Mercedes-AMG C43 sedan 2018 new car review
Once a quantity unobtanium for many, AMG has expanded to provide stocking-filler performance in the Mercedes-AMG line-up - and this one is just in time for Christmas.
The Mercedes-AMG C43 might be a touch reserved in comparison to the C63 outside and under the bonnet but it feels no less the special sports car on the road - punch the accelerator and it barks and growls to a rush of acceleration and an exciting atmosphere.
Aggressive in nature and boisterous in sound it's the perfect poor man's AMG, but loaded with extra gear for the new year to stretch out what more the aging C-Class platform has to give, it feels surprisingly mature and finished.
And the C43 isn't the first AMG to nix convention; if anything the incoming tide of 43 and 53 models will see Mercedes bring a strong army of down-sized contenders to take on BMW's straight-six rivals. But regardless of horsepower and displacement, there's no doubt the Affalterbach treatment adds something a little special.
Outside, the C43 looks familiar but has had a styling tweak that starts upfront with a new twin-louvre grille and redesigned front bumper, matching a new rear fascia and quad-tip tailpipes with air curtain vents on the side which feed air in to cool the brakes. It all adds to the tough-look of an AMG while bringing some practical improvements.
But the updated model takes a hit in price, jumping around $5000 to $107,900 plus on-road costs due to the addition of extra equipment.
Inside the cabin are a larger 10.25-inch display screen, wireless phone charging, new touch pro steering wheel, 12.3-inch digital display cluster in place of the analogue binnacle cluster and a colour heads-up display.
Electric heated AMG bucket seats are finished in black leather with contrasting red seatbelts and stitching while metal sports pedals sit in the driver’s footwell.
Standard safety in the driver assistance package includes automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning and now gains active steering assist and active lane change trickled down from the larger E- and S-Class. Both add firmer automatic steering that can perform greater manoeuvres - active lane change will automatically change lanes while active steer uses map data to slow the car for more accurate unassisted cornering.
Further standard equipment new for the model includes multibeam lights with automatic adjusting high beam that can project 500m ahead while cloaking itself from dazzling other traffic and fresh 19-inch aero alloy wheels.
Optional equipment is the Carbon Package with carbon-fibre finish mirror caps and rear spoiler, Night Package that changes those items to gloss black, Energizing Comfort for creating a moody atmosphere, the Luxury Seat package and a sunroof.
And importantly, under the bonnet is over 280kW and more than 500Nm produced from a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The Interior | Rating: 4.0/5
- Standard Equipment: Active cruise control, lane keeping assist, 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: 10.25-inch colour screen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 12.3-inch digital driver's display, dual USB input, 10Gb hard disc drive, satellite navigation with live traffic, online connectivity, voice control and 13-speaker Burmester audio.
- Luggage capacity: 480 litres (seats up)
Changes inside are more noticeable than out, with the updated display looking sharper and more vibrant than before and the digital instrument display punchy in presentation. The duo is not at the level of the latest twin 12.3-inch display with Mercedes-Benz User Experience installed (MBUX), but they integrate very nicely with the carryover dash cowl and compliment the stylish styling, which is elegant and sophisticated with plenty of bodily curves. The quality of materials used throughout is also thoughtful, even on items that need a harder surface.
In addition to the bigger display screens are touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel, both used to navigate the dash and infotainment, providing a true hands-free experience on the move without using voice control – though that works well for simple commands. The normal rotary and push-button selector on the centre console can also be used though there is no touch input on the screen itself, however, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are included and easy to use.
And the wireless phone charging pad is a godsend when stuck without a cable.
The digital display is similar to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit but with its own twist – navigation map can’t overlay the entire screen but a special AMG mode with customisable sections is useful (and looks good), showing turbo boost pressure, g-forces and a lap timer. And the heads-up display that projects crucial information onto the windshield is clear, even in bright sunlight.
Highlighting that the C43 is a stand-out AMG model is sculpted bucket seats that are more aggressive in bolstering and support than normal, with red stitching and red seat belts adding some flair. AMG wording is embossed on the steering wheel with a red 12 o’clock marker and microfibre (similar to Alcantara material) is used to further add race-inspired elements.
Beyond feeling every bit the AMG tuned vehicle is a practical cabin size that’s good for carrying a family or friends. The rear seats have enough knee room for adults and headspace is ample, plus, the boot is 455 litres large and with the seats down it grows larger. So it's just as flexible a car as any mid-size sedan.
On The Road | Rating: 4.0/5
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbocharged petrol, 287kW, 520Nm
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
Suspension: Multi-link front and rear
Brakes: Vented front and rear discs
Steering: Electromechanical power steering
Being an AMG-tuned machine, the C43 is honed to be sharp in response foremost and then dialed down in flavour for comfort mode. A blend of both can be had though, opening the exhaust valve by simply pressing a switch and keeping the suspension and/or steering feel to softer comfort defaults.
This is perhaps the best match for gentle cruising around town, with the softer rebound of the three-way dampers leaving little in compliance and ride comfort in sportier settings. And the engine is perfectly flexible in response yet produces a great growl with crackle and pop once the exhaust is allowed to shout.
Of course, the twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 performs best once cranked up in sportier settings and the nine-speed is lightning fast on the upshift when honking along. It might lack the aural hell of the C63’s V8 in full flight, but the C43 is no less dramatic to gain attention with its own six-cylinder soundtrack roaring loudly.
A little more powerful than before, the engine now produces 287kW – up 17kW precisely – but torque output remains at 520Nm, and the claimed 0-100km/h the same 4.7 seconds – almost a second slower than the big brother.
But mated to a 4Matic all-wheel drive it’s no slouch, carving corners even in the wet and blasting through tight winding roads with much poise. The result says Mercedes is a drinking habit of 9.3L per 100km on the government claimed combined cycle, though it can easily double that when pushed.
And although it is grippy with all-wheel-drive, it isn't shy to play when pushed hard, tending to lean on its rear-wheel-drive origins with a predictable movement around corners. For a 'watered-down' AMG, it's a hoot.
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class has been awarded a five-star ANCAP rating, scoring 36.46 out of a possible 37 points.
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.
Less aggressive in nature is the Audi S4, athletic on its smart all-wheel-drive but clinical in power delivery. Priced close to the C43 there's not much separating the two except for the AMG's punchy soundtrack.
Like the Audi, the BMW 340i is a touch more reserved than the C43's loud and proud attitude, but the interior is plush with plenty of mod cons and the straight-six turbo engine loves to rev past 7000rpm.
- Audi S4
- BMW 340i
The C43 doesn't hit the lofty heights set by its big, brash sibling, but it is an accomplished sports car all on its own. The engine is a little coarse in delivery but punchy and vibrant. Plus it's been tuned-up for 2019 with a wick of extra power and a belting good soundtrack to boot. Speaking of which, the C43 sedan is a great choice for hauling more than one family member, with good cargo carrying ability and a practical cabin to ferry the clan at a reasonable price.
The ride is too firm to call this a smooth traveller, but its wild side could be considered a fair sacrifice for the expected performance.
Alex Rae is Drive’s Melbourne based reporter with over 10 years’ experience in the automotive industry as a photographer and journalist. Having studied both engineering and the arts, Alex understands what makes things tick while appreciating that sometimes it’s all about form over matter…