From £45,8307
Twin-turbo V6-powered Mercedes-AMG C 43 offers plenty of punch but disappointing handling

Our Verdict

Mercedes-AMG C 63

Merc's factory tuner turns up the C-Class wick to unparalleled levels

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

Join the debate

Comments
12

4 August 2016
Reading the review of this version of the C Class, and other versions too, I get the impression that Mercedes has really taken its eye of the ball with this generation. Bar refinement and interior material quality, everything else seems very average indeed, particularly in terms of dynamics with the current model seemingly having relatively poor ride and handling which were a forte of the previous 3 generations, particularly ride comfort which was always class-leading. Bar this C43 AMG model even the engines seem ropey. Even build quality seems average too by the sound of things. The previous C Class' were all excellent cars (bar the second model's build quality!) and comfortably traded punches with the 3 Series for class honours and in light of the current, brilliant and class-leading S Class, much was expected of the C Class. But on a whole it comes over as quite possibly one of the worst cars in its class and I fail to see how it achieves a 4 star rating. More a 3 star car to me, even a 2.5 star car if I'm being too harsh? In fact with the new generation of Mercedes which started off with the current S Class, bar that model, all its other cars appear average too – A Class, B Class, new E Class, GLA and GLC. Too much time, effort and resources placed on the S Class?

4 August 2016
Saucerer wrote:

...with the new generation of Mercedes which started off with the current S Class, bar that model, all its other cars appear average too – A Class, B Class, new E Class, GLA and GLC. Too much time, effort and resources placed on the S Class?

I will agree that the A- and B-Classes are a-bit average and the new C-Class is a-bit of a disappointment (although there have been positive reviews about them too), but the new E-Class and GLC have received very good reviews, and have often beaten their main rivals, while the relatively old GLE is still competitive...so I think it's a-bit of an exaggeration to say that "all its cars [bar the S-Class] appear average".

They clearly know how to make a good car, but for some models it seems that they prioritise things that some of us (myself included) do not deem important - because that's what the people actually buying them seem to want.

 

- Follow your own star -

jer

4 August 2016
I just went to the configurator for the Macan. Its >50k for a basic Diesel 258ps with the air suspension that they supply for review and 20 wheels. If you go for the Sport option used in magazine reviews that doesn't have air suspension its north of £60k. I'm sure they are good cars but its in a different real world price segment to this and obviously far slower/less powerful.

4 August 2016
This is top of my next car list. C63 is too much for a wet, greasy Yorkshire road. Steering feel is not that important as most driving is on busy roads anyway - what I do want is quick power and grip for easily overtaking a slow truck - and I don't want a SUV with it's whiff of jet skis and leisure wear......

 

 

 

TS7

4 August 2016
... journos first drove what was then called the C450? It was raved about at the time, almost 18 months ago, yet every test I've read on the C43 lineup has more than hinted at a sense of disappointment. Is it a case of the C43 nomenclature writing cheques that it can't cash, whereas pitching this engine as part of the 'normal' C Class line up might have been more appropriate? Whatever, shame about the squeaky trim.

4 August 2016
It's like a marketing persons dream word as fake just wouldn't be acceptable in a brochure.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

4 August 2016
Mercedes should change their tag-line to "The worst or anything". The quality of the cars they build is quite suspect, with very frequent failures and hence even more frequent trips to the workshop. Just hope these failures happen within warranty, else you could be staring at mind blowing bills. But nevertheless, you will still be left without the car while they still try to procure a replacement spare. Have faced such issues with my Mercedes and the car has made 5 trips to the workshop, had 3 problems fixed and three are still pending to be fixed ! Dunno, how many more problems are yet to surface ! And did I forget to mention, its only 7 months old and 2500 kms on the Odo. Search for videos I've uploaded on YouTube to see for yourself ! Beware.

4 August 2016
I can only think you've been unlucky or maybe you need to find another, more competent servicing dealer, as they do vary. I had my C63 AMG for three years, no problem whatsoever on 15k miles per annum, my current car is an E63S, very well spec'd as it served its first 3k miles as one of Mercedes-Benz UK's High Performance Fleet press cars. In other words, there's a lot of kit to go wrong with this thing, but nearly three years in, nothing has. Couldn't be more pleased with it.

4 August 2016
Nice car! My cousin took me in a 2006 E55 AMG recently that he's selling and gees!...the shove it has is insane! Full respect to you for having an E63S :-D As for quality and reliability - my dad's had a normal C class for 4 years and no issues...

5 August 2016
Autocar verdicts are becoming too predictable, choosing from a minimal selection of solutions. Why recommend a jeep as an alternative for people looking for a car? If I went to a dealer, asked about estate cars and was shown a jeep, I wouldn't say anything more, I'd simply walk out and never return.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

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