Not for the timid: Mercedes-AMG C 43 road test
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When it comes to premium compact rockets, the Mercedes-AMG C 43 saloon ranks among the best.
The cabin exudes luxury, while the three-litre V6 Bi-turbo engine powers the car to 100km/h in just 4.7 seconds. The engine delivers 287kW of power and 520Nm of torque, while trailing a satisfying soundtrack from the twin exhausts. The package is rounded out with Mercedes 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system holding the car firmly to the tarmac.
Our test car in selenite grey metallic looks a seriously quick sedan, without being overbearing or the least bit ostentatious.
The front and rear ends have been restyled to fit in with other current Mercedes-AMG models, and the appearance is set off with 19-inch twin-spoke AMG alloy wheels.
This is anything but a sleep-inducing grand tourer that glides effortlessly along the road, but rather a luxury sedan that commands the driver’s full attention.
Like all AMG models, it encourages the driver to press on and get more out of the vehicle.
It also demands respect from the driver, without being downright scary, which is the case with the much gnarlier top of the range AMG C 63. A new version of the C 63 is due in New Zealand towards the end of this year.
The ride in the C 43 is firm, and harsh on rough surfaces, even when comfort drive mode is selected. Driving becomes altogether more edgy and demanding when sport and sport plus modes are operating.
But the car delivers a smooth and seamless stream of power through the AMG Speedshift MCT 9-speed automatic gearbox.
While paddles are supplied on the sport steering wheel, for most circumstances there is no advantage in using them because the gearbox operates so efficiently.
The steering is precise and direct, with enough feel to maintain driver confidence behind the wheel. The 4MATIC all-wheel drive system is biased towards the rear wheels, providing the driver with enough reassurance to push the car hard, especially on windy roads.
The system is calibrated to call on just enough grip from the front wheels to maintain stability.
While the system adds weight to the C 43, and there is more road noise, the pay-off is the superbly assured overall handling in this C-Class sedan.
Acceleration is super quick, with passing manoeuvres being carried out so quickly and efficiently you would wonder how so much power can be transferred to four wheels, without fuss or drama, so smoothly.
During a week of driving the C 43 there was no time it came close to being scary, so AMG and Mercedes-Benz seem to have found an ideal compromise between providing full-on excitement behind the wheel, without going to extremes.
During one of two long journeys in the C 43, I encountered one of the model’s arch rivals on the road, the Audi RS4, and without revealing anything incriminating, the AMG had no difficulty keeping up with some spirited driving on a windy, hilly road and on a longer straight stretch of road. Both cars are impressive performers when circumstances allow them to be pushed hard.
Inside the C 43, passengers are left in no doubt they are travelling in a premium model. The test car was fitted with black nappa leather upholstery, with comfortable and enveloping AMG performance front seats that are electrically adjustable.
While the C 43 sits flat on the road even in sharp bends, the seats hug the driver and front passenger securely, with plenty of side support.
The luxury feel of the interior is also heightened by the AMG performance steering wheel in black nappa leather and what Mercedes calls “Dinamica” microfibre, a combination that works well, although whether the microfibre stands up to long-term use could be in question. Not only does the steering wheel have a flat bottom, the sides are almost straight, so it is practically a square wheel, if that makes sense. It doesn’t sound right but it works well on this model.
The dashboard includes a 10.5-inch infotainment display screen that runs Mercedes-Benz’s Comand infotainment software, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. There is the usual rotary controller and touchpad, while above that is the row of turbine air conditioning vents and a row of rocker switches for the main controls.
The test car has a recommended retail price, excluding on road costs, of $129,200, and came with two optional extras: A $5,400 Performance Ergonomic Pack, that included the AMG performance front seats, the squarish steering wheel, and most importantly, an AMG performance exhaust system. There is a button to suppress the exhaust noise.
The other optional extra on the test car was energising comfort control, which includes an air filtering and fragrancing system that helps drivers cope with longer journeys. It also includes video of exercises you can do while driving. The $1000 option might be good in a smooth motorway cruiser such as the larger S-Class Mercedes, but any driver who feels weary behind the wheel of the AMG C 43 should not be on the road. It is simply not a sleep-inducing driving experience.
Mercedes-AMG C 43 Saloon
Price: $129,200 (as tested)
Pros: Seriously quick luxury sedan
Cons: Firm ride, even in comfort mode