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Car reviews - Mercedes-AMG - C43 - Cabriolet

Our Opinion

We like
Superb body rigidity and suspension control, sharp steering, brisk performance and great sound with top down, comfortable cabin
Room for improvement
Sports exhaust should be standard, ordinary all-wheel-drive system, handling could be more engaging

Gallery

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Mercedes-AMG logo28 Dec 2017

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

Overview

PREMIUM cabriolets – or convertibles – can be an enigma. The Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet costs thousands of dollars more than its coupe sibling, which is much lighter and also faster.

The need for extra underfloor bracing, to compensate for a steel roof being replaced by a fabric lid above a driver’s head, means that the steering and suspension becomes pressured at every turn, with dull handling often the result.

Either way, this is the most affordable way to get into a Mercedes-AMG-tuned drop-top, and the Benz’s performance division understands a thing or two about creating dynamic vehicles. The middling, medium-sized C43 Cabriolet has been placed above a standard Mercedes-Benz C300 Cabriolet, but it sits well below the Mercedes-AMG C63 Cabriolet flagship.

Could this middle grade model best balance cruising comfort with bruising performance? And could it nestle into an elusive spot between top-down enjoyment and driver entertainment?

Price and equipment

Priced from $120,612 plus on-road costs, the C43 Cabriolet commands a $14,400 premium over its C43 Coupe sibling.

Among its C-Class Cabriolet cousins, however, this all-wheel-drive, 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6-engined model grade retails for $20,000 more than the rear-drive, 2.0-litre turbo C300 Cabriolet, while it will save buyers a hefty $61,000 over a rear-drive, 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 C63 Cabriolet.

Standard kit is lengthy, including 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with adaptive-automatic high-beam, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather seat trim with electrically adjustable and heated front seats, active cruise control, blind-spot monitor, active lane-keep assistance, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), a head-up display, and an 8.4-inch screen with 10Gb hard-drive, satellite navigation, and 13-speaker Burmester audio.

The only main option is a $4990 Performance Ergonomic Package, as fitted here, which features a switchable sports exhaust, Nappa leather/microfibre steering wheel, and sports bucket seats that sadly ditches the neck-heating function – dubbed AirScarf – of the standard pews.

Interior

The sweeping, boutique, obviously S-Class-inspired interior looks great when the fabric roof is flipped (in 20 seconds, via remote keyfob or at up to 50km/h) and light floods the cabin. With the optional sports seats and steering wheel, there is also great tension between their aggressive bolsters and microfibre trim respectively, and the rich open-pore wood of the centre stack.

Some lower trim finishes are scratchy, and the thin layer of leather covering the hard plastic door handles betrays the expensive design, but overall the surroundings look six-figure-pricey. Similarly, the centre screen and colour head-up display look premium enough, although the narrow driver trip computer display pales against that of its closest rival, a $119,111 Audi S5 Cabriolet, which utilises that car-maker’s brilliant widescreen display dubbed Virtual Cockpit.

The Benz voice control system works well, and the functions are all there, but the rotary dial, flanked by obscured buttons and topped by a hooded touchpad, are all ergonomically sub-par. On the flipside, Audi charges $5600 for a package encompassing a head-up display, matrix LED headlights and 20-speaker Bang and Olufsen audio, the equivalents of which are standard here.

The Mercedes-AMG gets a slightly smaller boot than its rival (between 285 and 360 litres versus 380L) but otherwise four-seat accommodation is impressive – with a rear backrest that is not too upright, good headroom with the fabric top up, comfortable legroom and standard rear air vents.

Engine and transmission

With 520Nm of torque produced between 2000rpm and 4200rpm, and 270kW of power from 5500rpm to 6000rpm, the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine has more than enough oomph to overcome the extra 210kg the C43 Cabriolet lugs around compared with the C43 Coupe. Kerb weight of 1870kg is far from light, yet its 4.8-second 0-100km/h claim is only a tenth slower.

