Mercedes-AMG is a brand undergoing a massive transition.
For years, the brute German performance manufacturer blended outright muscle, character and noise that the likes of BMW M and Audi RS could not match, while maintaining a certain level of finesse and precision.
The brand from Affalterbach was the last to carry a V8 (twin turbo) in its flagship C-segment performance car and offer a twin-turbo six in its less hardcore AMG C43. BMW ditched the V8 in 2015 and Audi even earlier back in 2014.
Enter 2023, both the Mercedes-AMG C43 and C63 have moved to the same M139 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the A45 hyper hatch.
The C63 has differing hardware in terms of a bigger turbocharger and the incredibly active performance hybrid tech that enables it to be a technological and likely even a performance leader in its class, while the 2023 Mercedes-AMG C43 we are testing here is essentially an A45 powertrain in a C-Class body with some enhancements.
So is it still the sweet spot for those looking for a less hardcore C63?
The 2023 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Sedan will retail for $134,900 before on-road costs and the first deliveries are expected to commence now.
While the price doesn’t include on-road costs, it does include luxury car tax and GST and sits $21,324 above where the old V6 C43 retailed for. It’s also about $30,000 more expensive than both the BMW M340i and Audi S4.
Basically, Mercedes-Benz is charging what it used to charge for the old six-cylinder C43 Coupe, for the new sedan. To put that in context, we anticipate the new AMG C63 Sedan will be priced somewhere between $190,000-200,000 when it goes on sale later this year.
The best way to look at the C43’s pricing is to compare it to the C300, which comes in at $93,500, and when you compare the extra features you get on the C43, the price difference starts to make sense. Given the popularity of the C300, we suspect plenty of buyers will look at this upgrade as a fun way to get behind the wheel of a real AMG without going all out on the C63.
The best thing about the new Mercedes-AMG C43 is that, despite costing likely about $70k less than the C63, the interior is almost identical. While that isn’t ideal for those buying a C63, for C43 buyers it’s a huge drawcard given the anticipated price disparity.
The standard seats in the AMG C43 are probably the main difference to the C63, but you can indeed option up the more hardcore performance sport seats and that will categorically lift the cabin ambience to give it that ‘this is serious’ feel.
In our opinion, given you will likely never use a C43 on a race track, the standard seats are more than adequate for the usage of the vehicle.
Going back a generation or two, Mercedes was leagues ahead in interior innovation and quality, but BMW and Audi have definitely closed that gap and while the C-Class is arguably still the best at what it does inside, the other Germans are much closer if not on equal footing now.
Getting into the details, the MBUX infotainment system is fast, simple to use and works well even though it occasionally thinks you are saying ‘Hey Mercedes’ when you are not, then everyone in the cabin has to go quiet so you can tell it ‘cancel’ else, you never know, it might change the language to Spanish…
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 are additional AMG-specific menus and layouts for both displays.
The 11.9-inch vertically-oriented touchscreen is super high-resolution, and all the animations wouldn’t look out of place on an iPad or iPhone.
Apple CarPlay worked well for the most part, even if it occasionally struggled to remain smooth in a way we haven’t seen on German rivals, and the fact Mercedes-Benz has committed to keeping climate controls permanently at the base of the screen means you rarely need to go menu-diving.
Strangely, the first batch of cars coming to Australia don’t have wireless phone charging but any cars being built from now will have that feature.
The driver display presents a clean layout and the ability to view maps on the move, while the head-up display is like having a widescreen TV floating in front of the car.
There is an option to pick from numerous special display functions to find one that suits your needs at the time.
While you can definitely fit four large adults in the car comfortably, the knee room in the second row is a little compromised for the taller passengers.
If you want more practicality, wait for the new AMG GLC43, given there will no C43 Estate offered in Australia (due to low demand).
Unlike the new C63 which has a compromised boot capacity due to the battery and electric drive unit. The C 43 measures 455L and is well and truly enough for the weekly shopping or a trip away for the weekend.
If you don’t want a four-cylinder, look elsewhere because the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 is history and in its place is the tried and tested M139l 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine first seen in the A45, now teamed with a 48V mild-hybrid system and an electric exhaust gas turbocharger.
It has more power and better performance so it’s fundamentally important to stop considering cylinder count and engine size as a bar stick for performance.
We find the ‘turbo electrified’ badge on the C43 a little… optimistic. Yes, the vehicle has a mild-hybrid system and an electric turbocharger which is derived from F1 technology, but the C63 is the one that is turbo-electrified given its very active hybrid performance system, the C43 is an electrified turbo – there is a slight difference.
While the engine is the same as the A45, those keen observers would notice the ‘l’ in the engine name, which 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.
The engine’s might is sent to an 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. This isn’t the same as a regular dual-clutch transmission.
Mercedes-AMG quotes a 0-100 time of 4.6 seconds for the sedan which is 0.1s quicker than its predecessor. Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h as standard for our market.
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.
Australian-delivered C43s have a claimed fuel economy figure of 9.1L/100km for combined city-highway driving. Interestingly, this is also the first time in history that the C63 is more efficient; at 6.9L/100km thanks to its actual electrified turbo plug-in hybrid (PHEV) technology.
The new Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG, to give it its traditional name, is not a hardcore performance car.
Despite all its power and torque, all-wheel-drive system and credentials that would’ve put some hardcore performance cars from a decade ago to shame, the C43 does not instil one with the same level of performance confidence as an A45 or C63.
It won’t hug corners or beg you to go faster and faster around the twisty stuff like AMG’s more hardcore offerings. What it does do well, however, is provide a very respectable level of acceleration that most will enjoy on the few occasions when the nanny-state isn’t monitoring your every movement.
