If you can’t stretch to the full-fat Mercedes AMG C63, the mid-way C43 offers most of the thrills for less money. That said, don’t expect it to be outright cheap, or cheap to run
You shouldn’t write off the Mercedes AMG C43. Yes, it sits below the range-topping C63 in terms of power, but it still offers big AMG performance, a great noise and lots of luxury – and for a considerably reduced cost.
This generation of the Mercedes AMG C43 saloon was first launched in 2015 but has been given a facelift for 2018. The changes begin with more power from its turbocharged V6, while outside there are new alloy wheel designs in both 18 and 19-inch sizes, a revised rear diffuser and different sports exhaust tips.
Inside you’ll find a new sports steering wheel and optional 12.3-inch digital cockpit which swaps the car’s standard analogue dials for a more visually appealing digital set that’s crammed with customisable information.
Other than that, the Mercedes AMG C43 saloon is familiar inside, with a dashboard design that is more striking than that in an Audi S4 or BMW 340i, but prodding and poking it reveals the Audi’s is the more solidly constructed.
As standard, the Mercedes AMG C63 saloon comes with a 10.3-inch infotainment display controlled via a touchpad and menu shortcut buttons between the front seats. The system is visually impressive, but you’ll have an easier time navigating the menus in an Audi S4 and BMW 340i than the Merc’s, with their more logical menu structures and better rotary dial controllers. It’s disappointing, too, that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cost extra.
As with more humdrum versions of the Mercedes C-Class saloon, front passenger space is more than adequate, though the driving position is very slightly skewed on right hand drive cars. At least the C43’s standard sports seats are superbly figure hugging and the optional (and expensive) Performance seats are more impressive still.
Taller adults will find the rear is a little more cramped than you’d expect, and more importantly, than in an Audi S4 – the Merc’s sloping rear roofline is to blame for that. Furthermore, the C43 saloon’s 435-litre boot is more than adequate for most, but is less than the capacity of the S4 and BMW 340i that both have 480-litre boots.
There’s no shame in having ‘43 rather than ‘63 on the back of your C-Class: the C43 sounds great, is very quick yet decently comfortable when you want it to be
Rather than the V8 engine of the C63, the C43 makes do with a turbocharged V6 that produces 390hp. The reality is, the C43 is just 0.6 seconds behind the ‘63 in a sprint to 62mph from standstill, and it makes a similarly intoxicating noise getting there too.
On a track, the difference is just enough to be noticeable, but on the road, the C43 rarely feels any slower when accelerating down a slip road or pulling out to overtake.
And, rather than rear-wheel drive, the C43 features a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, as well as a smaller spread of driving modes controlling the weight of the steering, throttle response, suspension firmness and exhaust note. The result is a car that feels less playful than a C63 when you have the room to push it hard, but more sure-footed in the wet – which will be welcome on grimy winter roads.
Ultimately, the C43 doesn’t steer quite as crisply at a BMW 340i or Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce, but it feels more engaging than an Audi S4. When it comes to engine noise and road presence, though, it has all these rivals licked.
Dial everything back to Comfort mode and the Mercedes AMG C43 plays the relaxing cruiser very well. Sure, there’s a bit of tyre noise at high speeds, but there’s little wind noise and the car’s suspension is supple enough to ensure things stay comfortable at the same time.
The Mercedes AMG C43 saloon is well worth considering, then. Don’t kid yourself into thinking it’ll be cheap to run – it won’t next to the lesser diesel and petrol C-Class options. But if you want performance and accept the costs that go with it, then the C43 is a good deal cheaper to buy and run than the range-topping C63, yet not a lot slower or any less easy on the ear. Just remember an Audi S4 is higher quality inside and a BMW 340i sharper to drive.