Is the turbo V6 Mercedes-Benz C-Class an AMG-lite, or is it a deserving member of the Mercedes performance clique?
WHAT IS IT?
This is AMG’s mid-strength coupe, a V6-engined sibling to the powerful V8 C63 that is priced at a (relatively) affordable $105,615. In terms of both performance and price, the C43 bridges the yawning chasm between the C250 and the C63 flagship.
WHY ARE WE TESTING IT?
This is the most affordable two-door AMG available. Though its straight-line performance pales in comparison to its cheaper four-cylinder siblings – the A45 and CLA45 – the C43 coupe still makes a case for itself on the basis of its more desirable bodystyle.
With a grunty 270kW/550Nm twin-turbo V6 under the bonnet, the C43 has the right numbers to challenge its main rival, the BMW 440i. But is it a true AMG?
BMW 440i, BMW M2, Audi S5, Infiniti Q60
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Find the C63’s monstrous bent-eight a tad intimidating? Can’t stretch the budget that far anyway? The C43 Coupe will supply roughly 70 percent of the thrills while simultaneously keeping you safer thanks to its grippy AWD driveline.
It may not be quite as exciting as its V8-powered stablemate, but the C43’s more civilised nature is actually its biggest asset. It won’t wear you out like a C63 might, and that means you’ll be inclined to spend more time behind the wheel – a good thing.
PLUS: Accessible pricetag, stellar grip, driveability
MINUS: Tyre noise, not as dynamically entertaining as a C63
THE WHEELS REVIEW
Here’s a question: is the Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe a pukka AMG, a rip-snorting, dragon-slayer from Affalterbach? Or is it a savvy piece of marketing: a warmed-up mid-range performer that, in an alternate realm, would be called something benign like ‘C400 Sport’, but in this reality wears AMG clothing to help Merc reel in a few more bucks?
Even Mercedes wrestled with the question, and initially marketed it overseas as the C450 AMG Sport before giving it proper Mercedes-AMG status.
But while the fire-spitting C63’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is hand-assembled by a single master engine builder, the C43’s 3.0-litre turbo V6 is built by robots on a production line. That engine is also hooked up to a conventional torque convertor automatic rather than the dual-clutch seven-speeders used by -45 and -63 AMGs, and power goes to all four wheels.
Does it deserve to rub shoulders with the C63 in Mercedes-AMG’s stable of high performance machinery? Does it have the same soul as a V8 AMG coupe?
Judge it in isolation, and it does. The note of the turbo six isn’t as appealing as the thunderous V8 that sits above it in the AMG hierarchy, but spec the Performance Ergonomics Pack and its sports exhaust emits gunshot sound effects on upchanges and rapid-fire crackles on the overrun to lend it some aural appeal.
On the other hand there’s a fair bit of V6 rasp, and while it sounds great when you’re delving deep into the engine’s power reserves, it’s flat and ordinary – or simply too quiet – at other times.
The ride is certainly AMG-aggressive, though. It’ll jostle you even in comfort mode, but while the C63 is capable of shattering your coccyx, the C43 feels kinder on your bum.
Speaking of, the huggy AMG performance seats that come with the Performance Pack are well worth the extra $4990 spend, as is the racy Alcantara-trimmed flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Though it resembles its bigger bro on the inside and out, the C43’s drivetrain feels remarkably different. While the C63 is a rear-driven smoke machine, the C43’s all-paw grip neuters any attempt to light up the rear bags. It grips like a cat on carpet and never threatens to spit you into the weeds, but that’s not as exciting to some.
However while we were lukewarm on the E43’s status as a proper AMG product, the C43 makes a more convincing argument. It’s more accessible – both in price and performance – than its full-blood C63 brother, not far behind it in terms of speed, and, as far every-day useability goes, it’s actually the one we’d lean toward.
Model: Mercedes-AMG C43 AMG
Engine: 2986cc V6 (90 degree), dohc, 24v
Max power: 270kW @ 5500-6000rpm
Max torque: 520Nm @ 2000-4200rpm
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 4.7 seconds
Fuel economy: 8.2 l/100km
On sale: Now