TEST DRIVE | Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupé
Think AMG and you think of big supercharged V8s and ridiculous twin-turbo V12s stuffed into every body type from little 2-seater convertibles to huge limousines and off-roaders. Unfortunately due to the constant and unnecessary demand to reduce emissions, the big German players are reducing the displacements of their latest and greatest, then adding turbochargers to squeeze out every last horsepower. Is this a bad thing? I’ve driven the new Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe to find out.
The new C-Class Coupé personally doesn’t excite me much. I have to look at a new Merc for quite a while now to work out if it’s a C, E or S-Class – they’ve been quite lazy with the styling of their new models (Audi and BMW are just as guilty) and I hadn’t knowingly seen a new C43 Coupé on the road until driving this one but as soon as I set eyes on it I knew I could put a tick in the aesthetics box. This particular example was a lovely deep metallic black, sleek, had the right wheels and I’d even say quite understated with the discreet quad exhausts and tasteful AMG bodykit which tells you it’s not a standard C-Class. I was really looking forward to a day with this car.
Headline figures are as follows. 367bhp, 0-60 in 4.9 seconds and 520Nm of torque. More than acceptable in anyone’s book.
Apart from the ghastly red seatbelts I can’t think of many negative things to say about the interior. The new ‘thing’ seems to be for car manufacturers to have the media screen sticking out of the dash like a satnav from 15 years ago rather than perfectly integrated into the centre console. Mercedes is no exception to this rule and the Comand OnLine screen sticking out doesn’t do much for me but on the plus side, the screen is very clear and easy to navigate around with lots of customisation much like a big tablet.
I’m a fan of sunroofs on cars and the panoramic roof on this car completes the interior beautifully making it light and giving the illusion of more space. Mercedes still tediously insist on having the gear selection lever as a cheap plastic column-mounted stalk where the windscreen wiper controls are traditionally found but you soon get used to it if you haven’t been behind the wheel of a Merc from the last 20 or so years The Burmester sound system option is excellent with deep, rich sounds and perfect clarity definitely on par with other manufacturers’ premium stereos.
The boot on this new C-Class Coupé is much larger than a BMW M4’s (a car which I would compare the C43 to) and it had a pleasant surprise which I’m used to seeing in most Audi saloons – curry hooks! Yes, that’s right, little plastic hooks in the top of the boot to hang bags of shopping (or curry) from and not have to worry about anything spilling out. Trust me, they work.
When I got the chance to do some motorway driving I found the car surprisingly comfortable compared to the much harsher M4. I was concerned cabin noise may be an issue with the pillarless windows but I was pleasantly surprised. The cabin is a really nice place to be with hardly any road noise at all. Speaking of the windows, I find there is quite a bad blind spot when taking right-handers where the driver’s side wing mirror/diagonal of the door is. I found myself sitting up and peering through the gap between the wing mirror and door frame like an 80-year-old when I needed to see kerbs and low walls.
Also new is the 9-speed automatic gearbox. With 9 gears I thought the C43 would be constantly changing up and down not making for an enjoyable drive, but changes are unnoticeable and enough power is always available with minimal delay.
This particular car had a few thousand miles on the clock so the finely tuned and hand assembled engine was already well run in, but I have a bit of sympathy for owners of these cars from new. They have to adhere to the proper running in procedure which, for an AMG, means about 1,500 miles in Comfort mode, not revving over 4,500rpm and not driving over 85mph. Torture when you have 367bhp calling your name!
Once you’ve been patient for those first 1,500 miles, you can stop worrying and start enjoying. It doesn’t have the roar of the old C63 of course, but the sound is quite distinctive and naughty. Acceleration is like riding a wave of torque, surging you right up to the redline and if you use ‘Hill Hold’ it gets you off the line even quicker a bit like a launch control. It really does go off like a rocket. Give it a prod in any gear then get straight off the gas and the deep bark and subsequent popping from the exhaust would never fail to put a smile on my face, nor would the fart sound when upshifting under hard throttle. Quiet it isn’t and chances of getting anywhere unnoticed are slim.
I stepped into the C43 with the philosophy of ‘no replacement for displacement’ stuck in my head as well as fond memories of driving V8 AMGs and felt ready to slag this new C43 off but I’m afraid I have been pleasantly surprised. It does feel a fair bit under powered and muted compared to its big brother, the C63, but for point to point real world driving it can be a very fast car and more grown up than the C63. I often thought it was too loud and shouty for its speed but then looked down at the speedo and had to back off! I can see this car being a good foundation for something more hardcore in the future, including tuners but at the moment it should be enjoyed for what it is – good-looking, subtle, rapid and great fun to drive.