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Which Mercedes C-Class coupe are we here to review?
It’s the other Mercedes-AMG C-Class Coupe, besides the C63: the C43 4Matic. But instead of comparing it to the glorious, hilarious C63 S (£22k pricier, 141bhp brawnier, 300 per cent butcher), let’s take the C43 on its own merit.
‘4Matic’ means four-wheel drive, right?
Correct, and like the S5, all-wheel drive is compulsory. No rear-drive on the menu. Your 362bhp and 383lb ft is shared 31:69 between the front and rear axles respectively via a nine-speed paddleshift ‘box. This is a powertrain versed in the art of getting all the poke onto the road, however slippery it may be, no questions asked thank-you-very-much.
So it’s more of an all-weather hero than a C63?
We’re not going to benchmark the big V8, remember? But no, this is not a lairy, hairy uber-hammer. You surge from 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds, keeping a beady eye on the rev counter and remembering to upchange at 6000rpm.
The redline’s curiously painted onto the tacho at 6500rpm, but hang onto the gear that long and you’ll crash head-on into an unforgiving rev-limiter. And look like a right prat, because everyone has heard you coming.
Loud, is it?
Pardon? Oh yes, it’s sensationally loud. At urban speeds, I reckon this is louder than a C63. (Dammit). But it’s a very particular kind of noise: exhaust blare. In the angriest of the five driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual, since you ask), the engine clears its throat, but dab the exhaust button which lies innocently next to the Comand clickwheel and the C43 goes into full on glam rock over-sing-every-note mode.
It reminded me of a more tuneful BMW M4. Some of m’colleagues thought Jaguar D-Type, or F-Type. The rest of them had tinnitus.
It whumps on every upchanges, ka-bangs on a downchange and crackles on the overrun. It’s overdone and synthetic in the most extreme modern way, but hey, people are forking out £50k for a car that looks, (fake silver tailpipes aside) identical to a fleet-spec C220d, and being able to tell the world that with a couple of clicks of the left paddle is all the encouragement some folks will need.
However, because it’s all exhaust noise, everything happens in your wake. I honestly reckon you could convince a car-illiterate mate that your C43 is rear-engined.
What sort of effect does all this noise-making have on fuel economy?
Ah, was hoping you wouldn’t ask. Mid 20s appears to be the realistic average, against a 35.3mpg claim. No worse than an S5, basically, but not a monumental saving in running costs next to the C63 V8 we weren’t going to mention.
Any good to drive?
The ride’s a really pleasant compromise for the UK. There are three modes, and it’s pretty wallowy in Comfort, still a tad heaving in Sport but completely tolerable – and more controlled – in Sport Plus. The ride is easily the biggest improvement the coupe C43’s made versus the C43 Estate, which veered between floating and fidgeting in its various settings. The two-door nails it. Result. Incidentally, the picture of the ‘Individual’ mode above is what I reckon’s the C43’s Goldilocks mode – loud engine, middling ride, and relaxed everywhere else.
Less handy is the steering, which still feels too fast for the car’s own good. Though the AMG C43 does have revised steering components compared to a boggo C coupe, the fact that AMG bins the lot for its own bits in order to give the C63 lovely, feelsome direction changes tells you all you need to know. Less agitated, numb steering would do the C43 the power of good, especially in its pursuit of the ultra-balanced BMW 440i.
Despite sending almost 70 per cent of poke to the rear wheels, the C43’s overall attitude is to push on at the front (which is perfectly sensible and appropriate, actually). A proper bootful in second gear will remind you where the majority of the V6’s grunt ends up, and can be fairly sharp, the C43, if you’re inclined to grab it by the scruff. It’s just the steering that undoes the car’s ultimate cohesion.
Though you can catch the C43’s gearbox napping if you say, roll up to a roundabout then suddenly ask for some throttle because a gap has appeared, it’s mostly a very polite operator. Some gratuitous Sport mode thuds in the small of your back betray that Mercedes, at some stage during development, left the marketing sorts unattended near a computer, but I guess certain individuals like a bit of the old ‘sense of occasion’ shtick when the rest of the car is oh-so composed.
Good at being polite, I take it?
Seriously, it cruises like a luxury limousine, so absent is the wind noise. The cabin looks gorgeous, feels largely opulent and expensive, the optional Burmester hi-fi system is awesome (quite right, given the exhaust racket it’s got to compete with) and the driving position is perfect. I think Americans will really like this car. It monsters distance just as well as an S-Class coupe. So it’s a £45k bargain…
Where does this sit in the pantheon of small, fast AWD coupes then?
It’s right up there. Like all C-Class coupes, it’s not as sorted a drivers’ car as the equivalent BMW, but because the overall package looks and feels so much richer, the Benz is the more desirable product, and it’s easily more nimble and rewarding than the heavy-set Audi S5.
A proper AMG hero? No, but that’s what the 63 nutter is for. The 43? It’s simply a properly rounded, fast Mercedes-Benz. A coupe this elegant deserves powertrains this enjoyable.
Photograpy: Simon Thompson