by Gabe Beita Kiser
With the introduction of the '43' nameplate to the AMG-badged C-Class line-up, purists were up in arms over the lack of purity around the badge. No handcrafted engine under the hood meant it wasn't a real AMG in the eyes of keyboard warriors the world over. But in convertible guise, does it even matter? The C43 Convertible exists to give compact luxury convertible drivers a dose of pace, courtesy of a 385 horsepower bi-turbo V6, a dash of all-weather ability - thanks to permanent 4MATIC all-wheel-drive - and a whole lot of luxury merely by virtue of the Mercedes-Benz badge on the nose. Throw in a power-retractable soft-top roof for the open-air experience, and you don't have a full-blown AMG, but you do have one of the most luxurious ways to enjoy a coastal road at speed for less than $65,000. Of course, Mercedes-Benz is not alone in pursuing this avenue - Audi and BMW both have entries into the fray in the S5 Convertible and 440i convertible respectively, both of whom want a piece of the pie as well.
The AMG C43 roars into 2019 with 23 additional horsepower surging from the two new large turbochargers strapped to the V6 engine, taking the total horsepower count to 385. It receives a moderate facelift comprising restyled exterior cues and new - and now standard - redesigned LED headlights and taillights. Enhanced 18-inch AMG wheels are also standard guise, and a fresh sports steering wheel design has also been applied. It receives a few more standard driver-assist safety features, an AMG Drive Mode Selector, and is suited with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality as standard. A new optional extra previously only seen on higher AMG trims are the AMG Performance seats, now with both heating and ventilation.
Based on the two-door C-Class Coupe, the C43 Convertible gets the widened hips not found on the sedan variant, but adds a power-retractable soft-top to expose occupants to the elements on demand. 18-inch AMG twin five-spoke alloy wheels fill subtly flared arches, while up front, a new AMG twin-blade grille is flanked by redesigned full LED headlights. The rear gets a remodel as well, now boasting four round tailpipes in a newly designed diffuser, while the rear also integrates new LED taillights. Completing the C43's aesthetic are a set of 'turbocharged' badges on the front fenders.
The C43 Cabriolet's dimensions are befitting of a small luxury convertible, riding on a 111.8-inch wheelbase and measuring 184.8 inches from front to rear. The widened hips measure 71.3 inches across, while the drop-top AMG stands 55.3 inches tall - matching its coupe counterpart. However, with the addition of a roof mechanism and extra side bracing, the C43 Cabriolet is heavier than the coupe, tipping the scales at 4,231 lbs - nearly 300 pounds more than the coupe, making it one of the heavier vehicles in the segment.
For 2019 the Mercedes-AMG C43's engine is given 23 more ponies, with two upgraded turbocharges granting total outputs of 385 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission manages this power and distributes it to the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. Performance specs from the C43 Cabrio are nothing compared to the C63, but are impressive nonetheless, racking up a 0-60 mph sprint of 4.6 seconds and besting rivals from BMW and Audi in the process.
The engine has a whiff of turbo-lag, but the responses are otherwise impressive with the nine-speed auto flicking through the gears swiftly and gently, unless you engage Sport or Sport+ mode, in which case you get a simulated kick in the kidneys with every upshift. Whether cruising casually or hustling along, there's enough torque to get the hefty C43 up to speed, and overtaking is effected easily enough under most conditions.
By virtue of the AMG Ride Control Sport Suspension with three-stage adaptive suspension damping, the AMG C43 Cabriolet is apt at remaining stable and confidently in control when pushed through turns at, or near, the limit. The adaptive damping manages most changes in the road surface, but it has a lot of weight to contend with and larger jolts manage to break through the armor, piercing the cabin with a thud. Slacken off the dampers, and you'll find the C43's road manners most palatable. Larger bumps still ricochet through the framework, but on the whole, it's well-behaved and comfortable, even if it does naturally err on the firmer side of things.
There's a natural feel to the steering, and although it might not be the most effective communicator, it weights up sweetly through turns, and the front end is eager to follow inputs from the driver. The brakes are similarly good, but both suffer due to the C43 Convertible's weight, which hinders its outright dynamic capabilities.
