There was a time when fast saloons from Mercedes didn’t really stand out. They were sleepers with just the slightest nod to their performance potential. From the early days of the C36, C32 and C55 matters have changed somewhat. These days, range-topping AMGs are rip-snorting machines that you’re likely to hear long before you see their muscular figure appear.
What is it?
The C63 and C63 S derivatives are well known. They sit at the top of the C-Class hierarchy as the most powerful and fastest versions of the family. The problem, in part, is that these cars have become so powerful and so expensive that they are now a bit too much for some buyers.
This Mercedes-AMG C43 aims to restore the sleeper car persona to a performance C-Class. It has considerably less power (roughly 30 per cent) and costs 60 per cent less than a C63. Think of it as Mercedes’ answer to the Audi S4 or BMW 340i.
Bespoke touches at the front include an AMG radiator grille with twin louvres, side air curtains in the front bumper and an additional trim element on the front splitter, which is finished in silver chrome. From behind you can view four tailpipe finishers in high-gloss chrome, side air curtains and larger diffuser along with a spoiler lip on the boot lid.
The C43 does not broadcast its performance credentials in the same manner as other AMG models. Badges aside, it’s not easy to differentiate this as a performance saloon over a cooking version C-Class with a few dress-up goodies.
A slight refresh and power bump
The Mercedes-AMG C43 isn’t a new model, however, it has been around for some time, but it has recently been revised, along with the rest of the C-Class range. You can read about the revisions by clicking here.
Apart from the changes found elsewhere in the range, the C43’s twin-turbocharged V6 motor now boasts 287 kW of power (an increase of 17 kW). The power increase comes from the adoption of two new, larger turbochargers mounted closer to the engine. Peak torque remains unchanged at 520 N.m, which is available in a plateau from 2 500 to 5 000 r/min.
Power from the V6 is fed through a nine-speed torque converter automatic transmission. Features of the transmission are manual control via paddle shifters, multiple downshifts and rev-matching – cool! Oddly, there is no ‘Race Start’ launch control programme as with other AMG models.
Power from the transmission is delivered to terra firma via an AMG Performance 4Matic all-wheel-drive drivetrain. The system has rear-biased torque distribution with a split of 31:69 per cent. This last fact is a major departure from the C63, which is still rear-wheel driven, and brings the C43 closer to the E63 S and A45 models in that they are AWD as well.
A stealthy proposition
The first thing one notices about the Mercedes-AMG C43 is its unique soundtrack. There aren’t many V6-powered cars about these days and it’s a shame. The C43’s engine makes a great noise. It is creamy smooth at start-up and you can open its vocal chords by clicking on the “exhaust” button on the centre console. This elicits a baritone-like step-change in the engine note.
At low speed and around the city it could well have been any C-Class we were driving. It blends into the traffic, rides a wave of torque in a high gear and doesn’t garner too many envious stares. On the move the adaptive suspension does a good job of dealing with road imperfections, particularly with the drive selector set to comfort. Even when wound around to more sporty settings, the ride quality never quite reaches the firmness of a C63, which is a good thing.
We spent much of our time with the car in Sport or Sport+ modes. In these settings (and the exhaust button engaged) the C43 does a great impression of a sportscar, without looking like one. The engine note is a racecar-like yowl in the upper reaches of the rev-range, which the nine-speed trans allows you to engage when really pressing on. Speaking of, gear changes are crisp and alert, but at times they did feel a tad jerky and undecided, particularly at lower speeds.
With a sane level of power, and the safety net of all-wheel-drive, the C43 allows a driver to really exploit the full extent of its performance envelope. Unlike a C63, which can sometimes, feel a little overwhelming, this car feels planted and well within itself at all times. On the open B-roads of the Western Cape the C43 really shone. We scurried between small towns of the Winelands at more than decent pace, able to despatch trucks and slow-moving traffic with utter disdain. It really impressed with its performance repertoire.
The Mercedes-AMG C43 is a brilliant proposition. It possesses all the traits of a proper AMG car, but does so with less fuss than some of its siblings. In many ways it is a return to form for fast saloons from the Tri-Star. It is a stealthy car that can really turn up the pace when required.
The Mercedes-AMG C43 plays many roles, and does so really well. In the real world it is as fast as anyone would ever need, and it is stealthy in how it goes about its business. If you want a fast Mercedes, but prefer to fly slightly under the radar, then the Mercedes-AMG C43 is just what you need.
Price: R1 007 365
Engine: 3,0-litre V6, twin-turbocharged
Transmission: nine-speed automatic, AWD
Max power: 287kW
Max torque: 520 N.m
Top speed: 250 km/h
0-100 km/h: 4,7 sec
Fuel consumption: 9,3 L/100 km