What is it?
The C43 is Mercedes-AMG’s answer to a more performance oriented C-Class. While this model finds its place below the C63 AMG S in the current C-Class influenced AMG line-up in India, it slots above the CLA45 AMG. Sure, the latter comes close to the C43 AMG in terms of price and power output, but the C43 AMG makes a case for itself since it’s a part of the C-Class family, which is a cut above.
This C43 AMG has a front fascia that displays a diamond studded grille with a single chrome slat that holds a large Mercedes logo. Surprisingly, the AMG badge is inconspicuously stashed away at the corner of this grille that’s flanked on either side by those contemporary looking LED headlamps. Lower down, the bumper can be seen with bigger air dams and a silver front splitter that suit the intended sporty application.
In profile, the C43 AMG shows off its low stance with the ‘star’ design 18-inch five-spoke chrome-black alloys and potent AMG brake callipers. While a subtle boot-lid integrated spoiler adorns the rear section, so does the restyled lower section of the rear bumper that accommodates two exhausts with a quad look, a mesh grille, and a diffuser finished in silver paint. With the subtle but distinct updates, the C43 AMG in white paint earns a ‘sleeper’ reputation without any doubt whatsoever.
How is it on the inside?
Sure, the interiors of the C43 AMG may look similar in design to the regular C-Class, but there are a few additions that induct a sense of sportiness to the equation. An open pore black ashwood trim (dark matt wood) can be seen tastefully adorning the centre console, and there’s lots of soft touch points complemented by premium materials that are highlighted by red stitching. Furthermore, we were especially delighted with the red seatbelts.
If we really had to find fault, it would be with the absence of touch capabilities on the infotainment screen which also happens to be slightly slow to respond to commands. Plus, the placement of the buttons to the left of the Dynamic Select are inappropriate as it requires you to lean across to read some of them. This brings us to the front sport seats which are finished in leather with red stitching and offer superb texture and contours that hold you snug while driving spiritedly. They also look premium and feel extremely comfortable. With almost every sort of electric adjustment on tap, these front seats offer tremendous support with lots of legroom and headroom.
As the rear bench is well contoured with lots of cushioning, it is comfortable for two occupants at best since the tall transmission tunnel will make it uncomfortable for a third passenger. Also, though legroom is adequate, the seat squab is very short and there’s hardly any thigh support. Head room is in short supply too and tall passengers may brush their head against the roof. Nevertheless, what aids rear seat comfort is a dedicated knob for the air-conditioner. In reality, using the boot needs one to stuff their baggage around the space saver spare wheel that actively eats into the available luggage space.
Some exclusive AMG features are an instrument cluster in 2-tube look with chequered-flag-look dials, brushed stainless steel sports pedals with rubber inserts, and a panoramic sliding sunroof. There’s also the AMG door sill panels with “AMG” lettering, illuminated AMG styled DIRECT SELECT selector lever, sports seats and the 2-zone automatic climate control. Other AMG specific additions include the speed-sensitive sports steering with 2 levels of power assistance (Comfort and Sport), AMG sports exhaust system, AMG sports braking system, AMG ride control suspension with 3-level adaptive damping adjustment.
How does it drive?
If you were expecting fireworks on twisting the ignition then you’re in for a surprise. There’s no throaty growl on firing the motor, and neither does revving at idle let out a sporty exhaust note. However, once you’re off the mark, the 362bhp 3.0-litre V6 with twin turbos that spins out a healthy 520Nm, helps this car pick up pace in a very linear fashion and the feeling of speed is masked very well.
We eventually learnt that nudging the throttle enthusiastically gets other road users to hear the exhaust note more than it can be heard within the cabin. This engine works in close association with the 9G-tronic transmission which unleashes that power to all four wheels through the 4MATIC setup. Although the transmission is quick enough for a torque convertor, it doesn’t have the quickness of a DSG ‘box. In manual mode, the gearbox doesn’t work well either, as it struggles to downshift especially at the red-line, yet it holds the gear at the rev limiter.
Users can take advantage of driving modes which include Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual, to change the characteristics in which the engine, gearbox, steering and suspension respond. In Eco mode, engine responses are slower and the gearbox quickly upshifts when you go easy on the throttle with the clear intention of saving fuel. It even coasts in this mode. In case you need an extra surge of power, a little nudge of the throttle is all that’s needed for the strong engine to pull ahead in the same gear. Comfort mode offers a bit more response and feels livelier when compared to the Eco mode. However, in this mode the gears upshift rapidly but if you want quick acceleration, there’s a delay before the system actually downshifts as there are so many gears.
That said, Sport and Sport+ modes are what really makes this car stand up to its full potential. While ‘Sport’ is way quicker than ‘Comfort’, the transmission keeps a lower gear slotted for better response when asked for it. Sport+ mode is where the quickest responses were felt and the gearbox holds an even lower gear for an instant surge of performance when the throttle is fed. Performance is crisp all the way up to the 6300rpm redline, and this also shows in the 0-100kmph run that was clocked in an impressive 4.79sec. Even quick overtaking in kickdown situations were swiftly carried out as seen in the 40-100kmph sprint that took 3.80sec.
On the ride front, the C43 AMG surprised us. It gets an adjustable, electronically controlled damping system. Even in the stiffest Sport+ mode, it never got to a point where the ride got uncomfortable. At slow speeds in this mode, the suspension could be heard working its way over the broken surfaces with a reasonable amount of up and down movement. As speeds picked up, only the harsh bumps filtered into the cabin with a louder thud and a slight jolt, but it never felt rough. Also, this is not the quietest of cabins as lots of road noise seep through in the cabin especially over cement roads, which takes away a bit from it being a GT car.
Also, we stuck with the ‘Sport’ steering setup over ‘Comfort’, as the responses were quicker and it enabled us to handle the car’s spirited character appropriately. Though slightly artificial, its still miles ahead of the Comfort setting which makes the steering become vague around the dead centre and less responsive overall. Also, the low ground clearance means that one will need to watch out while going over speed breakers to prevent the belly from scrapping. Unlike the rear-wheel driven C63 S AMG, the C43 comes fitted with a 4MATIC all-wheel drive setup with a 31:69 power distribution between the front and rear axles respectively.
The car has enormous grip and is eager to change directions even as the bends get tighter. The AWD system coupled with the AMG Ride Control sports suspension, and the on-board electronics correct the odds and gets the car stick to the intended line without any fuss. In fact, this AWD system makes it feel more secured, unlike how AMG cars usually feel, and you can actually jab the throttle mid-corner in the C43 and it lays down the power on the road exceptionally well. The icing on the cake is definitely the AMG sports braking system which uses internally ventilated compound discs with 4-piston callipers. They kept stopping us from high speeds with immense confidence and lots of feedback from the pedal.
Why should I buy one?
The C43 AMG fits the bill quite well at Rs 77.64 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai). It will attract those who need a C-Class sized performance machine but aren’t ready to spend over a crore for the C63 S AMG. Some of the things that go against it is the back seat comfort, a hesitant gearbox, low ground clearance, too much road and suspension noise within the cabin, and the absence of a touchscreen for the infotainment system. However, if you ask us, we relished every bit of the ‘sleeper’ performance thanks to its surprisingly supple ride, unflustered dynamics and the beautifully crafted cabin with the feel-special AMG additions.
Where does it fit in?
The C43 AMG will take on cars like the Audi S5 Sportback which retails at Rs 70.25 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai), and possibly the Ford Mustang which is priced at Rs 70.44 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai). Going by the manner in which the C43 performs, it has what it takes to outperform the other two, but only a full-fledged comparison can prove that.
Pictures: Ameya Dandekar