This month we’ve been getting to know our new Mercedes-AMG C43 long-termer and there’s one question we’re very eager to answer: is this thing a ‘real’ AMG or should Mercedes have stuck to calling it a C450 AMG Sport?
For readers not familiar, not too long ago this car was called exactly that – a C450 AMG Sport, suggesting that from the get-go the company thought it might be just a little bit too soft for the exclusive three-character AMG nomenclature. But in a recent update – where the only change was the fitment of a new, nine-speed auto – Mercedes also upgraded the badges. Which made us suspicious.
And now, having spent a few thousand kilometres in AMG’s new baby, we can confirm they got the name wrong – in calling it a C450 to begin with. Yep, we are relieved to say, the 270kW twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 C43 deserves to sit below the C63 as an AMG product. Although anybody thinking this is a C63 Junior would be mistaken. Though obviously based on the same chassis and platform, from a performance perspective, these are two very different cars.
The C43 has fundamentally an entirely unique personality to the C63. Whereas its $155,615 V8 big brother has a burbly, menacing hot-rod exhaust note; and in trying to put 375kW through two rear wheels is just an unhinged kind of car; the C43 almost channels some A45 AMG in the way it goes about its business.
With four-wheel drive the C43 is a much more secure-handling car than the C63 without any of the latter’s wheel-spinning histrionics. You plant it in the C43 and it just converts your command to forward momentum without fuss or blinking ESP lights.
We will get a Mercedes-AMG C63 and compare them at some point but the C43 also feels to have a much more conservative chassis tune. This is a car whose front tyres let go much sooner than the rears. And unlike the C63, in which you can neutralise understeer in obvious ways, it takes more technique to get the best out of the C43. (There’ll be a track update at some point in which we’ll drill down into the C43’s handling personality.)
The C43’s ride is also very interesting. It’s sporty, cat’s eyes thumping into the cabin like the car is full of rose-joints, even in Comfort mode. But fundamentally the C43’s suspension errs on the softer side, almost too much so, to the point it’s wanting for some body control over big, long bumps. The result is a sometimes springy, bouncy ride at highway speeds where the body takes more than one movement to settle. Interestingly the ride is almost better in Sport Plus where the firmed-up dampers keep the C43’s body movements more in check.
But there are two things that hit home to us that the C43 is a deserving AMG and that’s its speed and noise. Our car has the optional $4990 Performance Package which gets you the ‘Dinamica’ microsuede steering wheel as seen in the C63; the C63’s snug Performance front seats and the Performance exhaust. This $5K, we suspect, really puts the AMG into the C43. It’s properly loud, with an aggressive and addictive crack on its swift upshifts and a V6 howl not unlike a Jaguar F-Type. The noise alone is causing the C43 to win hearts in the MOTOR office.
And the speed. This car is FAST, surprisingly so. Merc claims 0-100km/h in 4.9 fuss-free all-wheel drive seconds, and we don’t doubt it. So it’s so far, so good with the C43. It might be more straight-laced than the C63 but there’s no denying they’re blood relatives. What a relief.
Plenty of AMG-ness going on
Metal interior trims scalding in summer
Opening the taps for the first time. Jesus, it’s loud.
Fuel this month: 8.04L/100km
Distance this month: 1155km