Mercedes-AMG has seen sales success with its ‘entry-level’ offerings, wearing 35, 43 and 53 nameplates. These models give the three-pointed star direct competitors to Audi’s S and BMW’s M Performance ranges.
One of the first of these models to hit the market was the AMG C43 4Matic, which in its first generation was available in sedan, wagon, coupe and cabriolet bodies. They’re a common sight on Australian roads, featuring twin-turbocharged V6 petrol power and all-wheel drive traction.
Launching globally in 2022 but not due in Australia until the early stages of 2023, the new second-generation AMG C43 changes the formula a bit, swapping out the twin-turbo V6 for a version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo nabbed from the A45 hyper hatch.
In this application, the M139 four-cylinder petrol engine has been mounted longitudinally rather than transversely, and it features an electric exhaust gas turbocharger – more on the technical stuff in a bit.
Long story short, the new AMG C43 range is more powerful than the last and is also more efficient, at least by official figures
So, has the move to four cylinders spoiled the fun? Or does AMG’s latest powertrain technology add a new dimension to the C43’s drive experience?
Australian pricing and specifications for the new-generation AMG C43 are yet to be confirmed, but we do know the first performance variant of the latest C-Class will be a sedan-only affair, at least at launch.
The outgoing AMG C43 Sedan was priced for a little over $113,000 plus on-road costs, and like the non-AMG range we expect the new model to be dearer than before – expect a starting point of around $120,000.
Electric specialist Tesla will also sell you the Model 3 Performance for $91,600 before on-roads – though delivery windows are February-May 2023 if you order one right now.
As has been the case with the bulk of current Mercedes models, the new C43 will likely be on the premium end of premium.
Having recently tested a highly-optioned C200 and ridden shotgun in a similarly-specced C300, there’s no real surprises to the AMG C43’s cabin, with the performance model gaining some meaningful sporty appointments to signify the high-output powertrain underneath.
The AMG Performance steering wheel with perforated 3 and 9 o’clock sections is arguably the most tangible upgrade over the standard C-Class, with swish dials wrapping around colour displays that toggle various vehicle functions right at your fingertips.
Likewise, the aluminium gearshift paddles look and feel substantial, while the AMG sports front seats and glossy carbon-fibre trim accents – likely a cost option – add a sense of occasion befitting an AMG.
Electric seat and steering wheel adjustment in our test vehicles made finding a comfortable driving position much easier, and the vehicles on test also featured front seat heating and two-position memory functions.
While Artico man-made leather upholstery is standard for Europe, one of the test vehicles featured upgraded Nappa leather upholstery which is smooth as it is supple. It would be an option I’d tick.
Beyond the AMG bits, the rest of the C43’s cabin is more of the same, which is mostly a good thing.
Ahead of the driver is a high-resolution 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, with an 11.9-inch portrait-oriented display running the latest MBUX infotainment interface serving as headline inclusions. For the C43, there’s additional AMG-specific menus and layouts for both displays.
As we’ve experienced in previous C-Class reviews, the displays are crisp and work relatively well. You do, however, need to spend some time playing around with them as an owner to fully grasp the ins and outs.
Our European test vehicles were optioned with the high-grade infotainment suite incorporating augmented reality (AR) navigation, which came in handy navigating through parts of Switzerland and France with foreign streets and signs in other languages. The sophisticated mapping and navigation functions were quite impressive.
As with the non-AMG C-Class there are myriad functions and features at your fingertips, including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as an intelligent online voice assistant activated using a steering wheel button or by saying “Hey Mercedes”.
The overall design and layout apes the larger S-Class limousine, and that alone will be a selling point when you first sit in one of these at the showroom.
Lower down in the cabin there are some harder, scratchier plastics that are already not very premium-feeling in a C200, let alone a C43. But these surfaces – such as the lining of the centre tunnel and parts of the door cards – are positioned in areas that won’t be as noticeable for some buyers.
