‘It’s a usable point-and-shoot coupe, quite willing to play hard, and then settle down for a drive to dinner,’ blogs Dan Scanlan.
I say AMG, and you say Mercedes-Benz’s hot rod, usually with a big V-8 hand-made by someone in Affalterbach, then signed on an alloy plaque on top. But just as the tuner started by Hans-Werner Aufrecht and Erghard Melcher has been fully folded into Mercedes-Benz, so have some changes come to what’s now called Mercedes-AMG.
So while this all-wheel-drive C43 AMG has received the golden touch from the folks who tune special Benzes, it is a different breed of Mercedes musclecar. This C-Class’ 3-liter/362 horsepower V-6, its twin turbochargers visible under air intakes in the tightly packed engine bay, wasn’t built in AMG’s operation in Affalterbach. It was just designed there. So, no engine builder’s plate, but it does get a new AMG-enhanced nine-speed automatic transmission with “Manual” mode so you can paddle-shift. With peak torque of 384 pound-feet in the “Sport+” drivetrain setting, it leaps to 60-mph in 4.5 seconds and 100 mph in 11.5 with super-quick up-shifts and no wheel spin. The G-meter on the expansive gauge display claimed .7 Gs acceleration at full launch. Tap the exhaust valve button and there’s an exotic snarling scream, each up-shift punctuated by a rifle shot-like bark from quad pipes. Backing off adds crackling, popping overrun.
Set drivetrain in “Eco,” activating engine shut-off at stoplights, and the C43 AMG delivers 20 mpg on premium. It decouples the transmission from engine when you slow down. Or enjoy “Comfort,” which dials back the throttle response and steering feel for daily commuting, but still delivers precise, buffered shifts and strong mid-range torque for passing – 0 to 60-mph in 5 seconds, and 100 mph in 12.2.
Under its steel unibody with aluminum hood, trunk lid and front fenders, there’s an independent multi-link suspension with coil springs, tubular torsion bars and double-tube shock absorbers with adaptive variable damping. “Comfort” setting left us with a nice ride that absorbed everything, a touch of float over repetitive bumps. It was all too buffered, from steering to throttle response, for me.
“Sport” gave a slightly firmer edge that smoothed out repetitive bumps, further buffering on full compression. The firmer suspension and all-wheel-drive with a rear biased torque distribution of 31 percent front/69 percent rear meant the C43 just hugged curves and went around them in a neutral fashion, turn after turn. Sport+ offered much quicker and tighter bump control, not too nice on rougher road or streets with raised crosswalks, but great for nicely paved sweepers. Its quicker and more aggressive shift pattern meant razor-sharp downshifts for powering out of curves, and tighter steering to help.
There’s an “Individual” mode, so you can set steering and drivetrain – I picked powertrain in “Sport+” and suspension in “Sport,” tapping open the sport exhaust valve. The C43 AMG stitched turn to turn, the shifts putting the rpm where needed to pull out of a curve. Tap the paddle and downshifts were executed concisely with a throttle blip. Bumps didn’t bother as we swept through turns, very flat.
There was no drama on our skidpad, only a touch of understeer. We regularly pulled .93 Gs in turns. With cross-drilled and vented 14.2-inch front discs, and 12.6-inch rear solid discs, we had great pedal feel and initial bite on our 3,000-mile-old test coupe. Plus solid stopping power with no nosedive and no fade after some very high-speed stops, pulling 1.1 Gs at full pedal push.
The C43 has a more prominent and upright grille with big Benz star and upswept LED headlights. Concentric chrome-plated pins flank the grill’s center star; side brake ducts flanking a low center air intake. The 10-spoke light-alloy wheels in gloss black with brushed alloy finish show off big disc brakes with silver AMG-badged front calipers. Lower profile P225/40R 19-inch Continental tires up front are matched with staggered wider P255/35Rs in back, giving the coupe a well-planted look. Our test car’s “Night Package” adds a gloss black lower diffuser with twin ebony-finished tailpipes, as well as gloss black front splitter.
Inside are highly sculpted bucket seats with leather-like MB-Tex and suede-like microfiber inserts, accented in red stitching. With 10-way power adjustment, they were very grippy in turns, with great support. Black leather and suede accent the flat-bottomed AMG multifunction sport steering wheel, also with red stitching. The fat-rimmed steering wheel has long, easy to reach alloy shift paddles behind it. There’s a 180-mph speedometer and 8,000-rpm tach with 6,500-rpm redline. They flank a 4.5-inch display for stereo, navigation, and an AMG menu item – digital speedometer, gear, G-force, lap-timer, turbo boost and engine gauges. A head-up display shows tach, speed and gear position.
A base C300 Coupe starts at $42,650, while our C43 AMG coupe started at $55,500 with lots of standards including the high-performance summer tires. But options like the COMAND navigation system, red paint, ash wood interior trim, AMG exhaust and split-spoke alloy wheels brought it to $66,945. You can still get an AMG coupe with more muscle – the C63 AMG with twin-turbo V-8 and 469 horsepower and easily-smoked tires. Or go for AMG-lite C43 and get a very comfortable and usable point-and-shoot coupe, quite willing to play hard, and then settle down for a drive to dinner.
For the complete AMG story and models available, please visit https://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/amg