2018 Mercedes-AMG C43 review

The Mercedes-AMG C43 range is the better-known C63's grippier, less manic sibling. The updated versions have a more powerful twin-turbo V6, slick new cabin tech and more, to keep the Audi S4/S5 range on its toes.

Not everyone wants a hardcore Mercedes-AMG C63. For some people, it may be too brash and ostentatious, too quick to bite back, or just too expensive. For this crowd, there’s another possible answer…

The now four-year-old Mercedes-AMG C43 has received a series of updates, part of a wider C-Class makeover (review here) billed as the most substantial in the model line’s 25-year history. The changes are positively incremental, but the car’s fundamental character is the same as ever.

This rival to the BMW 340i and Audi S4 gets a handy power bump from its force-fed V6, more high-tech electronic displays in the cabin, design tweaks outside, and more active safety technologies largely trickled down from the S-Class. No small facelift here.

Once again, this tier-two Mercedes-AMG product is available in four body styles: sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible, all of which will touch down in Australia during August alongside the other MY18 C-Class range. We had a quick spin behind the wheel in Europe this week, where the company was rolling out wider updated C-Class family.

Design-wise, there’s a new-look radiator grille inlay finished in matte silver, and a new front apron with flics and aero-enhancing air curtains. There are also lighter, more aerodynamic alloy wheels, apparently.

Aussie cars also get the menacing Night Package, and will come standard with multibeam adaptive LED headlights that rather spectacularly keep high-beam on while using light sensors to keep glare away from oncoming cars. The technology works.

Cabin changes are more notable. The floating 10-inch rectangular tablet screen is crisper than before and has a simpler user interface. It may not be MBUX, but it’s an improvement nevertheless. It’s still controlled by the Comand system’s rotary dial.

There’s also a new-look steering wheel with touch-sensitive pads to navigate menus, and active cruise control buttons replacing the fussy old stalk on the column. To distinguish itself from the regular C-Class, it’s covered by nappa leather and suede, and flat-bottomed.

Behind this is a slick and super high-res new digital instrument display with Classic, Sport and Supersport display styles, and the ability to show all manner of information, albeit without some of the flashness and map intricacy of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit.

The Mercedes-AMG version of this array has its own menu, showing you g-forces, lap timers, boost pressure, driving mode status, oil temperature and so on. It’s suitably tech-y. It’s augmented by a colourised and highly detailed head-up display on par with BMW’s newest unit. There’s also Smartphone integration and a Qi wireless charging pad.

Other touches include splashes of leather, micro-fibre suede material called Dinamica and aluminium. The lower part of the fascia is unchanged, but the tweaks become more obvious as you familiarise. It’s still a glamorous place to be.

Slightly wanky is the Energising Comfort Control system that changes your tunes (based on bpm), temperature, in-car perfume scent and lighting based on mode.

The main other equipment update is the fitment of Mercedes’ full-fat driver’s assistance pack. The car can slow itself ahead of highway curves by reading map data, can read surrounding street signs, can change lanes itself if you tap the indicator, has AEB that ‘sees’ bikes and pedestrians, and can steer itself between clear lane markings.

The gulf between subtle and effective active-safety suites, and jerky novelties, is widening. Mercedes-Benz’s setup sits in the former camp alongside Audi, BMW and Volvo.

Engine-wise, the 3.0-litre V6 sports bigger turbos, with higher 1.1 bar maximum charge pressures. Max power climbs 17kW to 287kW at 6100rpm, while peak torque remains 520Nm, between 2500 and 5000rpm (formerly 2000-4200rpm). Fuel use kicks off at a very reasonable 9.1L/100km.

This outpoints the Audi S4/S5 V6’s 260kW/500Nm outputs even more than before, ditto the 240kW/450Nm BMW 340i/440i inline-six.

In characteristic AMG style, driving the car in its sportier settings causes the engine to send riotous crackles from the exhaust pipe on lift-off, though the sound enhancer in the cabin is a little artificial.

Maximum torque kicks in a touch later than before but is on tap for longer, and it remains a joy to open the taps. It’s not a violent shove in the back so much as a very firm push, with some dignified theatre. Anything but slow, though the sprint times are unchanged.

The coupe and sedan do 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds, the convertible and wagon in 4.8, thanks in part to the way they put their power down - through a rear biased (fixed at 31:69) 4Matic all wheel drive system. It’s not the handful the RWD C63 family is.

Our general consensus on the C43 in corners is that it’s still not quite as alive, or agile, as the Bimmer, but the body control against cornering forces is hard to fault. It’s rear-biased, but certainly not particularly oversteer-y either. That’s the C63’s role.

The sole gearbox option is called Speedshift TCT 9G, meaning nine-speed auto. It doesn’t seem to suffer from from dual-clutch-style shuddering in the car’s Comfort settings, but in Sport modes can do double-declutching, and in manual mode (paddles) will keep the engine at the limiter rather than override your input.

The Dynamic Select drive programs vary from Comfort to Sport+, and modify variable-ratio steering resistance, engine response and shift patterns, as well as the damper stiffness (standard are steel springs). Slippery mode numbs the throttle for snowy conditions.

Mercedes-AMG has made the dampers a little firmer than before, but the thing we like about this C43 is that it’s still a relatively quiet and comfortable car in the Comfort setting. It’s a much more feasible ‘daily’ than its big brother.

From a pricing perspective, don’t expect a heap of changes. The current range kicks off at $102,611 before on-roads for the sedan, climbs to $105,112 for the wagon, $106,212 and an exorbitant $120,612 for the soft-top. We’ll know more come August launch.

For now we’re keeping our thoughts more general. That power bump looks nice on the spec sheet and the wider torque band is great, though the changes don’t translate to the road all that much.

The cabin is a marked improvement, and there’s more tech. And while the design is scarcely different, it’s still a looker. And so as far as mid-cycle updates go, this does enough to keep the entry AMG C-Class sharp, though whether it’s enough to keep the highly impressive new S4/S5 from Ingolstadt at bay will require a head-to-head test.

What we can say is that the Mercedes-AMG C43 presents a strong case for anyone who wants the look, tech and much of the drama of the Affalterbach marque’s wares, but also enjoys being able to relax behind the wheel every once in a while. It remains a bit of a favourite for that.

MORE: 2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class review
MORE: Mercedes-AMG C43 news, reviews, comparisons and videos
MORE: Everything Mercedes-AMG
MORE: Everything Mercedes-Benz