by Jay Traugott
The Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe takes up the mantle of the entry-level AMG variant from the two-door C-Class line-up, slotting in below the big-daddy C63 in the compact luxury coupe segment. It carries a starting MSRP of around $57,450 which places it in the median above the C43 Sedan and below the C43 Convertible, but firmly within reach of the BMW 440i and Audi S5 Coupe. With a 3.0-liter V6 bi-turbocharged engine producing 385 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, power is driven to all four corners through the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system by a nine-speed automatic transmission. Such push has the AMG C43 Coupe, that it races from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds; it also boasts all-weather performance and still manages to balance it all out with the expected levels of Mercedes luxury, giving it all-rounder credentials in a field of one-dimensional coupe offerings.
For 2019, the AMG C43's engine is upgraded with larger turbochargers which increase outputs by 23 horsepower. Redesigned LED headlights and taillights have been fitted as standard, and the front and rear fascia have been redesigned for improved aerodynamics and a more definitive AMG character. Aerodynamically enhanced standard 18-inch AMG wheels have also been added to the exterior. In the cabin, a new AMG Nappa leather performance steering wheel is presented to the driver, and new driver-assist features, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto functionality are included as standard, instead of being mere optional extras.
See trim levels and configurations:
|AMG C43 4MATIC Coupe||
3.0L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
A perfect blend of stylish Mercedes-Benz coupe design and Mercedes-AMG ferocity, the C43 Coupe is subtly aggressive; it's naturally widened hips are accentuated by slightly flared wheel arches housing standard 18-inch twin five-spoke AMG alloy wheels. Newly redesigned LED headlights are sleek and slanted for 2019, and sitting front and center is a remodeled AMG twin-blade grille inherited from the C63 before it received its own mid-cycle refresh. The rear boasts a new diffuser housing four round tailpipes - the new standard for none range-topping AMG derivatives. A power tilt-and-slide panoramic sunroof tops off the standard exterior features.
Compact luxury coupes tend to defy the 'compact' in their name, being closer to traditional midsize offerings. The C43 Coupe measures 184.4 inches long and 71.3 inches wide at the hips - 0.6 inches shorter than the C43 sedan but 10 inches wider. It's not quite as tall either, standing 55.3 inches in height - a full inch shorter than its four-door counterpart. Strangely, the coupe weighs more too, with a curb weight of 3,979 lbs making it 154 lbs heavier than the sedan.
The C43's AMG-tuned 3.0-liter bi-turbo V6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission work in conjunction to produce and manage 385hp and 384 lb-ft of torque, delivering those outputs to all corners via an AMG Performance 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. It's a cohesive setup, with the V6 delivering robust torque with minimal turbo lag, while the nine-speed 'box slips from gear to gear seamlessly and rapidly. Outputs are put to good use, be it from a standing start - reaching 60 mph from rest in just 4.5 seconds - or when overtaking, where the abundance of turbocharged torque sees the C43 rapidly dismiss the task with alarming ease. The V6 delivers a tuneful growl, particularly in its sportier driving modes, giving off pops and gurgles on overrun. Sure, it's no AMG V8, and it's not handcrafted like those either, but it sounds good, and it's got the real-world pace to match its bigger-engined brothers, particularly with all-wheel-drive granting all-weather performance.
Ride quality in the C43 takes after regular C-Class Coupes, delivering an exceptional balance between smooth and supportive, but with the extra tuning from AMG giving it a slightly harder edge than usual. On most surfaces, it's pliant and well-composed, but as the road gets rougher, so too does the ride; the AMG-tuned suspension is unable to filter out rapid undulations and corrugations efficiently. But it's firm for a reason, and when pushing on, the C43 possesses high levels of grip and dynamic ability. Aided by all-wheel-drive, mechanical grip is high, while the coupe-specific suspension setup means the C43 Coupe handles with more alacrity than its sedan counterpart. It leans on the outside wheel, managing camber changes and sudden changes of direction deftly, while steering responses are sharp and natural - even if the wheel doesn't communicate much. Likewise, the brakes are firm but responsive. However, the additional weight carried by the C43 over rivals like the 440i and S5 is noticeable, and at speed, there's always the sensation that the tires have to work extra hard just to keep the C43 from shooting off the side of the road. A little less weight would benefit the C43 hugely, but even in its current state, its immensely fun and covering distance at speed is an almost menial task.