The high-spec vehicle on our test drive with the upgraded Nappa leather interior certainly looked and felt expensive, and in a world where carmakers like Mercedes are going hard on interior technology it’s easier to forgive less conspicuous areas or elements that have been subject to cost cutting.
Given Mercedes-AMG still hasn’t confirmed local specifications, it’s unclear whether Australian models will feature a higher level of standard specification than some of the vehicles on this global media launch. History indicates some of the more premium appointments that are optional in Europe should be standard-fit Down Under.
Our short time behind the wheel of the C43 meant we didn’t spend much time in the back, though as we’ve experienced in the Benz-badged C-Class, rear accommodation is pretty good for the class.
The bulky AMG seats eat into rear knee- and legroom somewhat, but average-sized adults and children should be fine back there. It’s a shame Mercedes-AMG isn’t bringing the lovely C43 Estate to Australia, which we also sampled at the European event, which would boost rear headroom and cargo carrying capacity.
Worth noting is the additional 25mm of wheelbase compared to the outgoing generation of C-Class, and there’s nice touches like rear air vents and USB power sockets in at the rear of the centre console.
The vehicles available at launch weren’t fitted with the optional panoramic sunroof, but we expect this to be a standard feature for the Australian market.
As with the regular C-Class Sedan, the AMG C43 Sedan offers 455L of luggage capacity.
There’s no real improvement to the boot area compared to the previous generation C-Class, and with the wagon no longer on the roster for the Australian market, it’s a shame local buyers won’t have a more practical choice.
With that said, it’s likely the next-generation GLC will fill the role of wagon and SUV when the core range arrives during the first half of 2023. For reference, the new GLC quotes 600L of luggage capacity with five seats in use, which betters the C43 Estate’s 490L claim.
The AMG GLC43 version hasn’t been revealed yet, so it’s unclear whether the performance version will arrive with the Benz range or lob during the second half of 2023.
Gone is the old model’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, and in is AMG’s M139l 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine teamed with a 48V mild-hybrid system and an electric exhaust gas turbocharger – the same setup as the recently-revealed AMG SL43.
Based on the M139 unit used in the Mercedes-AMG A45 hyper hatch, the ‘l’ in the engine name denotes the longitudinal layout in rear-driven applications, with outputs of 300kW at 6750rpm and 500Nm at 5000rpm. That’s 13kW up but 20Nm down on the old V6.
Drive is sent to a 4Matic all-wheel drive system running a 39:61 torque distribution split front:rear, with a nine-speed AMG MCT multi-clutch automatic with paddles, featuring a wet starting clutch in place of a conventional torque converter.
Mercedes-AMG quotes a 0-100 time of 4.6 seconds for the sedan (4.7s for C43 Estate), which is 0.1s quicker than its predecessor. Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h as standard, though European models can be optioned with a higher 265km/h top speed.
There’s a 48V mild-hybrid architecture teamed with a belt-driven starter generator, which can contribute up to 10kW under load. It also powers the electric motor mounted in the turbocharger between the turbine and compressor wheels.
This F1-derived powertrain technology essentially spools up the turbo before exhaust gas flow does, improving low-down response and essentially negating turbo lag. Mercedes-AMG says the turbocharger can operate at speeds of up to 175,000rpm.
On the flipside, the MHEV system allows for extended idle stop/start and coasting functions for enhanced efficiency.
Speaking of, the German marque claims 8.7-9.1L/100km for European models on the WLTP cycle. Keep in mind the variations are down to the wide range of specification and options available in Europe, including wheels, tyres, and weight-adding luxury items like panoramic sunroofs.
Full Australian details will be confirmed closer to launch.
The new four-cylinder AMG C-Class fires up with a growl not dissimilar to the A45 hatchback. While it’s got a sporty bark, it doesn’t have the brassy depth of the old V6.
Our drive of the C43 started from the Basel airport on the border of France and Switzerland, and took us through to the countryside town of Colmar, which you can see in all its picturesque glory in the images throughout this review.
