A little less mad than a C 63 but no less satisfying, the new C 43 is your sensible gateway to the crazy world of Mercedes-AMG…
SINGAPORE — One way to look at the Mercedes-AMG C43 is as a poor man’s C 63. It’s cheaper and less powerful, and it’s meant to be a gateway into the world of AMG — Mercedes’ power-obsessed, madcap in-house tuner.
Or you could see it as a sensible way to fill the gap between a C 250 (which has 208 horsepower) and the C 63 (which starts at a bonkers 469hp).
Either way, here’s the ingredients list for the C 43: four-door C-Class body, 3.0-litre V6 bi-turbo engine, nine-speed auto, and Merc’s 4matic all-wheel drive system.
That puts 367 horsepower under the bonnet, and with it you get a wonderfully brisk car. 4.9 seconds might not seem ballistically quick these days, but it’s still borderline supercar stuff, and the eager way the C 43 hikes its skirt up and takes off is guaranteed to make your face scrunch up with amusement.
The word for the car is “energetic” (although if you select the “Eco” driving mode things calm down somewhat), and the V6 is engine is just a jewel, revving smoothly and making the kind of music that makes the in-car entertainment unnecessary.
Our test car didn’t have the sports exhaust system that makes the exhaust pop and crackle with satisfying drama, but local-spec cars will apparently have it equipped, which is something to celebrate. We’ve sampled it on overseas drives of the car, and when you hear the fizzy, firecracker snap from the tailpipes each time the C 43 changes up a gear it’s impossible not to giggle.
The C 43 handles a treat, too, just feeling so planted and eager to change direction that it’s like someone at the factory somehow set it up perfectly for your driving style. In a sense, they did. People at AMG who walk around with scientific calculators have breathed on the suspension a bit, installing parts from the C 63 and tuning the all-wheel drive system to dial out understeer. That means sending more of the engine power to the rear by default (67 percent), though it’s good to know that the front wheels can pull you straight if you’re somehow able to get a bit tail slidey in what is a car with seemingly boundless levels of traction.
Between the beautifully zesty engine and the sharp but surefooted handling, the C 43 was the sort of car that everyone at the office raved about after driving it.
Its bright personality is complemented by the fact that it’s still a Mercedes, meaning it’s all-day comfortable, subdued when you want it to be, and decently refined over bumps. It’s easy, in a sense, to build a brutally fast car, but to make it something that you’d gladly live with on a day-to-day basis takes some doing.
You’ll have to be a fan of understatement to appreciate the C 43, too. There are dark 19-inch wheels and a small boot wing, but you have to look hard to notice the lowered suspension. There are no bulged front fenders, like on the C 63.
But there’s a minor sense of occasion when you climb aboard, thanks to the car’s red seatbelts and subtly sporty instruments, which have a chequered flag pattern.
In a weird way, it’s satisfying to think that driving a C 43 4Matic will tell people that you’re driving a genuine AMG product, too — when people try to dress up their C 180s, they’ll fake the C 63, not this.
While we’re on the subject, it’s worth pondering the C 43’s place against that car. The C 63 is noticeably that bit sharper, in terms of its steering response and how stable it feels through corners, but in most drivers’ hands the C 43 will easily deliver nine-tenths of that car’s pace. In fact, when it’s raining I reckon the C 43’s 4Matic system might even give it the edge.
Thing is, the C 43’s price is less than three-quarters what a C 63 costs, which makes it a bit of a steal. It’s ultimately less dramatic than the C 63 (or better yet, the properly bonkers C 63 S), but the C 43 has such an eager, sweet personality that you’re unlikely to complain. Our advice? If you’re in the market for an AMG version of the C-Class, don’t skip a test drive of the C 43 — you might end up saving yourself $112,000.
Yes, some people will undoubtedly dismiss it as a poor man’s C 63. But drive the car and you’ll see it more as the thinking man’s C 63.
NEED TO KNOW Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic
Price $315,888 with COE
Engine 2,996cc, twin-turbo V6
Power 367hp at 5,500-6,000rpm
Torque 520Nm at 2,000-4,200rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h (limited)
0-100km/h 4.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 8.0L/100km