Gas mileage estimates from the Mercedes-AMG C43 in comparison with core class rivals are middling at best. With very meticulous driving, the coupe is expected to deliver EPA estimates of 19/27/22 mpg city/highway/combined, but in reality, these figures are likely to suffer with the V6's torque just a throttle-prod away. With the recommended premium unleaded gasoline, a 17.4-gallon gas tank filled to the brim should yield a maximum range of up to 383 miles in mixed driving conditions.
The two-door coupe has a seating capacity of four; the front occupants are accommodated with substantially bolstered 14-way power-adjustable sport front seats exclusively contoured for prime support and comfort. They feature heating, power adjustment via beautiful door-mounted controls, and a memory function for both front occupants. Seats throughout the cabin are comfortable and highly supportive - adequate for both commuting and spirited stints behind the wheel. Headroom and legroom are ample up front, with the seats dropping low to provide the driver with an ideal seating position. Additionally, ingress and egress are quite impressive for a coupe, thanks to its long doors. The rear seats offer up less comfortable accommodation, with limited legroom and, more significantly, diminished headroom being the biggest culprit for passenger discomfort. These seats are best reserved for smaller occupants. Still, accessing them is easy enough with power sliding front seats granting easy access.
Trunk capacity offered in the C43 Coupe is subpar compared to class rivals, with the 10.5 cubic feet of space shrinking from 12.6 inches in the four-door C43. Despite the shrinkage, it can comfortably contain daily necessities such as a gym bag, laptop case, and a set of golf clubs should your commute involve regular trips past the country club. The trunk is appreciably deep and features electronic open/close operation. The rear seats are 40/20/40 split-folding, and the center section also folds down independently to fit longer cargo without needing to kick one of your passengers out onto the curb.
In the cabin, storage solutions are a little more practical. In the front are wide door pockets, a deep center armrest console, two cup holders, and a large glovebox. There are two cup holders between the rear seats, and compact door side pockets are featured on the back door.
Inheriting many of the standard C-Class Coupe's luxurious features, the C43's seats are 14-way power-adjustable and feature heating as standard with optional ventilation, while the rest of the cabin is kept at an appropriate ambient temperature by standard dual-zone climate control. Keyless entry, push-button start, and a hands-free trunk lid add extra convenience, while a power sunroof and remote functionality with the Mercedes me connect app add extra luxury. Being an AMG derivative, there are performance-focused features too, including drive modes, the AMG Racetimer, and a three-spoke steering wheel with touch-sensitive controls. An optional AMG head-up display puts crucial information in the driver's line of sight, while the optional AMG Track pace app helps you dissect every detail of your latest track day stint. A range of driver assists means there's no compromising safety for performance, with tech including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear park assist, lane-keep assist, and automatic emergency braking.
The standard 10.25-inch high-resolution COMAND display handles infotainment functionality by offering crisp visuals; it can be operated by either the steering wheel controls or the central control pad, with optional touch functionality on the latter. As standard, it boasts AM/FM/SiriusXM functionality, with factory-fitted Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto integration, although it can be optionally equipped with TuneIn capability and navigation with TomTom Live Traffic services. Sound is channeled to 13 Burmester speakers by default, paired with Mercedes' Front Bass technology for additional depth.
