What is it?
The C 43 is the latest ‘43’-badged Mercedes-AMG, a new semi-skimmed model to sit below the full-fat ‘63’ models with their thunderous V8s. Not that any ‘43’ is particularly weedy, certainly not with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 under the bonnet.
Those with long memories may recall that this isn’t the first time AMG has offered a C 43; back in the 1990s it was the pinnacle of the C-Class range thanks to a 4.3-litre V8 engine. The new model may be down on cubic capacity, but it’s certainly not lacking power or performance.The combination of 4Matic all-wheel drive, a nine-speed automatic gearbox and the 362bhp motor provides a sub-five-second 0-62mph time, even in dog-friendly estate guise. Let’s see how it performs on UK soil.
What’s it like?
The C 43 may play second fiddle to the C 63, but it’s still plenty quick enough. Lean on the throttle and – after a brief pause to let boost build – the AMG launches up the road. Overtaking is a breeze and it doesn’t make a bad sound either. It may be a bit flatulent on start up, but the further up the rev-range you go, the more it howls.
Thanks to the two turbochargers, it has plenty of low-down torque and is happy cruising along at around 1500rpm, although the nine-speed auto ’box is quick to change down a few ratios if you give it more than a tickle on the throttle. In most situations it’s a smooth transmission, although the changes become a lot more forceful in Sport Plus mode. Manual mode for the gearbox happily means manual mode, too, which we discovered after violently smacking into the rev limiter.
Those expecting the usual hairy-chested, sideways-everywhere AMG-experience may need to look elsewhere. The addition of the 4Matic system means the C 43 finds plenty of traction. Yes, the tail can be persuaded to follow a different path to the front of the car, but the all-wheel-drive set-up pulls everything back into line quickly and effectively.
While the C 43’s on-throttle balance is enjoyable, the rest of the handling experience is less so. It might get adaptive dampers as standard, but there isn’t one setting that truly suits UK roads. Left in Comfort, the C 43 gets flustered by crests and compressions, to the point where it feels like the dampers aren’t actually doing anything. Try and go over a speed bump at anything over a crawl, and it’ll bobble down the road.
After a few miles of that, you’ll no doubt try selecting Sport on the damper control. The good news is that the float and wallow is all but abolished; the bad news is that it doesn’t let the wheels move up and down enough to cope with a fairly typical British B-road. Try Sport Plus and the rapid vertical movements become faintly ridiculous. On the plus side, at least you can choose your damping mode independently of all other modes.
It isn’t just the suspension that’s adjustable; you get two-stage, speed-sensitive steering, too. It proves easy to place the nose of the C 43, even with the quick rack that offers little more than two turns from lock to lock. Accurate it may be, but sadly it isn’t very communicative.
As for the interior, it’ll be very familiar to anyone who has been in the current C-Class. That means it looks good and has plenty of decent materials. Unfortunately, this particular car was let down slightly by the creaking from the trim on the centre console every time you missed a switch and prodded the wood surround instead. It’s something we’ve noted in other C-Classes, too.
Still, you get plenty of kit for your money, including dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, that auto ’box and cruise control. Yet at more than £45,000, we would have expected real, instead of faux, leather for the seats.
Should I buy one?
As interesting a prospect as the C 43 is, it just doesn’t really work on UK roads. It’s certainly fast, it’s less thirsty than the C 63 and it offers great traction, but you can tell the suspension has been optimised for much smoother surfaces.
Whether or not the coming Audi S4 Avant will have similar issues over here remains to be seen. All we know for sure is that if you’re tempted by the idea of a fast family hauler with a petrol engine, the Porsche Macan S is a much better steer.
2016 Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic Estate
Location West Sussex; On sale Now; Price £45,660; Engine V6, 2996cc, twin-turbocharged, petrol; Power 362bhp at 5500-6000rpm Torque 384lb ft at 2000-4200rpm Gearbox Nine-speed automatic Kerb weight 1735kg; 0-62mph 4.7secs; Top speed 155mph; Economy 35.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 185g/km, 34% Rivals BMW 340i Touring; Audi S4 Avant
What is it?