Mercedes has launched a lower-powered option if you want a full AMG-engineered version of its C-Class but can't quite stretch to the high price and even higher running costs of its fire-breathing C 63 model. The result is this C 43 variant, a car which has the Audi S4 firmly in its sights. Our Road Test Team take a look
Ten Second Review
Mercedes finally has a direct rival to take on performance-minded German compact executive segment rivals like Audi's S4 and BMW's 340i. Available as a Saloon, an Estate, a Coupe or a Cabriolet, the AMG-engineered C 43 is super quick, has permanent four-wheel drive and gets a sporty bodykit.
'All or nothing' was always the Mercedes motto and it's tended to apply when the brand turns its hand to performance versions of its most popular models. Take the C-Class. Until quite recently, there's been virtually nothing between a 184bhp C 200 and a 476bhp V8-powered C 63 AMG derivative. Rivals don't work like that. Audi, for example, eases the gap between mainstream A4 models and an RS4 with its S4 model. In the same way, BMW provides an 'M Sport'-trimmed 340i. Mercedes has long needed something similar in this category, namely a car that's engineered like a C 63 but offers slightly less power and a lower price. This C 43 is that car.
We've seen the C 43 badge on a -Class once before - in 1997 on the first-generation C-Class, a development of the previous C 36. That car though, was a 4.3-litre V8. This time round, a much more frugal V6 beats beneath the bonnet.
Don't be fooled by the C 43's name. Traditionally, AMG-powered cars are named after the size of the engines that sit under the bonnet. However, this Mercedes-AMG C 43 gets a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine which develops 367bhp and 384 ft/lbs of torque. That all means that it will rocket you from zero to 62mph in just 4.7 seconds in saloon or Coupe guise, while the estate takes an extra 0.2 seconds. All derivatives will push on to a limited top-speed of 155mph. That's performance quite justifying the positioning of this variant as the next step down in the C-Class hierarchy from the potent V8-powered C 63.
In fact, in some ways a C 43 is more desirable that a C 63 for unlike its V8-powered rear-driven stablemate, it comes with 4WD as standard to better get torque to the tarmac. The 4MATIC set-up used still retains a rear-wheel drive bias, with 69% of the power being sent to the back and 31% to the front. You get a smoother auto gearbox than you would in a C 63 too - and the 9G-TRONIC PLUS unit offers more ratios and can allow you to perform multiple downshifts for quicker, short bursts of power. The C 43 package includes sports suspension with adaptive damping variable across up to five modes.
Design and Build
The C 43 gets an AMG bodykit that includes an aggressive air intake in the front bumper, deeper side sills, a rear bumper with a diffuser and a boot lid AMG spoiler. The car rides on 18-inch AMG alloy wheels finished in black with distinctive silver brake callipers, featuring AMG lettering. There's a diamond grille finished with Mercedes' chrome pin design and the wing mirror housing are finished in black.
Inside, the C 43 gains ARTICO man-made leather and Dinamica micro-fibre sports seats as standard featuring contrasting red stitching. The dash is covered in the same leather and stitching, plus a combination of black gloss and aluminium trim. There's a multi-function flat-bottomed sports steering wheel, while the instrument cluster has AMG's chequered flag design. Special branded mats and doorsills complete the look.
Both the saloon and estate offer five-seat practicality, while the coupe and cabriolet versions only get four seats. Naturally, the estate offers the most load space, with the boot providing 490-litres of storage capacity, compared to 480-litres and 400-litres respectively for the saloon and coupe. However, all the trunks are big enough to take a couple of large suitcases or two golf bags. Lower the rear seats in the estate and the load area more than triples to 1510-litres, which is on par with rivals from BMW and Audi.
Market and Model
You'll need a £45,000 budget for a C 43 in saloon form, so there's a saving of around £15,000 on the C 63. Add £1,200 to that figure if you want the Estate version. For a C 43 Coupe, you're looking at just under £46,500, while you'll need around £50,000 for the Cabriolet variant. As usual with C-Class models, you can embellish your chosen derivative with 'Premium' or 'Premium Plus' equipment packs.
Standard equipment includes the usual executive items - things like climate control, Garmin sat nav, DAB radio, reversing camera, cruise control and automatic wipers. Safety equipment includes collision prevention assist, six airbags, attention assist and adaptive brake lights. As with most Mercedes models, the options list is long. You can select a Driving Assistance Package with safety features such as blind spot detection and active lane-keeping assist. You can also upgrade to 19-inch alloy wheels and opt for full leather upholstery.
Cost of Ownership
For a car that produces such potent acceleration, the C 43 still manages to return respectable economy figures - at least in comparison to the C 63 anyway. Thanks to the downsized smaller turbo engine, economy ranges from 34.9mpg to 35.8mpg on the combined cycle, depending on which bodystyle you go for.
CO2 emissions are equally as impressive, ranging from 178 to 183 g/km. The result is a £225 per annum car tax liability, while company car tax lies in the 32% or 33% banding. In such a performance-focused model, insurance is never going to be cheap, so expect an rating group of around 45. The C 43 will benefit from Mercedes' famous rock-solid residuals, and is expected to retain around 47% of its value after three years.
As with every other Mercedes, the C 43 gets a three-year unlimited mileage warranty, with up to 30 years cover for corrosion. You also get Mercedes-Benz Roadside Assistance, with up to 30 years pan-European breakdown assistance.
If you've decided that you really want a Mercedes-AMG C-Class but the fire-breathing C 63 is just too aggressive and expensive, then the C 43 offers an excellent compromise while saving you around £15,000. It gives you the 4WD system you'd have to do without on a comparable BMW 340i. And the sense of exclusive style and occasion that's missing from a rival Audi S4.
There's a wider range of bodystyles than you'd get with those cars too - but also a higher range of prices too. If that doesn't put you off, then there's much to like here.