-in. (30-cm) in the rear. It also has specially constructed 17-in. (43-cm) alloy wheels, firmer springs and stiffer shocks.

On the appearance front, the C43 has a deeper front air dam to funnel extra air to the engine, sculpted side skirts, a lower rear apron and doorsill extensions. The vehicle's dual exhaust tips bear AMG badging, along with the steering wheel and the trunk lid.

On the inside, the car is outfitted with AMG's two-tone leather in black with blue or silver. It also has an AMG-designed thick-rim leather steering wheel for added grip.

While the car is high on performance features it also ranks high with practicality.

Standard features include side air bags, electronic stability control, auto climate, traction control, remote locking, cruise control and a front air bag-disabling baby-smart passenger seat, in case junior wants to go along for a thrilling - but safe - ride.

C43 comes with only four options, including xenon headlamps, metallic paint, headlamp washers and six-disc CD changer with integrated mobile telephone or mobile telephone. With all available options, the C43 touches $56,545.

How's that for practicality and thrills?