While short of the C63 Coupe’s brutality, the ‘mid-way’ C43 Coupe gets a huge part of the looks and performance for less money. It’s still pretty expensive, though, and optional extras aren’t cheap
When looking for a performance coupe from Mercedes, it might be too easy to glance over the C43 Coupe and head straight for the full-fat C63 Coupe and its monstrous V8 engine. However, the C43 Coupe still makes a strong case for itself.
In its current form, the C43 Coupe first went on sale in 2015 and the whole C43 range (comprising of Saloon, Coupe, Estate and Cabriolet) was refreshed in 2018. The update added a bit more power to the engine, a new grille, redesigned bumpers and a new design for the alloy wheels.
The cabin is also refreshed, the main thing being the ability to replace the analogue dials with a 12.3-inch digital display that can be configured to show whichever information you like and, in ’43 models, it also has a unique mode which positions a rev-counter right in the middle. Racy!
C43 Coupe models get the same flat-bottomed Nappa leather steering wheel you’d find in a C63 Coupe. The new buttons on the wheel are for better control over the standard 10.3-inch infotainment system. The system has built-in sat-nav, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are an optional extra. Overall, the Mercedes system, while pleasing to the eye, isn’t as intuitive to use as BMW’s iDrive or Audi’s MMI.
Getting comfortable upfront is easy even if electrical adjustment to the driver’s seat is optional. There’s decent room up front and inevitably it’s a bit tight in the back seats. They are still usable for short trips even if a BMW 4 Series Coupe has a bit more room. The boot is as big as in the BMW, though, so you can fit a couple of small suitcases or a few soft bags with ease.
Tempting as it may be to skip the C43 and head straight for the C63, the 43 has its own merits and undercuts the 63 on price by a considerable sum
Now, the beating heart of the C43 Coupe might not be the same as the V8 firebomb in the C63, but what you’ll find under the bonnet is still pretty special. Helped by a pair of turbos, the 3.0-litre V6 in the C43 makes a respectable 390hp and a raspy noise. It’s not the power but the plentiful torque available from just about any point in the rev range that pins you to the seat as the C43 Coupe leaps from 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds.
The great part about that acceleration time is that the C43 Coupe can do it irrespective of the road or weather conditions. Try a full-power launch in a C63 in the wet and you’d need a change of underwear – the C43 Coupe, however, just squats and goes. That’s because it’s fitted as standard with Merc’s 4Matic four-wheel-system that, although biased towards the rear wheels, makes the C43 Coupe feel secure and impressively fast around corners. The standard nine-speed auto gearbox is great when left to its own devices, but can get a bit indecisive if you use it in manual mode.
But it needs to do comfort well, too, and the C43 Coupe doesn’t disappoint. Obviously, it’s stiffer than a regular C-Class Coupe, but thanks to standard adaptive dampers you can decide between a comfortable cruiser or a formidable continent-crosser just by switching the driving mode. In the C43 Coupe, the driving modes also affect a flap in the exhaust that really changes how it sounds.
Overall, the C43 Coupe is a really good combination of abilities wrapped in an attractive body which shouldn’t be seen as the poor relation to the C63. It’s a hugely capable car, but just don’t forget that the Audi S5 Coupe has a better interior and the BMW 440i is more fun to drive fast.