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG C43 has been subject to no fewer than five recalls, with problems ranging from the car not detecting the seatbelts as fastened, to a loose battery; in some of the more serious recalls, engines potentially stalling due to problems with the power control unit and the parking brake not disengaging unless stability control is disabled, have been recorded. The most severe recall affected more than 1,900 vehicles, including the C43 Coupe, in which brake assist was said potentially to not engage in an emergency. Despite these recalls, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe was given a predicted reliability rating of three out of five stars from J.D. Power, which is about average for the class. Mercedes covers the AMG C43 Coupe with a standard four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and offers a handful of extended warranty options offering coverage of up to 100,000 miles.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested the C43 or any C-Class Coupe derivative for that matter. The IIHs has only evaluated the mechanically similar C-Class sedan, awarding it as a 2019 Top Safety Pick +. Many of the sedan's crash avoidance and safety features are equipped in the C43 Coupe, so we expect results - if the coupe is tested at all - to be similar.
While compact luxury sedans are often referred to as sports sedans, the coupes need to take on a slightly harder edge than the four-door family variants. The C-Class does so with the middle-AMG C43 derivative, taking the enhanced suspension of the standard C-Class Coupe and giving it a dose of potent AMG power. With the addition of standard all-wheel-drive, the Audi S5 no longer has that side of the market to itself, with the C43 providing a more involving proposition - but, without compromising on luxury for the sake of the focus found in the Cadillac ATS Coupe or BMW 440i. You get class-leading levels of safety, technology, and refinement, with all-weather performance to boot. However, there are compromises. The C43 Coupe isn't the most practical, nor is it the smoothest on the daily grind. It also lacks the outright incisiveness of the sportier segment offerings. One could say this means it doesn't excel at anything, but in the case of the C43, we'd say it's just generally great at everything, making it a superb all-rounder in the compact luxury coupe segment.
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe has a slightly higher starting MSRP than the C43 Sedan, although it is a lot cheaper than the C43 Convertible. Prospective C43 Coupe buyers can expect a starting MSRP of $57,450 excluding Mercedes' transportation and handling charges of $995, and excluding destination charges, taxes, title, registration, insurance, and optional extras. Individual dealers may offer dealer-specific incentives and pricing structures.
As the only semi-AMG C-Class Coupe, the choice of what C43 to buy comes down to how you equip it. We'd stick to the standard 18-inch alloys for the sake of ride comfort, but we'd make sure to add the $900 Exterior Lighting Package for adaptive high-beam assist. We'd also opt for the AMG Exterior Carbon Fiber package to give the C43 a little more aggression at $1,750. Inside, we'd get the $450 ventilated seats, as well as the $500 AMG Nappa/Dinamica steering wheel that feels brilliant to hold. The AMG Performance seats are nice to have, but at $2,500 are a little expensive for only a semi-AMG derivative, so we'd skip those. We'd also add the $990 AMG head-up display, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and $170 wireless device charging pad. Lastly, be sure to tick the $1,800 Driver Assistance Package for all the safety options, taking the total price to $63,810.
With the release of the Mercedes-AMG C43, the Audi S5 no longer has the all-wheel-drive coupe tag all to itself. Similarly powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6, the S5 develops only 349 hp to the C43's 385 hp. It rides softer in general, but it's more divorced from the road, which means the C43 is the more enjoyable coupe to drive. Not only is it more fun, but the C43 is more spacious inside too, although rear seat occupants of the Audi have a little more headroom, while the Audi also has a slightly bigger trunk. Both feature premium interiors that look and feel great, and both are loaded with top-class tech, but the Audi MMI interface is an easier infotainment setup to use. Ultimately, there's little to separate the two, but the Audi starts at $5,000 cheaper than the C43, which is enough to give it an edge in this comparison; still, buyers would be happy with either option.
It's not really a fair comparison to compare the baby brother to the full-fat C63, but some drivers might not need all the C63 brings to the table. For starters, base outputs of 469 hp and 479 lb-ft, sent to only the rear wheels, are almost impossible to use on the road, while the all-wheel grip of the C43 means all-weather usability. The C43's weaker outputs and smaller engine also consume less fuel than the C63, making it not only $11,000 less expensive to buy, but cheaper to run on a daily basis. Of course, you don't get a sub-four 0-60 mph time, and you don't get the V8 soundtrack, but unless you're an enthusiast, you don't really need those, and the C43 is a relative performance bargain in every other way.