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Review: Mercedes-AMG C 43

Driven December 2016

Review: Mercedes-AMG C 43

Mercedes-AMG C 43. I believe it’s the watered-down version of the C 63.
Yes, you can say that. But that’s only half the story told. Mercedes was brave to get only the S version of the C 63 to India powered by the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 good for 504bhp, 700Nm with a 7-speed gearbox sending all that power strictly to the rear wheels. Sure it’s a recipe for great fun, but for amateur drivers, like yours truly, things could easily get embarrassing when pushed hard. Very embarrassing. And that’s where the C 43 steps in.

Are you implying the C 43 is idiot-proof? If so then I’m all ears.
Oh, it definitely is. And that’s why I love it. You see, Mercedes-Benz India was kind enough to let us “expert” motoring journalists have a crack at the C 43 on the Buddh International Circuit and it was great fun throwing the C around the corners. Powered by a smaller 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol, the C 43 only has 362 horses and 520 Newtons to play with – that’s almost 30 per cent drop in power figures compared to the 63 S. But for us average Indians with limited driving skills, those figures should suffice.

How slow is it to 100kph compared to the 63?
The C 63 S takes 4 seconds to reach that mark, whereas the C 43, with a new 9-speed gearbox and a permanent all-wheel-drive system, manages a time of 4.7 seconds. Don’t fret, that’s a pretty respectful number. Plus, a dash to 100kph isn’t the only thing you do with a fast car, right? Exactly. The C 43 may not have big numbers to go along with its AMG badge, but it’s an interesting car to have in your garage for it is quite forgiving for a fast car.

‘You cheat on it with another fast car and it won’t mind’ kind of forgiving?
Nope. ‘You drive it like a half-wit and still live to tell the story’ kind of forgiving. We’ll tell you how. The C 43 comes with an AMG Performance all-wheel-drive system and that will not only keep you away from wrapping yourself around a tree, but also make you look like a pro – like I experienced at the BIC. On a number of occasions I’d go too hot into corners, having to then flick the wheel, trying not to look like a buffoon facing in the wrong direction. But to my surprise, the 43’s 4MATIC system would take care of the situation even before I could correct my grave mistakes.

Wait, does that mean it doesn’t let you slide around or have fun?
No, it lets you have fun, without making you look like an idiot. That’s the good thing about the C 43. The rear-biased AMG 4MATIC has a 31:69 split ratio for torque distribution, which meant, as I would put down the gas while exiting corners, the 43 would gracefully pull its tail out before the AWD system (along with ESP) straighten things up for me. And believe me it’s a great feeling of being able to pull a big slide and still face the right direction. I once tried that in a 63 S and I was a laughing stock in the office. Never mind, with the 43, if you’re feeling particularly brave, you can also switch off the ESP and pull off even longer slides, but unlike the rear-wheel-driven C 63, this one isn’t going to drift out of corners for you easily. If the system senses you’re about to reach a point of no return, it will intervene for a quick damage limitation exercise. So, it’s like having fun in a civilised manner, and I’ll take that.

You sound like someone in his mid-40s.
Definitely not. Much younger. Why do you say that?

Just. What’s the engine-gearbox combo like?
If you’ve driven the 63 S before, the 43’s performance would obviously feel a bit muted. But in isolation, the engine-gearbox combo is sweet. In fact, it’s the 9-speed gearbox that makes a hell lot of difference out here. It’s not jolt-in-the-back quick, but it is pretty quick to race to its redline of 7000rpm in the first five cogs, good enough to pin you back to your seats. And the engine, as we’ve seen in other AMG 43s, is buttery smooth and refined, and offers a wide range of torque spread. It’s adequately powerful and things move pretty fast, but it’s all very linear and well-behaved, and I like it.

Hmm, typical mid-40s. Moving on, what’s the agility like?
It’s good. Impressive, in fact. Ours was a strictly racetrack experience and it was quite enjoyable for a fast, luxury sedan. Okay, semi-fast luxury sedan. Although the 43 can’t be termed as a full-fledged AMG monster, Mercedes has been kind enough to offer it with AMG’s sports suspension and that does help better the dynamic quotient. There’s the occasional body-roll that come with quick direction changes but it’s never out of control. You can pretty much throw it into corners and the luxury sedan will oblige. Helping matters is the superbly positive steering wheel that’s quite communicative unlike the Audi’s. So overall, the combination of AMG’s AWD system, sports suspension and steering wheel gives you the confidence you need to push the 43 harder.

Does sports suspension also mean the 43’s ride comfort has been compromised?
As mentioned, ours was a strictly racetrack experience and the surface at the BIC is as smooth as a baby’s bum – a degree of smoothness that we’ll never ever find on our public roads where the C 43 will end up spending most of its lifespan. So ill reserve my final verdict on its ride comfort for now. But what I did notice that the ride wasn’t too stiff and it did manage to filter out the kerbs from entering the cabin to a certain degree. Plus, those figure-hugging sports seats do make you feel extremely comfortable, which do compensate for a slightly stiffer setup to an extent.

So apart from the obvious badges, how do we differentiate the C-class AMGs?
The diamond studded grille is an easy differentiator upfront. Then, all the carbon-fibre bits from the 63 are missing and the alloy-wheels look rather simpler. On the insides too, the carbon-fibre bits are replaced by simpler-looking wood trim, so now it’s less flashy than before. But feels equally plush, nonetheless.

Thirty per cent less power, 0.7 seconds slower to 100kph, and no carbon-fibre to show-off. I hope Mercedes is giving me a good discount over the flashy 63 S.
The C 43 is priced at Rs 74.35 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, and that’s close to Rs 60 lakh down on the 63 S. In fact, you could buy a C 43 and still have enough money to buy a new C250 CDI. How’s that for a deal.

Sweet. So what’s your final take on it?
The C 43 is a good step up for those wanting to upgrade their rides to something more powerful than their regular luxury sedan. It’s not as crazy to handle as the C 63 and doesn’t leave your bank balance dry. It’s good fun to drive, has power that you can actually use on a daily basis and since it isn’t too flashy, the 43 is a perfect tool for someone who likes to keep it low. Talking of which, although it gets an AMG exhaust, it isn’t as loud as the 63, but loud enough to make you feel special while driving it. At the end, that is all that matters, isn’t it.

2996cc, twin-turbo V6 petrol, 362bhp, 520Nm, 9A, AWD, 250kph, 0-100kph: 4.7 seconds (claimed)

It’s the perfect car to bridge the gap between the C300 and the C 63 S. It’s quick, it’s enjoyable and forgiving at the same time. It handles well and has a comfortable ride. A certain thumbs up.

Devesh Shobha

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