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Ooh, that’s nicely subtle for a fast estate.

Superb, right? The Mercedes-AMG C43 doesn’t wear the blistered arches and road-skimming bumpers of the V8-wielding C63, so it’s a lot less threatening. The C63 would chin you if you spilled its pint. The C43 would simply glare and suggest you replace it. Immediately.

And because it’s a proper Q-car, having 362bhp to deploy through all four wheels is all the more enjoyable. The village council will let you park it on the green, but it’ll still cover counties in a single bound.

So it’s not obnoxiously loud and crackly either? That’s the point of an AMG.

Fear not: it’s a good-sounding car, this. The 3.0-litre V6 pulls off the same AMG trick as Affalterbach’s latest 4.0-litre V8 – namely steering clear of sounding hoarse and breathy. Like a wine taster would say, the V6’s note is crisp and fruity, but you get a token rumble on the overrun. However, we did spot one niggle. Bear with me: this is incredibly geeky.

The motor doesn’t start to really sing until at least 4500rpm. The redline on the rev counter is painted on at 6500rpm, but that’s a lie and the engine actually stops spinning a bit earlier, around beyond 6200rpm. So, if you’re changing via the paddles, you’ll clatter into the limiter quite a lot. Either AMG made a mistake designing the rev counter, or the needle doesn’t rotate quickly enough. Weird.

Stop being a nerd and give me more numbers please.

The all-wheel drive only C43 Estate does 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds and a predictable 155mph flat out, claiming 35.8mpg and costing £45,660. Mercedes deserves a nod too for the kerbweight: a claimed 1735kg is a fine total for an AWD, bi-turbo V6 Swiss Army knife. A Porsche Macan, for instance, is over 200kg meatier.

You can get the full breakdown of C43 hardware in our coupe review here, and now you’re back, you’ll know the two-door is a car we liked a lot for delivering spades of AMG theatre in a less menacing, more acceptable package. So let’s get on with how the wagon differs.

Erm, it’s got a bigger boot?

Nice one, Einstein. But we’re leaning more towards the driving disparities. The estate is a less sporting piece of kit than the coupe, more so than expected. It all boils down to the ride, which you tailor through three modes of increasing harshness. 

‘Comfort’ is fine for everyday work, but it’s softened off so severely that the C wallows and shimmies when you’re cruising, even in a dead straight line. Headlong down a motorway it’s like the car’s constantly being attacked by an indecisive crosswind. 

So I’ll just select a stiffer setting, then. Problem solved?

Sort of. Sport or Sport Plus quells the sense of airbed-in-a-gale floaty-ness, but also the refinement. Under the duress, the car’s structure resonates and clatters slightly. The coupe managed the transitions fine, but the less focused estate transmits shudder the stiffer two-door shrugs off.

The more time I spent with the car (and settled on Sport for the powertrain, Sport dampers and Comfort steering), the more it seemed that the C43 wagon suffers a slight mishmash of damping, as if the rear’s overly stiff compared to the front to support hefty cargo in the 490-litre boot. The rear axle gets uppity over speed bumps that the front simply oozes over. Mind you, TG colleagues who’ve spent plenty of time in the C63 Estate say it suffers the same drawback.

Bet it’s fast point-to-point though?

Indeed. Turbo lag isn’t a concern, the nine-speed automatic is fine when living up to its name (though lacking snap in manual mode) and 4Matic drive means traction is absolute. It’d be interesting to see if, come winter, this car could drop its big, bad, rear-drive brother. Who doesn’t love an underdog?

The C43 wouldn’t get further on fuel, mind you. An average of 24.5mpg is almost 3mpg less than TG’s long-term C63 Estate managed during its six-month tenure in the TopGear garage. Then again, you’re £17,000 better off right away for picking ’43 over ’63, so you can spin the wallet-friendly debate either way.

So, all things to all men, women and brave canines?

The C43 doesn’t quite deliver on the on-paper promise, as a driver’s car at least. It’s too aloof and schizophrenic a handler, which the latest Audi S4 Avant doesn’t suffer from (though we’ve not had the chance to try one on crappy British roads yet). 

The AMG has by far the more charismatic engine, a more classically opulent cabin and to these eyes, devilishly handsome looks, but it’s not quite as complete as we’d hoped for.

What do you think?

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