To start it was a highway transfer to the hotel, with the C43 feeling eager and muscular in acceleration despite losing a third of its engine displacement. As we’ve come to enjoy with the A45, the 2.0-litre turbo engine’s sweet spot is higher in the rev range – AMG did this on purpose to preserve the fun, rev-happy nature of naturally-aspirated engines.
In its sportier settings there’s noticeable augmentation of the engine note through the speakers, which sends an almost video game-like sound through the cabin. While it’s not an unattractive note, it can feel a touch contrived in Sport+ and like we noted earlier, doesn’t have the same theatre to it as the old V6.
At European freeway speeds (100-130km/h) the AMG C43 is stable and secure as expected. There were even a few stretches of derestricted Autobahn (we crossed borders a couple of times on the way) and this feeling was echoed as you approached the 180km/h mark.
The entire fleet of C43 vehicles on the international media launch were optioned with 20-inch alloy wheels, and while there were few complaints over the smooth stretches of freeway, we did notice a bit of tyre roar permeating the cabin over rougher patches of bitumen.
In its Comfort setting the C43 is genuinely pliant, with good isolation from the lumps and bumps in regional France. Flick it into Sport or Sport+ and it gets a little busy over normal roads, but you also have the choice of Individual to dial in more ride comfort combined with a more aggressive powertrain and transmission setup. The wide breadth of configuration is a plus.
As things slowed down when we hit the townships in France’s far east, we noticed the mild-hybrid system and nine-speed auto occasionally wouldn’t play ball. The idle stop/start system can engage from about 20km/h as you come to a stop, but at times wouldn’t fire up the engine again after letting off the brake, rather waiting for the accelerator to be pressed as if using Auto Hold.
However, the Auto Hold wasn’t engaged so on inclines an occasionally alarming jerk backwards would be experienced as you step on the throttle, and that moment of hesitation can be frustrating when trying to make small gaps at intersections or roundabouts – France’s roundabouts are particularly chaotic.
There were also a few occasions where it felt like the transmission clunked between certain ratios, usually shifting down from fourth to third or third to second, which again didn’t feel particularly smooth or refined.
For those critical of Volkswagen Group DSG transmissions, it’s an element that could be jarring and makes it worth trying for yourself. You can also just switch idle stop/start off or flick the C43 into its Sport setting for better response.
Following an initial, shorter stint in the C43 Sedan, I took a C43 Estate for a solo drive on an extended route that covered a range of environments including a mountain climb (and descent), through the countryside, and around the magnificent Lac de Longemer.
While we aren’t getting the wagon in Australia, the C43 Estate didn’t feel that different in character from its sedan equivalent, bar of course the added weight of its larger boot at the back end.
Regardless, I had a stack of fun piloting the beautiful blue wagon around the French countryside. It sort of felt like a more grown-up version of the Volkswagen Golf R Wagon I reviewed just a week prior.
There’s admirable grip courtesy of the 4Matic variable all-wheel drive system, which gives you the confidence to carry more speed into corners and punch the throttle earlier on exit. You can feel its weight though, which at 1765kg (kerb) for the C43 Sedan and 1810kg for the C43 Estate is hardly lithe – for reference a Mk8 Golf R Wagon is about 250kg lighter than the C43 Estate.
While the steering could use a little more feedback, the driver controls are fairly accurate and fluid, which was a plus for me given I was driving on the wrong side of the car for the first time in a long time.
I often had the C43 set to full attack mode (Sport+) with the angriest exhaust setting, which for this more spirited driving had it best calibrated for the task. The exhaust pops and cracks on overrun and upshifts, and the rev-happy nature of the 2.0-litre turbo meant that power delivery is very linear – it’s deceptively quick and you’re doing the speed limit before you realise.
In Sport+ the transmission also accentuates the recoil sensation on upshifts to add a little more drama. Hyundai has a similar function with its eight-speed DCT models – it’s all for a bit of theatre.
