If you want the elegance of the Mercedes badge but can't justify the price and excess of a V8 rear-wheel-drive C63, the Mercedes-AMG C43 is a small luxury sedan with perhaps the best balance between power and style. Starting at $55,950, it's something of a bargain for a bona fide AMG sedan, but with 385 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, there's no doubt that this car is more of a mid-range vehicle than an all-out M3-beater. The 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 is offered exclusively with a nine-speed shiftable automatic gearbox, sending thrust to all four wheels - but with a touch of rear bias. Despite coming towards the end of its life, this generation of C-Class is still beautiful inside and out, though some may find fault with the C43's un-Merc-like bone-shaking suspension.
A few newly standard features set the 2020 model year apart from 2019's offering, with a premium Burmester sound system now included in the base price. A 64-color ambient lighting system is also standard now, along with illuminated AMG door sill plates, while a supercar-mimicking steering-mounted drive-mode selector is now available with the AMG Dinamica Performance steering wheel. No other obvious changes have been made, with the C-Class range being refreshed only slightly over the past two years.
See trim levels and configurations:
|AMG C43 4MATIC Sedan||
3.0L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
In AMG's efforts to make a proper mid-level performance sedan, they've tightened up the suspension for sharper handling. This makes it an impressively agile four-door that is brilliant for stringing complex bends together. It dances to the inputs of your fingertips, with light steering that is both precise and easy to judge. Thanks to the rear-bias of the all-wheel-drive system, you can bury the throttle mid-corner and get a bit of rotation out of the car, making it easy to slide a bit, before the front wheels are supplied with power to pull the car straight again. It's an addictive and easy to manage process that can be replicated time and time again. The C43 is a joy to drive, and not so overpowered like its C63 big brother that you fear for your life every time you breathe on the throttle. Where the C43 is a massively fun machine in the corners, the sporty suspension, despite its adjustable dampers, is not typical of Mercedes' outstanding engineering prowess when you want to relax. Even in comfort mode, the suspension is jarring, and if you spec the optional AMG Performance seats, your back will likely never forgive you. Where the C43 shines on the track and on twisty roads, it fails miserably over even slightly pockmarked tarmac, completely detracting from its overall appeal as a multi-talented performance sedan. To be fair, if it were too compliant, we'd berate the C43 for being a badge-engineered sales tactic, but with such a wealth of expertise and better-tuned suspension setups elsewhere in the AMG range, it's still disappointing that this car fails to accurately blend comfort and handling.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
The AMG C43 is a different kettle of fish entirely to the bonkers C63. Where the C63 requires skill and good timing to make the most of its abilities, the 4Matic C43 allows for inexperienced drivers to just get out and have fun. That's not to say that those with skills behind the wheel will be bored - the C43 is still an engaging and entertaining car that can be coaxed into getting its tail out too. Keep it simple with the options and avoid the optional race seats, and the C43 is a decent car. However, the suspension can still be too much for some, and the COMAND infotainment system's novelty has worn off these days, making it an overly-complicated and frustrating system. For a vehicle that is meant to be dual-purpose - allowing for both high-speed fun and four-door everyday practicality - the C43 is not ideal. The lack of compliance from the suspension means that this car is just too focused for its own good, and if you wanted a stiff and race-inspired vehicle rather than a feisty sedan, you'd be looking at a proper sports car. We'd give this one a miss.
As we've outlined earlier in the review, it's relatively easy to spec an $80,000 C43. Instead of doing that, we'd spend at least $68,100 on a C63. Although the available convenience features, driver aids, and luxury options are similar between the two, the C63 is endowed with a magnificent 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. Where the C43 distributes its power among all four corners, the C63 defiantly sends all thrust to the back. Despite the inevitable scrabble for traction from a standing start, the increased power means it gets from 0-60 mph in under four seconds and on to a top speed of 155 mph. You can also get an S variant with even more power and a top speed of 180 mph, and even this model starts below 80 grand. Yes, it'll get more expensive when you add the inevitable options that your heart desires, but with a stonking V8 under the hood and the ability to perform ludicrous smoky drifts, it's sure as hell worth it. Just save some money for tires.
If you favor all-wheel-drive and a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6, you may want to consider the original purveyor of fast Quattro sedans: Audi. Their S4 is a less potent option, producing 349 hp and 369 lb-ft, but it costs considerably less too, starting at just $50,200. Despite this, it's one-tenth quicker to 60 mph. With a recent refresh, it looks brilliant and far less sedate than the 2019 model while still retaining its sense of class. Despite its cost difference, some features that aren't even optional on the C43 are thrown in as standard, including tri-zone climate control and massaging front seats with heating. It also has a slightly larger trunk, a much more intuitive infotainment system, and a more liveable suspension setup. We'd rather have the S4 - it's much easier to live with.
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