Published on September 25th, 2018 | by Subhash Nair0
Mercedes-AMG C43 Review: Bittersweet Perfection
Let me just get this out of the way: the C43 was my favourite Mercedes-Benz of 2018. Yes, I liked it more than the C63. Here’s why.
The C63 is a car that’s made for those accustomed to serious racetrack driver. It’s an RM730K, 510hp, 700Nm, thirsty, uncomfortable, loud machine that barely qualifies as a weekend car. Sure, you can buy one, but it’s just so difficult to justify. Even the most patient and understanding of wives will not let it pass.
The C43, on the other hand, is a sportscar with the genuine practicality of a four-door sedan. RM386K, 367hp, 520Nm, yet efficient, comfortable, quiet, CIVILISED when asked to be. Let’s dive into how this car performs in greater detail.
Overall, the theme here is consistent: less drama, more practicality than a 63. But it’s unfair to leave it at that. It would be more accurate to say ‘exactly the right amount of drama and practicality’, as the 63 model kinda goes too far in one direction.
Powering the C43 is a 3-litre V6 Biturbo petrol engine which sends power to all four wheels via Daimler’s 9G-TRONIC Conventional Automatic gearbox. This setup delivered extremely satisfying performance. It’s clinical when you need to be fast, but raw and enjoyable when you need that dose of adrenaline.
Like the C63, this car has lots of power, but unlike the C63, the power is delivered in a linear and controllable fashion. It’s a much more enjoyable experience, and you don’t have to worry about losing the tail or burning through your rear tyres on your way back from the tyre shop.
It is less dramatic an affair. We do miss the pops and farts that the C63 would make. But, the softer, more manageable suspension is a welcome tradeoff. On the highway and in the city, the C43 is actually comfortable enough to take a small family on a 2-3 hour journey. Parking lots are a problem for rear passengers though. Speed bumps and potholes will give those in the rear a real reminder of what you sacrifice with a performance-tuned suspension.
The overall practicality of this Affalterbach-branded racer goes much deeper. On my drive back from Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur, I stuck to YB Anthony Loke’s prescribed speed limits and found I was able to hit a solid 7.6L/100km. That translates to 22.8 litres of petrol, or half a tank for the C43. Sure, it’s not mind blowing, but you have to remember that this is a sports-tuned 3-litre V6 that weighs 1700kg. With that in mind, 7.6L/100km is very impressive.
Because it’s able to blend performance driving with everyday living, we have to give the C43 really top marks here. It’s nothing extravagant, but we really like the balance that was hit.
In silver, the AMG C43 really is a bit of a sleeper. You have to squint to notice the model name, the ‘AMG’, ‘Biturbo’,‘4MATIC’ branding, and grey brake calipers.
It’s really subtle enough for the average road user to never notice. Personally, I think this approach is fine. In fact, I think this is the best the looking W205 so far. Anyone who feels the need to draw attention to the car can go have it wrapped in chrome if that’s their thing.
On the inside, the C43 dials down the extravagance once more. Its bigger brother, the C63 is honoured and made to look more special. Instead of a carbon fibre covered centre console, you get one in piano black. No IWC centrepiece either. But there’s still a lot of red in here. [Karate] Seat belts, stitching, dials, accents and more. There’s also a lot of AMG branding. Floor mats, side sills, engine cover, instrument cluster. But we’ll talk more about that in the closing paragraph.
Besides the splash of ‘AMG’ branding and red, the interior is typical of the W205 C-Class. It’s an occasion without even trying. Two unique Benz traits that continue to be pleasing are the placement of the seat adjustment controls on the door cards and the gear selector stalk on the steering column. It’s just so intuitive, and once you get used to it, you wonder why other manufacturers remain stuck in their old ways.
This design language looked fresh in 2014, and four years on it’s still a nice place to be in. We would prefer a more modern infotainment unit and keyfob. Both look very much out of place in a car like this.
Overall, the C43 scores well with regards to design as well.
RM386K is a lot of money to drop, no matter who you are. But quite honestly the performance and design of the car really speaks for itself. From what you get out of the car, it ought to cost closer to RM450K, maybe even RM500K. But, its CKD status brings that final price down significantly.
You might be wondering where the logic is in locally-producing a sportscar, but just imagine what this does to the grey market. MBM’s strategy has effectively made it impossible to buy a new Benz through any other channel but theirs.
But before we give it top marks in value, we have to discuss the elephant in the room.
Marketing hype. Branding. Rebranding, if you will.
To me, an AMG car is something special. It’s not just a Benz with performance parts. And as much as I loved the C43, I cannot pretend that there’s no bait and switch happening before our very eyes. This car is tuned by AMG. It does feature AMG parts – brakes, steering axle, etc.
It is special in most ways. But it’s also an exercise in what marketing can do to subvert the buying public.
In 2015, this ‘Mercedes-AMG C43’ was the ‘Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG 4MATIC’. Before that, it was the ‘Mercedes-Benz C400 4MATIC’. All the while it was a 3-litre, too. I’m still not over this ‘badging as an indication of power’ nonsense. The power didn’t change from when it was a ‘450’ to when it was a ‘43’, so what exactly do the numbers indicate? Prestige level? Product positioning? All you’re doing is showing your customer base what they’re worth to you. When you so openly reveal your product strategy, the veil is lifted, and the car goes from something special to something mass produced, AMG branding included or not.
Fine, elsewhere, massive changes to the car occurred with each shift and each model year. But aren’t some things sacred? Isn’t ‘AMG’ supposed to be one of those sacred things?
What is a ‘Mercedes-AMG’? If the W212 E300 Bluetec Hybrid was sold today, would it qualify? What is a ‘43’ car but a new way to sell existing V6 Benzes? Is it an ‘AMG’ if the engines and gearbox are built on a ‘Benz’ production line?
Yes, Daimler can do whatever they want with the name and the brand, they paid for it. However, this kind of watering down does dilute the brand somewhat. It attracts new customers, sure. But it also loses the respect of enthusiasts. In 2018, personal values mean nothing. The oldest car brand in the world has decided this for the rest of the premium car market, apparently. But perhaps the Swedes will have something to say about that.
Hey, if the principle of the thing doesn’t bother you, then yes, buy the Mercedes-AMG C43 4MATIC. It’s my favourite car in their stable, all things considered.
Mercedes-AMG C43 4MATIC Specifications
Engine: 3-litre Biturbo V6 Petrol
Gearbox: 9-speed Conventional Automatic
Max power: 367hp @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 520Nm @ 2000Nm
Top Speed: 250 km/h
0-100 km/h: 4.7 seconds