by Roger Biermann
Mercedes-Benz' most high-powered models used to boast an AMG suffix – but now Mercedes-AMG has established itself as a self-standing sub-moniker. While the CLA45 may the cheapest AMG, the C43, C63, and C63 S are for many still where the AMG line-up really starts. But in Cabriolet format, with their retractable soft top roofs, they lose some of their performance edge – focusing on being more lifestyle orientated models to rival the BMW 440i and M4 Convertibles, and the Audi S5 and RS5 drop-tops. In the convertible segment, rivalry matters less than experience though – a promise these AMGs never fail to deliver on.
The soft-top roof present on the Mercedes-AMG C Cabriolet line-up offers superb insulation from wind noise, and seals excellently to reduce any noise that may work its way through gaps. But with the roof down is how these are meant to be enjoyed. Accommodation inside the cabin is lush, with an excellent driving position and comfortable supportive seats. The sculpted AMG performance seats available on 63 models are worth the extra money for style and efficacy. The dash is clad in luxurious veneers and features the latest COMAND infotainment system, operable by a rotary controller.
The rear seats in this coupe-based derivative lack sufficient leg room for taller adult occupants, and when the roof is closed head room is cramped too. In convertible guise, the trunk also loses volume – featuring only 8.8 cubic feet worth of storage, enough for small carry-on bags, but not larger suitcases.
Narrower tires than the likes of the BMW M4 are a recipe for disaster with the power on offer in 63 variants. But mechanical grip on the AMG C63 is incredibly high; until a throttle prod induces oversteer. The AMG C43 boasts all-wheel drive to ensure that loss of grip is never an issue. Across all AMG models, the steering feel is light, yet the responses it yields are direct and accurate. Surprisingly, though the feedback doesn't tingle your fingertips, it's easy to identify exactly where the front wheels are pointing – an AMG hammer with the precision of a scalpel.
AMG Ride Control adaptive damping is standard on all, though it's best left in Comfort mode at all times. Not only is Sport too jarring, but with the additional flex of the Cabriolet bodies, a stiffer suspension adds nothing to the experience. The softer setting rides with suppleness and allows minimal body roll that minimizes the effect of chassis flex.
The AMG C43 features a bi-turbo 3.0-liter V6, outputting 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft worth of torque, sent to all wheels via a 9-speed automatic gearbox. The C63 and C63 S both feature the latest bi-turbo AMG V8, 4-liters in displacement and offering power in two outputs. 469hp and 479 lb-ft are on tap in the standard 63, while the S bumps those figures to 503hp and 516 lb-ft. Both 63 models are rear-wheel drive and make use of a 7-speed automatic gearbox. The 63 models lose nothing in the way of aural pleasure compared to naturally aspirated V8s of old, which will please AMG-lovers.
Right from the C43, power adjustable heated front seats, AIRSCARF neck-level heating, and dual-zone climate control are standard. The AIRCAP diffuser is optional to reduce wind buffeting, as well as a range of packages that include features like a Burmeister surround sound system, active LED lights, and a surround view camera. A Driver Assistance package includes blind spot assist, lane keep assist, cross-traffic alert, and Distronic Plus semi automated driving. The C Class Cabriolet range has not yet been tested by any local authorities, but the sedan scored 5/5 stars from the NHTSA and was a 2017 IIHS Top Safety Pick.
Though the big V8 C63 and 63 S are aurally pleasing, it's the C43 4MATIC Cabriolet that best suits the top down setup. With all-wheel drive and less power, the chassis is less likely to be overwhelmed, but it comes at the loss of that V8 majesty.