Car reviews - Mercedes-AMG - C43 - Coupe
Swift performer with impeccable automatic and sweet exhaust system, excellent steering and suspension, fluid handling
Room for improvement
Lacks the fleet-footed feel of a BMW 4 Series or AMG CLA45, engine note coarse and generic at low revolutions
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27 Oct 2016
THE C43 Coupe lands in Australia carrying a number of firsts underneath its curvaceous exterior and on its rounded, S-Class-Coupe-like rear end. Namely it is the first and only new C-Class to utilise standard all-wheel-drive, while it is also now the most affordable medium AMG ever.
Priced from $105,615 (plus on-road costs) the C43 Coupe only demands roughly between $1000 and $3500 more than its Estate and sedan siblings respectively, so it is hard to imagine a buyer deciding on a bodystyle based on the pricetag.
What it could do is poach buyers not only from the $83,355 C300 Coupe but also the $92,215 Mercedes-AMG CLA45 that is smaller, faster and brasher. Or the Audi S5 that has been playing the all-paw performance-coupe card for years, of course, but from a hefty $132,616 – ouch.
The 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6 engine makes 270kW between 5500rpm and 6000rpm, and 520Nm from 2000rpm to 4200rpm, which is actually 10kW less but 45Nm more than AMG’s 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder in the CLA45.
Being a heavier car, the C43 accelerates 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds compared with 4.2s for its smaller sibling that also utilises all-wheel drive.
Approach the Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe, however, and a maturity of execution quickly becomes apparent. From the ‘diamond cut’ front grille to the subtly sporting part-gloss black 19-inch alloy wheels and lip spoiler, this two-door hard-top slips beneath the radar of any oncoming highway patrol vehicle – metaphorically, of course.
Likewise, inside the elegant interior design for which the latest C-Class is renowned – despite looking like an S-Class more than feeling like one in terms of material choices – is only amplified by a bevy of standard luxury and technology equipment.
The leather-trimmed sports seats are grippy yet comfortable, the flat-bottomed steering wheel and chequered-flag dials hint at a racing nature within, but never at the expense of plushness.
Extra kit over the C300 Coupe includes a head-up display, panoramic sunroof, LED headlights with adaptive high-beam and heated front seats, while electrically adjustable pews with memory settings and a 13-speaker, 590-watt Burmester sound system carry over. Buyers of the C43 Coupe will not feel short changed.
Greater changes occur under the skin, with the addition of all-paw traction, a standard three-mode adaptive damper system, speed-sensitive sports steering and nine-speed automatic (up from seven ratios) all being added and each tuned by AMG.
On the road, the steering and automatic response impress immediately.
Movement through the wheel is a fluid and connected affair even in the standard Comfort setting, leaving the heavier Sport option unnecessary. The nine-speed gets an additional Sport+ setting but any of the parameters can be mixed and matched via an Individual mode and yet, even then, the C43 adeptly detects if it is being driven calmly or enthusiastically. It is possible to cruise for kilometres then suddenly stoke the throttle and the auto will quickly spring to life.
The bi-turbo V6 is not the most characterful engine on light throttle at lower speeds. It can get slightly grainy through the middle part of the tachometer too, although it swings a crisp and clear tune towards the top end.
It is always responsive and feels genuinely brisk at all times, while, unlike the Mercedes-AMG E43 large sedan, it comes with a switchable sports exhaust that overlays much-needed pops, crackles and burbles without becoming incessantly intrusive.
Whether the suspension is in Comfort, Sport or Sport+ mode, the C43 Coupe also blots bumps and smothers road ripples in a smoother fashion than a standard C-Class Cabriolet on fixed sports suspension tested on the same day. It correlates with our past experience in a C-Class sedan with 19-inch wheels these days Benz’s fixed suspension struggles to cope with low-profile tyres.
When corners emerge, another highlight appears. The C43 has a sharper front-end than any regular C-Class model, sitting tighter and flatter on the initial turn-in to a tight bend. We later found out that most of the front-end elastokinematics are shared with the C63, which makes sense.
What this entry medium Mercedes-AMG lacks slightly is the driver involvement and feeling of lightness found in a BMW 4 Series or even a CLA45. The all-wheel drive system no doubt adds weight, compounded by the tech-laden cabin, but despite sending 69 per cent of drive to the rear wheels the C43 can struggle to pivot around its driver as it begins to feel bulky. The frisky, apex-sniffing behaviour of the aforementioned sports models is not quite found here.
What the Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe does best is become a balance between attributes. Its handling is solid and entertaining, without hitting stratospheric heights. But its steering and ride are excellent. Its engine is not the most characterful around, but it is very quick and supported by a terrific auto. And with all that convenience and safety equipment in a highly stylised package, it can even make a convincing value case for itself.
It is a niche where luxury and sports meet, and this part-Mercedes, part-AMG fulfils it well.
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