On the flipside, to make the most of the efficiency-focused side of the 48V mild-hybrid system, you can configure the Individual drive mode to have the Reduced powertrain setting which then offers a fuel-saving coast function.
While full judgement will need to be reserved for when the C43 arrives in Australia next year, the overall experience was fairly positive on our brief-ish drive in mixed environments.
However, more time behind the wheel would be required to see just how annoying the low-speed jitters can get with everyday use, and whether models fitted with big alloys can deal appropriately with inner-city Melbourne or Sydney.
Those that enjoyed the soundtrack of the outgoing V6 probably won’t be serenaded the same way by the new four-cylinder, and anyone after a sharp-edged driver’s tool will likely be better serviced by a BMW M340i xDrive.
Regardless, the C43 delivers on its promise of being a quick sports sedan with daily-driveable comfort – transmission quibbles aside. Stay tuned for when it hits our shores in 2023 for more detailed impressions.
Australian specifications are still to be confirmed, though we can expect local cars to start from a high base of specification.
Key specifications highlights in Europe include:
- AMG body kit
- AMG front grille
- 18-inch alloy wheels (19in, 20in optional)
- All-wheel steering
- Quad rounded exhaust tips
- AMG seats in Artico leatherette and Microcut suede
- Red contrast stitching, red seat belts
- AMG Performance steering wheel in Nappa leather
- AMG rotary steering wheel controls
- Silver-coloured aluminium gearshift paddles
- AMG Dynamic Select modes with adaptive dampers
- ARTICO leatherette dashboard, beltline upholstery
- AMG sport pedals
- AMG floor mats
- Illuminated door sills with AMG lettering
- MBUX 2.0 with AMG displays
Non-AMG versions of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class wear a five-star ANCAP safety rating with a 2022 date stamp, based on tests conducted by Euro NCAP. The ANCAP report says this rating applies to “all variants”, though only the C200 and C300 are currently listed.
Category scores for the crash assessment included 91 per cent for adult occupant protection, 90 per cent for child occupant protection, 80 per cent for vulnerable road users and 82 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- 10 airbags incl. front-centre airbag
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Adaptive cruise control
- Blind-spot monitoring with exit warning function
- Driver attention monitoring
- Lane-keep assist (steering assist)
- Surround-view cameras
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Semi-autonomous parking assist
- Active bonnet
- Speed limit assist
The Driving Assistance Package Plus, standard on the C300, adds:
- AEB junction assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Blind-spot assist
- Lane change assist
- Lane following assist
- Evasive steering assist
- Side-impact anticipation and protection system
- Traffic sign assist
Like the wider Mercedes-Benz and AMG range, the C43 is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Mercedes offers a three-, four- and five-year servicing plan for the regular C-Class and service intervals are 12 months or 25,000km – whichever comes first.
However, servicing details for the AMG C-Class are yet to be confirmed as the vehicle is still nearly a year from reaching our shores. The current model is $3000 for three years, $3900 for four years and $5700 over five – an Audi S4, for reference, costs $3160 for five years.
Stay tuned to CarExpert for an update closer to the AMG C43’s local arrival.
Our international launch drive of the new Mercedes-AMG C43 didn’t really bring about anything ground-breaking.
It’s still fast, still loaded with tech, and still offers the allure of the three-pointed star badge and the letters ‘AMG’ on the boot lid.
The term ‘GT’ comes to mind, as it’s fast in a straight line without being a super sharp driver’s car, and offers a good level of comfort in its softer settings for everyday use.
Negatives? The new 2.0-litre engine is punchy but lacks character, and the nine-speed transmission can be clunky and hesitant at low speeds.
Further, considering the Audi S4 and BMW M340i still run sweet-sounding six-cylinder power units and buttery smooth ZF eight-speed automatics, the new C43’s mechanical package may not stand out for the right reasons.
All told though, the C43 builds on the regular C-Class’s mini-me S-Class design and technology package and adds brisk performance that’s usable in all weather conditions. Shame there’s no wagon on the radar for Australia.
Click the images for the full gallery