by Roger Biermann
Call it a half-breed, call it a faux AMG, call it whatever you want, but against rivals like the 4 Series and A5, the Mercedes-AMG C 43 Cabriolet is one of the best blends of pace and top-down luxury in the compact luxury convertible segment. It might not be handmade like a 'real AMG engine' is supposed to be, but the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine on duty delivers thumping performance, channeling 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft to all corners through a nine-speed automatic gearbox. It's enough to dispatch the 0-60 mph sprint in under five seconds for a true wind-in-your-hair experience, while the coupe-derived suspension gives it inherently great handling dynamics. With an abundance of technological features, a refined interior, and potent performance, the only question that needs to be asked is this: is there even a reason to buy a convertible C63 anymore?
With a midlife refresh on the way for 2019, the 2018 edition of the C43 Convertible sees only minor changes. The updates include the fitment of extendable sun visors, an automatic trunk separator, and inside, the addition of a wood trim option with an analog clock integrated into the center console. An optional Smartphone Integration Package, heated steering wheel, and an AMG Performance Studio package are made available for the new year, while the exterior can now be smothered in designo Selenite Grey Magno.
Based on the C-Class Coupe, the C43 Cabriolet gets the same stylish design with wide haunches, and slim elongated LED taillights. The diamond grille is a signature of the semi-AMG range, while exterior trim pieces are highlighted in matte Iridium Silver. A bespoke AMG rear diffuser houses quad tailpipes, while in side profile the 18-inch AMG five-spoke light-alloy wheels fill the arches, and 'turbo' badging adorns the front fenders. Completing the look and differentiating the C43 Cabriolet from the rest of the C43 range, is a power-folding soft-top roof.
From front to back the AMG C43 Cabriolet measures 184.9 inches, while standing 71.3 inches wide at its haunches - nearly ten more than the sedan. It's relatively low to the ground too, at 55.4 inches tall. The C-Class range is heavier than most rivals in general, but the Cabriolet is the heaviest of all the body styles, with the C43 Cabrio tipping the scales at 4,220 lbs.
Under the hood of the Mercedes-AMG C43 Convertible is a 3.0-liter V6 bi-turbocharged engine developing 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. These outputs are dealt to the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system by a slick nine-speed automatic gearbox, which has been tuned by AMG for quicker shifts and more appropriate gear selection. It's no AMG V8, but the bi-turbo V6 mill develops an eager growl, particularly when the AMG Performance exhaust is equipped, which goes some way to quelling the arguments of faux-AMG-hood. Power delivery is sweet as well, and whether it's from a standing start or rolling, the C43 picks up speed alarmingly quick. The nine-speed gearbox is wonderfully fluid, managing torque seamlessly to keep the V6 on the boil. Switch up the drive modes to the sportier ones and it'll even simulate a solid kick in the kidneys on full-throttle upshifts.
Performance-tuned suspension from AMG gives the C43 a firmer demeanor than BMW's 440i, but it balances it out relatively well with adaptive dampers that manage to filter out most minor bumps and lumps, only being truly upset by the larger, harsher changes in the surface, such as deep potholes. The portly weight of the C43 Cabrio is partly to blame, as the suspension tends to get overwhelmed by the sheer mass of the thing, but it's also not helped by the additional body-flex rendered by the roof being removed.
It's still an adept handler, though, and the coupe-derived rear suspension that makes the C43 sit so wide on the road is wonderful when strung through a set of twists and turns. You can easily rely on the mechanical grip at play, and with permanent all-wheel-drive, there's grip in reserve even on slightly looser surfaces. The steering is well-weighted, even if not too talkative, and the brakes are responsive and adept at stopping the heavy convertible. It's not razor-sharp overall, but it is a tremendous way to enjoy a twisty road with the top down.
Considering the performance inclination of the C43, gas mileage estimates aren't all that bad; but, it is still beaten by the likes of the BMW 440i and the Audi S5. EPA estimates are pegged at 19/26/22 mpg city/high/combined, with the twin-turbo V6 requiring premium unleaded in order to access its peak potential. The 17.4-gallon gas tank yields an approximate driving range of 383 miles in mixed conditions.
The C43 Cabriolet seats a maximum of four occupants in decent comfort. The front seats are comfortable and highly supportive; they feature 14-way power adjustability, heating, and are equipped with the AIRSCARF neck-level heating system. Head and legroom are ample, and the placement of the driver's seat is ergonomic, positioning the driver with ample forward visibility. Legroom in the rear seats can be limited, especially with taller front occupants; otherwise, headroom is adequate for shorter passengers. The back seats are just as comfortable and supportive as the front.
Coupes sacrifice trunk volume for style, but convertibles sacrifice even more for the sake of luxury. To that end, the C43 offers up just 8.8 cubic feet, about enough room for a gym bag and a laptop bag with not much room left over. The rear seats are 50/50 split-folding which, when down, expand the trunk space to accommodate longer or oddly shaped items.
In the cabin, front occupants are provided with adequate storage solutions comprising decently wide door side pockets, a sizeable center armrest console, a cavernous glove box, and two cupholders. Occupants in the rear cabin get compact side pockets and two cupholders situated between the seats.
