2019 Mercedes-AMG C43 4MATIC Review: First Drive
With more power and aggression, can the new C43 satisfy the AMG purist in me?
I’ve always believed that a Mercedes with an AMG badge should be capable of colossal speeds. It should turn into a corner while wagging its tail, terrify you with its potential and leave your passengers nauseated. But, recently, Mercedes decided to brand their twin-turbo V6 cars as ‘AMG-line’ models. This decision left me curious to see if these models are pretenders, or actually the real deal.
When they first introduced the C43 AMG, it just felt like a normal C-Class with new upholstery, some bling, an AMG badge, a bit more power and, weirdly enough, all-wheel drive. However, I have to admit that driving it felt really good – the ride was far more comfortable than the full blooded C63, and it had plenty of power for the road. However, the performance was nowhere in the same league as what we’ve come to expect from Affalterbach, so I just couldn’t bring myself to call the C43 an AMG. It just didn’t feel as special to me – there was no terror, no drama and no anger management problems!
So, what’s changed?
Now, the mid-life-cycle update of the new C-Class presented a window of opportunity for Mercedes to include a part of the essence of the C63 range. The updates on the C43 makes the car look and feel far more aggressive than the previous model. The car now has a more aggressive aerodynamically styled front bumper, a rear diffuser with real quad exhausts and a front grille from the C63. But the party piece is the new of MULTIBEAM LED headlamps with 84 individually controlled active LEDs. In ULTRA BEAM mode, they’re capable of projecting up to an astounding distance of 640 metres.
The interior is also brand new, with lots of carbon-fibre, aggressive styling and new upholstery. The driver gets a brand new multifunction sports steering wheel wrapped in Alcantara. The buttons on the steering are now touch sensitive like on the new S-Class. These buttons can control the 10-inch COMMAND infotainment system and the new driver instrument panel, which is now a 12.3-inch completely digital screen with bespoke AMG graphics and display presets. Additionally, it features an all new electronic architecture, 80% of which is borrowed from the S-Class – something which has dramatically changed the characteristics of the car.
Under the bonnet is the same 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 mated to a 9G-TRONIC automatic gearbox, which sends power to all four wheels. However, power output has been pushed to just north of 385bhp, while torque remains the same at 520Nm, which is available between 2,500 and 5,000rpm. Mercedes claims that the transmission has been tweaked to respond marginally quicker and that the all-new electronic architecture has altered the way the car drives. All this now allows the C43 to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds – two tenths faster than before. The AWD system is now more rear-biased with power distribution of up to 31 to 69%.
Has it worked?
In the cockpit, it does make you feel a bit more special than a standard C-Class. The new materials and design have done wonders and provide a sense of occasion. But, in terms of the driving experience, the C43 is noticeably different from the older model. While the steering is identical, every other part of the car has been either been tweaked and reworked, or is completely brand new. The engine is more eager, and the acceleration is just effortless. You do feel the added power as it pushes you forward in any gear and in any driving mode. You can flick the car into a corner and apply the power as early as possible, and with as much ferocity as you desire, and you’ll still be in complete control – for the all-wheel-drive offers the grip that you need to always stay glued to the road. There isn’t any tail-happy drama of course, but neither is there any understeery hairiness that one expects from an all-wheel-drive.
Overall, the car behaves its best in Sport+ mode – as any ‘AMG’ should. The suspension here is in its stiffest setting, but even then it’s exceptionally comfortable and balanced – and it only gets better as you drop down to Sport or Comfort mode. The only gripe I have is that, even in Comfort mode, the car always sets off with a jerk before settling down. It always seems eager to pounce, and while it may give the car an aggressive character, it can potentially become tiresome to live with.
The car has a lot of great features that are exciting and fun, but none of them are even remotely close to being as entertaining as the pops and crackles from the exhaust on the overrun – which always manage to make the hair on the back of your neck stand with excitement.
A Satisfied Purist?
With nothing really to fault, I must say that my initial anxiety was misplaced. Even though the C43 may not offer you the full AMG experience, it comes pretty close. The C63 may be an altogether different beast, but that doesn’t mean that this machine is any less worthy of its AMG badge.
Mercedes-Benz India might even attempt something brave when the new C43 finally arrives in India later this year. While we expect the sedan to make it to Indian shores, the coupe and/or the convertible might also be offered in our market. If that happens, I would pick the convertible any day of the week – just to be able to hear that exhaust scream even louder.
Engine: 2,996cc / V6 / Twin turbocharged / 24 valves
Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 385bhp @ 6,100rpm
Torque: 520Nm @ 2,500-5,000rpm
Expected Price: ₹75 Lakhs (ex-showroom)
X-factor: An AMG that you can live with every day.
• More Power
• Perfectly balanced ride
• looks more AMG like
• High price tag in India