- Published: Friday, 10 June 2016 02:17
Mercedes’ high-performance AMG division intends to launch 10 new cars this year. Not all of them are hard core, fire-breathing monsters...
TRIESTE, ITALY — Even if you’re familiar with Mercedes-AMG’s high-performance stuff, you might look at the C 43 Cabriolet and scratch your head a bit.
Just what is a C 43? The short answer is that it’s a sort of AMG-lite, a car not fully engineered by the nutters at the subsidiary’s Affalterbach HQ, but one that’s been meaningfully tuned (although insiders prefer the term “enhanced”).
If the C 63 is capable of pouring sugar onto the sourest of pusses, the C 43 is a smaller dose of the same sweetness.
Much of that ability stems from the 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo under the bonnet.
It comes off the production line rather than being painstakingly put together by a single pair of human hands, as “proper” AMG engines are, but it’s still had some of the sub-brand’s magic waved over it.
New engine management and raised turbo boost help it produce 367hp (34hp up from the C 400’s engine), and perhaps more to the point, even though it doesn’t have the rumbling, bass-heavy voice of an AMG V8, it sounds delicious in its own right. There’s a metallic and rorty V6 tenor that wouldn’t sound out of place in a classic Alfa Romeo.
If mechanical music is something that plucks at your heartstrings, you’ll want to take note of the optional sports exhaust system that really intensifies the noise, and brings a volley of pops and crackles from the tailpipes during fast upshifts.
We drove one car with it and one without, and you’d be a goon not to go for it.
Thing is, the music is vitally important in the C 43 because as sweet as the V6 sounds, it hits noticeably less hard than the V8.
The C 43 Cabriolet is still a quick car, though. It cross 100km/h in only 4.8 seconds, and there’s an eagerness to the engine and the nine-speed auto that gives the Mercedes a vigorous, sparkling personality. It just doesn’t pummel you in the spleen the way the 510hp C 63 S does.
It also does without the C 63’s widened front and rear tracks, but that doesn’t mean the suspension has been left untouched by AMG.
The front end has different settings from regular C-Class Cabriolet models, there are stiffer suspension bushes all ’round, just to remove slack from the car’s responses. Its behaviour sort of falls in between that of the C 300 we drove and the C 63 S — midway in terms of sharpness as well as comfort.
It also has the benefit of a four-wheel drive system (hence the “4Matic” tag), and a good one, at that. It sends 69 percent of the engine’s power to the back axle, so the C 43 feels like a pointy rear wheel-drive car instead of a wishy-washy front wheel-driven one.
Naturally you get great globs of traction to stomp over slippery tarmac with, and on a soaking mountain road I wouldn’t put money on a C 63 S being able to outrun the C 43.
As for out-posing one, the C 43’s cabin does have chequered flag patterns in the instruments and racy red seatbelts. If it’s people outside the car you mean to impress, there are carbonfibre wing mirrors and a tasteful rear wing.
While the C 43 is meant to be an AMG-lite, then, it’s not far off the real thing.
But arguably, the gap between the C 43 and C 63 that really matters is the price one, more than the performance one.
It’s far from certain that the C 43 4Matic will even be sold in Singapore, but the intention is certainly there.
Much hinges on whether it can be brought in for a meaningful sum below the price of a C 63. Price-wise, if it’s too close to the C 63 — a full AMG model, remember — buyers will choose the real thing. A gap of around $100,000 or so would work. The C 43 may be a sweet car, but it would fare much better if it were also a sweet deal.
NEED TO KNOW Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic Cabriolet
Engine 2,996cc, 24V, twin-turbo V6
Power 367bhp at 5500-6000rpm
Torque 520Nm at 2000-4200rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h (limited)
0-100km/h 4.8 seconds
Fuel efficiency 8.3L/100km
Available in Singapore October 2016