Road tests / 26 November 2018, 07:15am / Jason Woosey
Johannesburg - The C43, rather like the E53 and A35 ‘deputies’ in the ranges above and below, is very much the thinking man’s AMG series.
The range-topping 63 AMGs have become exponentially more badass over the years and as a result they’re proportionately harder to afford, leaving a gaping hole in the line-up which the C43 fills quite comfortably, at a much lower price tag while still offering performance that’s worthy of that hallowed AMG badge.
Motivated by a recently revised 3-litre twin-turbo that now pushes out 287kW at 6000rpm (17kW more than the pre-facelift model) and 520Nm from 2500, the C43 might sound a lot weaker than the V8-powered C63, which produces 88kW and 180Nm more, but the performance gap (4.7 seconds from 0-100 according to claims versus 3.9 in the C63’s case) is not as huge as you would have imagined - and we’d put that down to the C43’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system getting it off the line more smoothly.
It’s also somewhat less expensive. Mercedes-AMG has yet to announce pricing for the facelifted C63 that’s due soon, but if the previous C63 S’s price tag is anything to go by then it’s going to command a premium of more than R500 000 over the C43, which sells for R960 265 in four-door form, R995 771 in Coupe guise (as per our test car) and R1 113 030 as a Convertible.
Easier to buy, almost as quick, slightly more economical and also less likely to send drivers hurtling into a pole in wet weather or that set of twisties when bravery gets the better of talent, the C43 sounds, on the surface at least, to be a complete no brainer. The better buy. Case closed.
Yes it is the better buy, but if you’re looking for something that’s going to truly stir your soul, you might want to stretch your way up to the C63 instead.
For starters, the soundtrack is more ‘80s pop than rock ‘* roll. Granted, a V6 is never going to produce an intoxicating bellow to rival that of the V8 or even a straight six, but it doesn’t feel like AMG has done enough to liven up the C43’s acoustics - even with the adjustable exhaust flaps set to their most liberal, this car’s soundtrack didn’t really get my groove on.
Now let me make the rude suggestion that Mercedes-AMG retires this V6 at some point and replaces it with the new M 256 straight-six powerplant.
But let’s be clear here, the V6-powered C43 is still incredibly quick and provides acceleration off the mark that’s hardly short of exhilarating. If I have to nitpick though, I’d say the engine and 9-speed TCT Speedshift automatic transmission could be more responsive to accelerator pedal movements at speed, where I noticed a little lag from time to time.
As with all good performance cars nowadays, the C43’s engine, gearbox, chassis and steering parameters can be adjusted via drive modes “Comfort”, “Sport”, “Sport+” and “Individual” - the latter allowing drivers to mix things up in their own way.
Although the damping can be adjusted via the chassis settings, the C43 offers a very decent balance between ride and road holding regardless of the selections made.
As you’d expect, the damping still errs on the firm side. This and the low-profile tyres do introduce some harshness into the cabin, but it’s something that you’ll hear more than you’ll feel - the ride is actually surprisingly comfy over everyday tar surfaces.
Road holding is neat and balanced, and you still get that sensation of being pushed through the corners rather than being pulled into them, thanks to the rear-biased torque distribution that sees 69 percent going to the back.
Oh, and you can now monitor your G-Forces and lap times through a new AMG-specific information display. Not that many owners are likely to take it that far, but the stopwatch, speed/distance and Boost displays could certainly facilitate some good, wholesome car-and-driver bonding.
The updated cabin also gains a digital instrument cluster with three display modes, “Classic”, “Sport” or “Supersport”. Unlike the more modern wide-screen set-ups that you’ll see in the latest A-Class and E-Class, the digital instrument cluster remains completely separate from the central infotainment system, set in deep cowls.
More like a traditional cockpit, then, which is definitely the way I prefer it.
There’s a new AMG-specific steering wheel too and for an extra outlay, buyers can opt for race-style AMG Performance seats, with three-level climate control.
They are however the perfect addition to the C43’s already stunning cabin, with its combination of classy materials, including aluminium and piano black trim, black roof liner and red seat belts.
As I stated at the beginning of this story, the C43 is the thinking man’s AMG. There’s a definite place for a vehicle like this that offers excitement without resorting to hooliganism, I just wish they’d injected a little bit more of the former into this package. And if this was my car, I’d constantly wish that the new straight-six was beating beneath the bonnet. But otherwise it’s a fine package.