Among the five human senses the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet aims to heighten your hearing, sweeten the smells and perhaps become even more tantalisingly tasty than the coupe (that last one metaphorically speaking of course).
The C43 Cabriolet should allow a greater number of 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6-engined decibels into the cabin, and expectedly extra-special AMG ones at that. And unless travelling through an underground freeway, the fresh delights of country cruising should drift towards the noses of up to four sun-tanned occupants in a fuller fashion.
There can be generalised downsides to a coupe-based cabriolet, with body rigidity often folding away with the roof. The folding stuff in an owner’s wallet also finds its way to a Mercedes dealer faster, yet heavier drop-tops are typically slower on-road.
In the C43 Cabriolet’s case, it’s 210kg heavier than the coupe but only a tenth slower from standstill to 100km/h. And, at $120K plus on-road costs, it’s $14K costlier.
Vehicle Style: Sports cabriolet
Price: $119,900 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 270kW/520Nm 3.0 twin-turbo V6 petrol | nine-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.5 L/100km | Tested: 12.4 L/100km
The $119,900 (plus orc) C43 Cabriolet seems expensive, particularly now that BMW offers a 331kW/550Nm M3 Pure for $129,900 (plus orc). But a sedan comparison?
Well, basically, it isn’t much of a stretch to move up from the 270kW/520Nm offered here in what becomes a 300kg-heavier AMG cabriolet by comparison – and, driving enthusiasts take note, it’s all for the apparent delights of two fewer doors and no roof.
The C43 Cabriolet is, however, similarly priced to the soon-replaced $132,616 (plus orc) Audi S5 Cabriolet and $117,900 (plus orc) BMW 440i Convertible. And only the former is sports-focused like this AMG, where the latter takes on a sports-luxury vibe.
The question is whether the C43 Cabriolet mixes Mercedes luxury with AMG sporting ability well enough to be seen as a fine blend of such attributes, or a compromise that takes a touch away from the coupe.
- Standard Equipment: Active cruise control, leather trim with front seatbase and headrest heating and multi-way electrical adjustment, keyless auto-entry, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto headlights/wipers, LED headlights with adaptive high-beam and head-up display.
- Infotainment: 8.4-inch colour screen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, dual USB input, 10Gb hard disc drive, satellite navigation with live traffic, online connectivity, voice control and 13-speaker Burmester audio.
- Options Fitted: $4990 Performance Ergonomic Package (sports front bucket seats, Nappa leather/microfibre steering wheel and active sports exhaust).
- Cargo Volume: 285-360 litres.
On the outside the C43 Cabriolet may be all sinister 19-inch alloy wheels and AMG bodykit, but inside its open-pore wood trim and silver brightwork appears indulgent.
However, our test car featured a $4990 Performance Ergonomic Package that delivered aggressive buckets with electric-adjust bolstering, plus a part-microfirbe steering wheel pinched from the heady $179,900 (plus orc) C63 S Cabriolet.
It all looks rather special inside, although Mercedes’ brilliant AirScarf neck-warming feature is sadly lost with the switch to sports seats. Despite appearing like a miniature version of an S-Class, the ornate dashboard also doesn’t strike the same quality highs, with some cheap lower bits and thinly covered doorhandle trim of note.
Mercedes’ Comand infotainment system, with a hooded touchpad cowering over a rotary control knob, can feel anti-ergonomic. The voice control system also feels a generation behind newer products, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is lacking.
Even so, the head-up display is crisp, while digital radio/live traffic nav feels suitably high-end, and the Burmester system cranks up a loud, if not overly high-quality, tune.
What does appear high-quality is the fabric roof mechanism. It can be lowered or raised from the keyfob on approach, or when driving at up to 50km/h, in 20 seconds.
Best of all, this is a proper four-seat cabriolet, with decent rear legroom and adequate headroom for those up to 180cm tall. Anyone loftier than that figure will brush the roofline, however some coupes offer much tighter rear quarters than this.
The duo of rear seats are also snugly bolstered, complete with air-vents back there ideal for a summer blast of much-needed cold air.