An ultra-short first gear inside the standard nine-speed automatic, plus the unwavering traction of standard all-wheel drive, means this Mercedes-AMG leaps off the line with greater enthusiasm than its numbers suggest. Forget the auto’s Comfort mode, though, because Sport is both fabulously silky yet alert. It becomes the setting of choice in day-to-day driving, and unlike in a BMW for example, the Drive Mode select system will remember your choice on each start-up.

This engine can sound grainy, and even harsh, in the C43 sedan, coupe and wagon applications, making the active sports exhaust an absolute must-have.

Particularly with the roof-down, the duo come alive with the V6’s throaty snarl being backed by clear – but not bratty – pops and burbles.

With the exception of fuel consumption – a tested 12.4 litres per 100 kilometres in mixed conditions, or almost 50 per cent above its 8.6L/100km claim – this engine and auto work superbly in the C43 Cabriolet to kick off an alluring luxury-sports personality that does not end there.

Ride and handling

Behind the spotty chrome grille of the Mercedes-AMG C43 lies front suspension and steering hardware from the Mercedes-AMG C63. Indeed, the way the Cabriolet can be hustled through corners, with immediate turn-in aided by fabulously natural weighted response through the driver’s hands, is astonishing for even a rapid ‘cruiser’.

AMG’s 4Matic+ is not the most responsive all-wheel drive system, as it cannot juggle torque to a rear axle like a new E63 S can, so the handling tends towards a point-and-shoot style that could be disappointing in the context of a sports coupe. However, together with an adept Sport Handling Mode that delays when the electronic stability control (ESC) intervenes, it all proves tightly in sync with less-hardcore drop-top expectations.

Mercedes-Benz has obviously worked hard to strengthen key points of the chopped C-Class, though, because this Mercedes-AMG avoids all manner of scuttle shake, steering vibration and A-pillar wobble. While the suspension’s Comfort mode struggles to deal with the weight, bobbing on each corner over bumps and feeling unnecessarily springy, Sport is again the default choice.

Only select Sport+ on a twisty, smooth-surfaced road. When the auto is in that mode it will also come to the fore with superbly timed downshifts and crisp upshifts. Depending on the driving style and conditions, the C43 Cabriolet can easily segue between a luxury-sports and sports-luxury bias.

Safety and servicing

Six airbags (including dual front, front-side and front knee), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), front and rear parking sensors with around-view camera, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning and assistance, and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are all standard.

ANCAP has not tested the Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet.

Mercedes-Benz includes annual or 25,000km servicing intervals at a cost of $510/$1035/$1035 over three years or 75,000km.

Verdict

At first the Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet could seem neither here nor there.

After all, if a buyer wants cruising comfort then the equally roomy and plush C300 Cabriolet (or even C200 Cabriolet) awaits for much less. Likewise, for hardcore sports performance, the C63 Cabriolet is available.

However, perhaps more than any other body style, the C43 suits being a Cabriolet the most.

Ultimately the C43 is not quite a proper sports coupe, but it is fast and sporty enough for drop-top motoring and even enhances that go-fast perception by sounding better top-down. Yet at the same time it is never boring like cheaper C-Class variants can be, yet it is not inappropriately hardcore.

The word ‘balance’ simply comes to mind. From the chrome grille to the open-pore wood, this Mercedes-AMG can absolutely nail the brief as a brisk cruising option. Yet with the auto primed, engine on song, exhaust spitting volume and steering that is sharp, it can also be a real hoot.

Fear not, then – this is not an enigma, but a vivid display of broad and alluring qualities.

Rivals

Audi S5 Cabriolet from $119,111 plus on-road costs
With a benchmark cabin and sweet turbo V6, only a back-to-back can separate this pair.

BMW 440i Convertible from $117,900 plus on-road costs
Little sporty pretension, the BMW looks as though it has a missing layer of depth versus C43.

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