The C43 Cabriolet's hefty curb weight and convertible design hinder its gas mileage performance, as its estimates are lower than those of its C43 Sedan and Coupe siblings. With calculated driving, it receives EPA estimates of 18/25/21 mpg city/highway/combined. Evaluated on the recommended premium unleaded fuel, the C43 Cabriolet is expected to reach a total driving range of around 365 miles with its 17.4-gallon gas tank filled. The convertible variants of the Audi S5 and BMW 4 Series receive better gas mileage estimates as opposed to the AMG, the S5 receiving 21/29/24 mpg respectively and the 4 Series receiving 20/29/13 mpg respectively.
The C43 Cabriolet seats a total of four occupants in excessively comfortable, spacious, and highly supportive low-set sports seats. The front two occupants are provided with ample head and legroom whilst legroom in the rear seats provide rather limited amounts of space, particularly with taller front occupants impeding available legroom. The frameless doors open wide, but their length can pose a problem in tight parking spaces, which can exacerbate the process of dropping into the low-set front seats. With the roof up, ingress to the rear set of seats is a little tough too, although it eases substantially with the roof down. Once inside, the driver's seating position is set ergonomically overall, and forward visibility is fine, however, because of the soft top, the rear blind spots can be exaggerated when it's closed.
As with any convertible, trunk capacity is a big compromise made for the sake of style and fresh air. The C43 Cabriolet presents a trunk capacity of 8.8 cubic feet, which should be enough room to fit a single large suitcase, provided it's slender enough to fit under the automatic trunk divider. If it doesn't, the C43 will refuse to allow you to open the roof. The rear seats are 50/50 split-folding which considerably expands the trunk space into the rear cabin.
As for in-cabin storage, solutions are adequate with moderately sized door side pockets, a deep center armrest console, two cupholders, and a cavernous glove box in front. There are compact side pockets in the rear and two cupholders situated between the two rear seats.
14-way power-adjustable and heated front sports seats with AIRSCARF neck-level heating, an AIRCAP automatic virtual wind blocker, and a removable rear cabin wind blocker optimize the C43 Cabriolet's luxury as a convertible vehicle, while available AMG Performance front seats can be both heated and ventilated. As standard, it also features an illuminated entry system, keyless entry and push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-operated windows, and a power-retractable all-season soft top. A three-spoke sports steering wheel with paddle shifters and touch control buttons, brushed aluminum pedals, and analog gauges with high-resolution multifunction display form part of the C43 Cabriolet's AMG DNA. An automatic trunk partition is also featured as standard with the Cabriolet to help define the available space that will exist with the power top lowered. As with any modern Mercedes, an array of driver assistance features can be equipped, including - but not limited to - adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, blind-spot monitoring, and active lane-keep assistance.
Situated atop the center of the dash is a 10.25-inch high-resolution center display accessed via either the touch control buttons featured on the steering wheel, or via the touchpad controller situated in the center console. It acts in conjunction with a 13-speaker Burmester surround sound system and unique FrontBass system. This COMAND interface features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality and Bluetooth audio streaming as standard, and is installed with an HD Radio receiver with SiriusXM Radio six-month all-access trial. TuneIn Radio functionality and in-car Wi-Fi can be added as optional extras. There is a 12-volt outlet available and two USB ports located in the center armrest console for device charging and connectivity. Usability-wise the infotainment system does take some time getting used to, and the touchpad controller is rather distracting to use while driving.
The C-Class range has been affected by a number of recalls in its current generation, with five recalls pertinent to the 2019 C 43 Cabriolet. Among these, there have been recalls for a loose battery, seatbelts not being detected as fastened, or in more serious cases, the parking brake not disengaging, the engine stalling. One scenario noted the potential failure of the active brake assist system. J.D. Power provided a predicted reliability rating of only three out of five, which names the C43 as quite average. The C43 is covered with a standard four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, with the option to purchase extensions up to 100,000-miles.
