While the Mercedes-AMG C43 might present as a soft option compared to the mighty C63 Coupe, it is in fact an excellent value sportscar.
You could be forgiven for thinking – or indeed assuming – that the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe might create something of a stumbling block for the brand around the world. Not so, according to Mercedes-Benz, which claims the C43 Coupe will fill a vital gap within the C-Class portfolio that will bring even more buyers into the 'Benz fold. No pressure then…
On face value, it’s a fair question to ask whether the C43 Coupe might in fact cannibalise sales of other Mercedes-Benz variants. However, that certainly doesn’t seem to be the perception within the Merc camp and, employee brand loyalty aside, those company representatives might just be right. For example, nearly 60 per cent of all C250 sales are specced up with an AMG bodykit.
So there’s certainly an appetite for a C-Class variant with some magic AMG stardust sprinkled over it, but without the price tag (and perhaps outright performance) of the C63 AMG Coupe.
There’s a hefty price difference between the two cars obviously (the C63 AMG Coupe starts from $162,115), so it’s unlikely a potential C63 buyer will even cast a glance in the direction of the C43. Buyers who might have left 'Benz to step into the middle ground – with another manufacturer – between the C250 and the C63 now have an option though, and Mercedes-Benz now has a genuine enticement to bring new buyers back into the fold, too. Like I've already pointed out, no pressure then.
In short, the C43 Coupe can be had from $105,615, hence the comment about the hefty price difference in the step up to the 160 grand C63 AMG Coupe. Power comes courtesy of a healthy 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 engine which knocks out 270kW and 520Nm so the numbers are nothing to be sneezed at.
The big difference between the bigger brother C63 though is the fact that drive is sent to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission underneath the C43. The lighter engine up front is slightly counteracted then by the added weight that comes with the complexity of the AWD system.
The cabin is typical 'Benz fare. That is, muted understatement, quality execution and solid insulation. Thud the door closed and the cabin is pleasingly quiet. Even at speeds up to 110km/h barely any wind noise enters the cabin, while only coarse chip bitumen elicits any tyre roar. Smooth bitumen leaves occupants unruffled.
We test-paired our phone to the Bluetooth system, and COMAND worked as faultlessly as it does in every other Mercedes-Benz. While it’s not as competent as the iDrive system BMW uses, but once mastered, it’s easy to use. The rear-view camera is broad and clear, making reverse parking the compact coupe even easier than it otherwise would be.
As we’ve stated with just about every test of the coupe thus far, seat long-legged occupants up front and the second row becomes largely redundant. You could use the passenger side in a pinch and ask the front seat occupant to go without some legroom, but this C43 really is a two-seater most of the time, and four-seater very occasionally.
The front seats are comfortable though, and buyers can option the same seats as the C63 sports items. I’m not sure you need them to be honest, given the comfort and holding ability of the standard pews. Like all Mercedes-Benz product, the cabin of so-called ‘cheaper models’ still feels premium, so buyers will certainly be chuffed with their C43’s confines.
Under any other circumstances, fans would be rejoicing at the numbers punched out by the twin-blown V6 engine. ‘Other circumstances’ don’t include a comparison to the ballistic C63 V8 though.
Regardless, this engine is a surprising performance option, with the torque especially, tailor made for rapid mid range punch and acceleration. Neither figure is sky high, but 520Nm is nothing to be sneezed at by any means. I expect therefore, to be able to extract some on-road performance out of this ‘baby AMG’.
That’s the result in the real world too, where the C43 can be hustled along quite rapidly, all the while feeling quite composed. There’s a throaty enough engine note, especially with Sport or Sport+ selected and precise throttle response makes for sharp roll-on overtaking.
Having driven the SLC43 AMG overseas, I can definitely say this C43 Coupe is less in your face, perhaps a bit more mature or less hot rod if you will, with a slightly more muted exhaust note.
That’s not to detract from how easily it will approach the speed limit on local roads. The gearshift is crisp and sharp, in fact you barely notice the gearbox working at all unless you’re coaxing the V6 right up to redline, and there’s an all-round sense of balance and precision that makes you feel like you’re driving a bona fide sports car.
On the flip side, the C43 Coupe tools along the highway in quietly, but responds well to enthusiastic inputs when you find some twisty country backroads. If you know those twisty roads well, you’ll be able to really hook in behind the wheel of the C43 Coupe.
Outside a racetrack and the outer limits that you can safely explore under controlled circumstances, there’s something very neutral about the C43’s AWD system. Turn in is sharp, no matter how tight the corner, and the front end never feels dull or heavy. The C43 still feels biased toward the rear in terms of drive, and in either of the sports modes, the sharpening of the inputs makes for a fun drive.
I didn’t experience any washing out of the front end at normal public road speeds. The brakes are excellent, even on prolonged downhill sections, and the steering still feels precise enough even in the more mundane ‘Comfort’ or ‘Eco’ modes.
While you might not think of the C43 AMG as a ‘proper’ sports car (especially if you lust after the C63 Coupe), it certainly possesses more real world sporting credibility than you might expect. Further to that, drivers of this car may never truly extract what it’s capable of anyway. Regardless, the ability is there beneath the attractive coupe kin.
Does the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe feel special then? It genuinely does, not with the level of blistering performance and thunderous exhaust note of the C63 Coupe by any means, but it still feels like a special car within the C-Class portfolio.
Crucially, I think it will attract buyers who might not otherwise have walked into a Mercedes-Benz dealership, and that’s its main focal point in the overall scheme of things. The fact the Coupe body style is so attractive is just an added bonus.