The C-Class compact luxury sedan has been on sale in the USA since 2015, with regular updates keeping it fresh; but as the "baby" AMG in the range, the new 2021 Mercedes-AMG C43 Sedan straddles the middle ground between the four-cylinder non-AMG models and the full-fat V8 C63 models. Power from the twin-turbo, direct-injection 3.0-liter V6 engine was increased from 362 to 385 horsepower for the 2019 model, dispensed via a quick-thinking nine-speed AMG Speedshift TCT transmission, accompanied by a healthy 384 lb-ft of torque. Does it make a good case for itself as a $56,500 sport sedan against its class compatriots, the facelifted Audi S4 and new G20 BMW M340i xDrive, as well its smaller but newer sibling, the CLA? It gives away its advanced years in its dated infotainment system and choppy ride, but is there still enough reason to recommend it, despite these shortcomings? There just might be, especially if you want to make use of the opportunity to own what is probably the last ever six-cylinder C-Class.
In short, nothing is new for US buyers this year, except that the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that used to be optional is now standard for the 2021 model. The last model update before this one was for the 2019 model year, when more meaningful changes were affected, the most notable being that power output was increased to 385 hp. A customizable steering wheel-mounted drive-mode selector also became available on the 2020 C43 but is sadly not standard, even on the latest model.
The price of the 2021 Mercedes-AMG C43 sport sedan starts at an MSRP of $56,500 and this excludes Mercedes' $1,050 destination charge or any other fees such as taxes, licensing, and registration. You might be able to negotiate a good deal on the current W205 C-Class, especially because a new model is due soon. Just be careful when choosing all those extras, as you can quickly inflate your C43's price to beyond $73,000 if you tick all the boxes. It is especially easy to get lost among the cosmetic packages that add little value.
See trim levels and configurations:
|AMG C43 4MATIC Sedan||
3.0L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
Thanks to AMG Ride Control with three-stage adaptive damping, the Mercedes-AMG C43 Sedan certainly lives up to its AMG branding with iron-fisted body control, even at eye-watering speeds. There is a distinct rear bias to the torque split, but the unshakable AWD stability is always waiting in the wings, the ECU shuttling power to the front wheels to balance handling and grip.
AMG Dynamic Select allows you to choose between several modes, from Slippery and Comfort to Sport and Sport+, adapting the steering, damping, transmission, and other parameters to fit the circumstances. You can even set up your favorite mode manually. AMG Ride Control adjusts the damping in milliseconds too, depending on the road conditions and the mode you have selected.
In our opinion, the sporty ambitions were taken a touch too far for what is still a premium luxury sedan and even in its softest Comfort setting, the ride is too jittery and never settles down properly. We feel Mercedes has squandered an opportunity to provide a Comfort mode that is actually comfortable. Besides, AMG drivers also take their vehicles on broken tarmac sometimes.
Should you look past the AMG C43's shortcomings - that have mainly to do with its advanced age - and consider buying it? As this review of the Mercedes-AMG C43 Sedan shows, the Cadillac CT5-V is roomier and more reliable and an M340i xDrive offers the latest infotainment and a better ride/handling mix. But as possibly the last six-cylinder Mercedes C-Class ever, wrapped in a stylish body and possessed by a sizzling drivetrain, you'll buy it more for what it represents and because it's the last of a breed than for being the best in class - which it isn't. The COMAND system is old, it no touchscreen, and the touchpad is fiddly. Gas mileage falls behind the class best and the ride is irritatingly stiff-legged.
There are better cars offering more up-to-date tech, comfort, and space at the same or less money in this class, so the new Mercedes-AMG C43 Sedan is an option only for the Mercedes faithful buying with the heart more than with the head. Perhaps the biggest threats to the C43 are vehicles from within its own ranks, as the CLA45 beats it in every single measurable metric except size - and the new W206 goes on sale internationally in 2021.
As we mentioned earlier, there isn't a range of Mercedes AMG C43 Sedan models to choose from, only this standalone derivative, so it comes down to the cosmetic and functional upgrades you opt for and how much these will cost you. To build the ideal AMG C43, we'd forego most of the cosmetic packages, because we think it looks great in standard guise. However, the Multimedia Package is well worth it for the navigation and three-year free map updates and the Lighting Package is a useful safety upgrade. Other than those, we would definitely opt for the Driver Assistance Package at $1,700, which bundles several useful safety features. Optioned like this, your C43 should cost around $60,350. A heavily specced C43 can cost north of $73,000, which is around $5,000 more than a standard C63 V8.
The question has to be asked whether the "AMG-Lite" C43 is worth the money when compared to the full-fat C63. The C63 is, of course, quite a bit more expensive - by $11,100 - but if you are already spending circa-$60,000 on a performance C-Class, shouldn't it at least be the delectable twin-turbo V8 with the soundtrack and performance the C43 cannot possibly hope to match? To be fair, you get a lot extra for the additional money, not least a limited-slip differential, an AMG Race mode, and of course the additional 84 hp and 95 lb-ft courtesy of that 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. This drops the sprint to 60 mph into the sub-four-second territory and adds a great deal in terms of that visceral sport-sedan feel and accompanying soundtrack. You'll hardly be able to use the extra performance on the road, but you'll listen to that V8 exhaust sound all day long and - on the combined cycle - the larger but more modern engine hardly uses any more gas.
The strongest competition at virtually the same price as the C43 arguably comes from Bavaria in the shape of the BMW M340i xDrive, which, in its latest G20 guise, is a formidable rival that can do little wrong. Except perhaps for the style and extravagance of the interior design, the BMW has the Mercedes beat on every level, with more modern interior tech (although iDrive can be confusing until you've got the hang of it), a little more interior space, a slightly bigger trunk, better gas mileage, slightly better safety specs, and better ride quality. You'll get all this for a list price that is only $200 more than the Mercedes. Or, for $54,700, the RWD M340i, which is even more exciting and the quintessence of the BMW driving experience: rear-wheel drive and an inline-six. The BMW duo's power output of 382 hp all but matches that of the Mercedes, but the M340i sprints to 60 mph a touch faster at 4.4 seconds. The M340i xDrive is even swifter at only 4.1 seconds.
The facelifted Audi S4 is the high-value sport sedan amongst the competitors, with an MSRP starting at $49,900. Yet, for less money and despite "only" 349 hp and 369 lb-ft, it puts its power down better than the Mercedes and noses ahead by a tenth of a second by the time both cars reach 60 mph. In terms of performance, there's nothing in it. Maybe it has something to do with the Audi's excellent ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. It offers similarly excellent AWD handling but its ride is suppler and more refined. The interior styling might not be as adventurous as the C43's, but the infotainment is properly latest-generation stuff with Audi's available Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster and standard touchscreen 10.1-inch central display. It's a dead heat between the S4 and M340i as better sport sedans, with the Mercedes finishing last in this company, albeit not by much. Age ultimately proves its greatest adversary as the rivals have simply moved past it.
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