Mercedes-Benz doesn't skimp on the features, particularly on AMG models. It's for this reason the C43 is equipped with a power soft-top, power seating adjustment, dual-zone climate control, AIRSCARF neck-level heating, keyless entry, push-button start, power steering adjustment, and heated front seats. There's also an automatic wind buffer and a manually removable rear cabin wind buffer, while a rearview camera and rain-sensing windshield wipers are equipped as standard. There's the full raft of driver assistance features too, including the likes of automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and front and rear park sensors - some standard, some optional.
The infotainment system in the AMG C43 Cabriolet comprises a seven-inch high-mounted tablet-style color display, controlled via the steering wheel buttons or central controller and touchpad. It's integrated with a CD player, an SD card reader, and dual USB ports for device charging. It features Bluetooth audio streaming compatibility, standard HD Radio, and comes with a six-month trial for SiriusXM Radio. It also comes default with a premium 13-speaker Burmester surround-sound audio setup with a FrontBass system. The installed Mercedes COMAND user interface isn't as user-friendly as rival systems such as BMW's iDrive system and Audi's MMI system; the Remote Control interface and Touchpad are also unintuitive and prove challenging to use whilst driving. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality are compatible - but not standard - and must be included by means of the optional Smartphone Integration Package.
The 2018 Mercedes C-Class range has been plagued by several significant recalls since its inception, for problems ranging from mechanical defects to airbag faults and electronic misconfigurations. J.D. Power gave the 2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 4MATIC models a predicted reliability rating of three out of five stars, which is average for the make and model. Mercedes covers the AMG C43 Cabriolet with a standard four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, with the option to purchase extensions up to 100,000-miles.
An overall crash test rating of five out of five stars is given to the 2018 C-Class lineup from the NHTSA. The IIHS also gave the 2018 C-Class sedan lineup a top overall crash test evaluation score of Good, and with many of the technologies equipped to the Cabriolet, we expect the ratings to remain the same. Standard safety features include a range of six airbags, a full suite of active safety aids, and a range of standard and optional collision mitigation systems like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and rear-cross-traffic alert among others.
Limited rear-seat space, a cramped trunk, and a slightly firmer ride than you may have been expecting - all generally deal breakers for a luxury car. But the C43 Cabriolet is no regular luxury car, and all these sacrifices are made knowingly and willingly for the sake of style, luxury, and the performance potential inherited along with the AMG badge. The C43 Cabriolet offers buyers impressive levels of performance, paired with all-weather drivability; but, there's little compromise when it comes to luxury and spec levels, with Mercedes offering one of the most extensive equipment lists in the segment. While it may be heavy and not quite razor-sharp, the power is usable, and the top-down enjoyment is unbeatable. A BMW 440i may offer a sharper driving experience, and the Audi S5 a potentially more beautiful interior, but the C43 combines them into one all-inclusive luxury package.
Prospective buyers can expect a starting MSRP of $60,800 for the 2018 C43 Cabriolet, excluding Mercedes' $995 destination and delivery charge. Tax, licensing, and registration are also excluded, and independent dealers may offer different pricing structures and dealer-specific incentives.
|AMG C43 4MATIC Cabriolet||
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
The AMG C43 Cabriolet is the only convertible variant available from the AMG-badged C43 lineup. Other variants include a Sedan and Coupe which offers better performance and handling by virtue of lighter overall weight and their more aerodynamic non-convertible designs but are otherwise identical just without the soft top. As the convertible option, the AMG C43 Cabriolet receives a few model-specific features along with the three-layer acoustic power soft top, including an AIRSCARF neck-level heating system, an AIRCAP automatic virtual wind blocker, and a removable rear cabin wind blocker as standard. As a luxury C-Class vehicle with a fusion of AMG DNA, it's equipped to deliver a convenient balance of luxury and performance and is thus equipped with relevant features, such as a sport-tuned suspension, and adaptive suspension dampers. It also receives AMG Dynamic Drive Modes. Boasting all of this, the AMG C43 delivers without compromising on the regular luxuries you'd expect from a C-Class.
The 2018 BMW 440i Convertible is a scalpel in comparison to Mercedes' machete. It's less powerful but more precise, aided by standard rear-wheel-drive. Both fare comparably in outright performance, but the AMG's all-wheel-drive affords it all-weather performance. Both suffer from limited rear cabin space and limited cargo space, but the Merc offers just a little bit more. Inside the cabin, though, the Mercedes is nicer to sit in, with more luxurious materials and a more premium design. It also has the option of far more advanced technologies. With little separating them price-wise, it's a tough battle, and if you can see through potential brand bias, the Mercedes comes out on top - just a little bit better in a number of ways.
With a starting MSRP of around $1,500 more than the C43 Cabrio, the S5 is similarly powered by a turbo V6 engine with all-wheel-drive ability. But the C43 is marginally quicker, and it's more involving to drive, too. Both feature stunning interiors, and both are highly equipped, but Audi's infotainment system is more intuitive. The Audi offers more rear-seat room, but the Merc counters with a bigger trunk. Where the C43 pulls ahead is in the fact that there are more driver aids and tech bits that can be added, which is enough to give it the edge in this comparison.