While cabriolets aren’t overly practical, the C43 Cabriolet offers a decent-sized L-shaped boot and the rear seats split 50:50 and fold forward to accommodate longer items. As medium-sized drop-tops go, the Mercedes-AMG is packaged well.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 270kW/520Nm 3.0 twin-turbo V6 petrol
- Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, AWD
- Suspension: Independent front and rear
- Brake: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
With great surprise and delight, the C43 Cabriolet is not a sports drop-top that folds (so to speak) on the road. Not once in 400km of testing did we have an issue with its body rigidity and at no point did the steering shake like a tuning fork.
Instead, it effortlessly allows the driver to embrace all those extra senses. Mercedes-AMG’s 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine can sound a bit grainy and uninspiring in hard-top applications, especially without the optional sports exhaust.
However, with the roof down and the two-mode sports exhaust firing away, the C43 Cabriolet sounds superb. It’s a mix of V6 burr and brawn, and tailpipe crackles and pops, that simply works. By comparison, AMG’s A45, CLA45 and GLA45 offer a four-cylinder thrash-metal note with the same exhaust noise, which is all a bit too much.
With 520Nm of torque from 2000rpm until 4200rpm, and 270kW of power between 5500rpm and 6000rpm, plus all-wheel drive traction and an ultra-short first gear, there is instant thrust and few downsides compared with the coupe.
Then there are another eight gears to play with, via the paddleshifters in manual mode or automatically and adeptly in Sport (a perfect standard mode) and Sport+ (decent for enthusiastic driving).
Sport is so intuitive that Comfort seems redundant and all a bit too lazy. Comfort suspension is also too springy in this application, hitting bumps as though there are washing-line pegs at each corner of the car. Sport is superbly tied down, and even ultra-taut Sport+ never turns harsh.
Thankfully there is also an Individual drive-select mode to mix-and-match favourite settings, because where Comfort does work is in the steering department. The C43 range basically pinches the front-end hardware from the C63, and it is utterly brilliant. Light and sharp yet progressive response through the wheel is an absolute highlight.
Indeed, the whole front-end of the car feels sharp and immediate, despite offering a very measured ride quality.
There is a Sport Handling Mode that lessens intervention of the electronic stability control (ESC) to a degree, although this all-wheel drive system isn’t like the Audi S5’s with its crown centre differential – although fixed at 69 per cent rear-drive, there is no engaging throttle-steer to be found.
Yet the 1870kg C43 Cabriolet’s weight can also work to its advantage, with weight transfer push distilling to the driver’s hands and aiding such engagement.
Despite all the fun, the C43 Cabriolet cabin remains windswept-free with the roof down, thanks to a pop-up wind blocker, and it is also decently quiet with the roof up.
Other than high fuel consumption – we exceeded the claim by 50 per cent, although it did take in some enthusiastic driving – and driver assistance aids (such as lane-keep) that are not Mercedes’ latest generation, there isn’t much to dislike. This is a proper driver’s car that happens to double as a drop-top.
ANCAP has not rated the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet.
Safety Features: Nine airbags, ABS and ESC, front and parking sensors with 360-degree camera, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assistance and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited km.
Servicing: Mercedes-Benz charges $510 for the first annual or 25,000km service, and $1035 for the second and third.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The S5 will soon be replaced; it’s expensive and old. The 440i is very sports-luxe option that offers a fantastic chassis, but the issue is that the C43 Cabriolet feels sharper without compromising on ride comfort.
- Audi S5 Cabriolet
- BMW 440i Convertible
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Unexpectedly, the Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet impressed – stunned even – on the road. This is also from a tester who isn’t a great fan of this all-wheel drive system.
Could it be that the hardcore C63 S obviously works best as a coupe, but the more subtle C43 actually is finest in drop-top form? So little feels lost with the transfer from tin-top to fabric-top that all the extra sensory pleasures flood in without taking much away from the package; although it will take more from an owner’s wallet up front.
With the C43 Cabriolet it’s simply a case of conforming to the all-rounder edict – roomy, quiet, comfortable, well-equipped, sweet to steer and delightful to the ear.
And above all, this remains an AMG that is wholly tasty.
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