Though the 2019 model year AMG C43 Cabriolet is yet to be crash-tested by the NHTSA or IIHS, the sedan has been evaluated by the latter. Although there are mechanical differences, the C-Class Convertible shares many of the same features as the sedan, so the four-door's Top Safety Pick+ rating inspires confidence on the C43 Cabrio's overall safety. Adding further confidence is a long list of safety features, with basic amenities like ten airbags, including front knee airbags and rear side airbags, blind-spot monitoring, pop-up roll bars, and automatic emergency braking. Additional functionality includes evasive steering assist, active lane-keep assist, and rear collision avoidance.
Convertibles make an undoubted compromise when it comes to performance, and the C43 is no different, but that may be to its benefit. While the sedan and coupe derivatives have to stave off the onslaught of purists arguing the level of their AMG purity, the C43 Convertible embraces its semi-AMG nature, willing to cast aside aspersions of outright sportiness and don the cloak of top-down luxury. It's fast when you need it to be, it can handle corners better than most, and with all-wheel-drive made standard, it'll be as happy in the rain as it is on dry tarmac. But it combines them all with a laidback luxury that's acceptable and even embraced at this point. Unlike the C63, which simply has too much power to be enjoyed in convertible guise, the C43 is perfectly balanced to be a junior grand tourer. It suffers from limited rear-seat space and even more limited trunk space, but overall, it's a fine inclusion to the C-Class range. Just don't expect it to bear the AMG attributes of yesteryear.
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet is the most expensive 2019 43-badged C-Class model, boasting a sticker price of $63,650. That's excluding Mercedes' transportation and handling charges of $995, taxes, registration, licensing, and any optional extras. Independent dealers may offer dealer-specific incentives and pricing structures, but it pays to be prudent when equipping your C43 as the options can quickly drive the price above $70,000.
|AMG C43 4MATIC Cabriolet||
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
Call it an entry-level AMG, or just a C-Class Cabriolet with some extra pace, either way, the C43 Convertible sits in the middle of the range as a standalone option. Throw in Brilliant Blue metallic paintwork for $720 and stay on the standard 18-inch alloy wheels for the sake of ride comfort, but make sure to add the $900 Exterior Lighting Package for the adaptive LED headlights. We'd add on the ventilated front seats for those hot summer days at $450, and the $990 AMG head-up display; and lastly, we'd make sure to equip the $1,800 Driver Assistance Package to ensure the safest possible top-down experience. All-in, you're looking at $73,420, which may seem exorbitant, but it's the best C-Class convertible money can buy.
At around $1,500 more than the AMG C43 Cabriolet, the 2019 Audi S5 Convertible proves to be a strong contender and is brilliant across the board. But, the C43 is just a little more brilliant. Both are similarly powered by turbocharged V6 engines, but the C43 delivers 36 hp more and is quicker off the line, while both make use of permanent all-wheel-drive. Both have sporty inclinations, which means they compromise on ride comfort a little, but the S5 rides firmer than the Merc, and it can't be slackened off as much as the AMG's adaptive dampers allow it to be. Both also offer relatively spacious interiors, but the Mercedes gives buyers more usable trunk space at 8.8 cubic feet to the Audi's 7.2. The Mercedes interior also feels a little more premium, and it can be equipped with a wider array of technological features, along with standard niceties like the AIRSCARF neck-level heating system. It's a tight battle, but the Mercedes is just a little bit better in a number of ways, and the little things add up to make it the better vehicle.
The 2019 BMW 4 Series is not quite at the same level as the AMG C43 in terms of performance - at least on paper; but it does come in at around $1,650 cheaper and offers a very similar level of value. It's the more definitive driver's tool, but it lacks the grunt of the AMG six-pot, 64 hp and 53 lb-ft down. The ace up its sleeve is the choice between both rear- and all-wheel-drive though, which could lure in buyers looking for something a little more dynamically gifted. But that's about its only trump card, as it is slower, less refined, less luxurious, and doesn't have availability to anywhere near as many features as the Mercedes does. The BMW is a little more spacious in the back seats, but it offers up less trunk volume. While it may be marginally more efficient and have a slightly better infotainment system than the C43, the Mercedes is just more luxurious, offers more performance, and is a better package in almost all areas.