To be fair, 4.6 seconds to 100km/h is no laughing matter, but consider the C63 quotes a blistering 3.4 seconds and the A45 S 3.9 seconds; and you will start to see where the performance gap comes to life.
Nonetheless, it’s not about the outright acceleration or its ability to thrill from a red light, because while the C43 has a kerb weight of 1856kg – about 300kg less than the plug-in hybrid C63 – the essence of what was AMG or what is AMG now seems a little watered down. Gone is the exhaust note and character, and in its place the finesse and precision of its more hardcore siblings is missing.
It’s fair to say this is probably the softest C-Class to ever wear an AMG badge, but it also showcases the future of where things are going.
The AMG brand has taken its latest hardcore 63 badged cars a level above where they have ever been from a performance perspective, and in some ways softened the C43 to create a bigger gap and more appeal to those that want an AMG but don’t want to feel like its a daily workout.
For our review we drove the AMG C43 from Sydney to Bathurst, and back, through some windy, twisty and poorly surfaced roads. Interestingly, we found the C43 we drove in Australia sounded better than the new C63 we drove in Europe.
We believe this has to do with the fact that European cars we drove have petrol particulate filters (PPFs) which we won’t get in Australia. This gives us hope that the C63 will at least sound as good as this C43.
Nonetheless, it’s fair to say the AMG C43 doesn’t have the same growl and bark as the A45 once did. There is a level of subdued performance in this vehicle that tries to remain elegant yet sporty. It knows it’s fast, but it doesn’t want to shout about it.
Perhaps more strangely (for AMG anyway), when it does shout about it, it’s more about the occupants than the outside environment with a noticeable augmentation of the engine note through the speakers, which sends an almost video game-like sound through the cabin.
We don’t mind the ‘enhanced’ sound (not using the word ‘fake’ because the sound itself is real, just amplified) but it can still feel a touch contrived in Sport+ and definitely not where the old V6 C43 was.
We found the ride quality of the C43 to be not as compliant as we would have liked on the country roads we traversed, even in Comfort mode.
The adaptive suspension does an excellent job of giving the car different characteristics as you switch between Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and have the capacity for full individualisation; but if you find yourself on poorly surfaced roads often, the ride may be a little harder than expected.
It’s far better suited to the smooth roads of inner-city commutes and in that environment, we never felt it lacking.
The powertrain delivers its might with a sense of sure-footedness that is definitely befitting of an AMG badge. While it may not crackle and pop as much as we would like, there is still a sense of character as you start to up the pace.
The AMG-engineered nine-speed multi-clutch automatic transmission does an excellent job if you’re going flat chat, and even at cruising speeds around town or on the highway; but every once in a while it tends to produce a slight jerk or hesitation as it shifts down coming toward a stop.
We suspect this is something that a minor calibration change can address in the future. It’s also worth noting the gearbox can do multiple downshifts at the same time.
We pushed the C43 hard and it never gave us a sense that it was going to under or oversteer, no doubt helped by the 245/35 R20 front and relatively large 265/30 R20 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres on the rear.
It may not communicate all that well through the steering wheel and often you may find yourself wondering where the grip ends, but as mentioned before, this isn’t made to go on a race track or flat through the mountains; it’s an ideal blend between performance, comfort and luxury – which is exactly what most buyers of this vehicle would be looking for.
Over and above the C300, the AMG C43 adds:
- Mercedes-AMG interior
- AMG seats in Artico leatherette and Microcut suede
- Silver-coloured aluminium gearshift paddles
- ARTICO leatherette dashboard, beltline upholstery
- AMG sport pedals
- AMG floor mats
- Illuminated door sills with AMG lettering
- AMG rotary steering wheel controls
- Mercedes-AMG exterior including AMG body styling
- Quad rounded exhaust tips
- Electrically-adjustable front seats with Memory Package
- 20-inch AMG light-alloy wheels
- Heated front seats
- Panoramic sliding sunroof
- MBUX Infotainment, incl. LINGUATRONIC, touchscreen
- AMG Performance Sound
- Head-up Display
- URBAN GUARD vehicle protection Plus
- Augmented reality for navigation
- Suspension with Adaptive Damping system, rear-axle steering
- Burmester 3D surround sound system
- AMG Exterior Night package
- Performance Ergonomic Package: $5200
- AMG Performance steering wheel in Nappa leather
- AMG Track Pace
- AMG Performance Front Seats (same as C 63)
- Red contrast stitching.
- DIGITAL LIGHT Package: $2400
- Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus
The C43 is available in the following colours at no cost:
- Polar White
- Graphite Grey Metallic
- High-tech silver Metallic
- Mojave silver Metallic
- Obsidian black Metallic
- Selentite grey Metallic
- Sodalite blue Metallic
- Spectral blue Metallic
Optional colours include:
- Patagonia Red Bright Metallic: $1600
- Opalite White BRIGHT Metallic: $1600
Although AMG models are unlikely to ever be tested directly, the standard Mercedes-Benz C-Class wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating with a 2022 date stamp, based on tests conducted by Euro NCAP.
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
- 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 three-, four- and five-year servicing plans for the regular C-Class and service intervals are 12 months or 25,000km – whichever comes first.
Service pricing for the new AMG C43 is still to be confirmed.
It’s important to understand who this car is for and as we mentioned earlier, it’s an ideal upgrade for those wishing for something more exciting than a C300.
A C63 buyer will never look at this and vice versa. It remains to be seen whether the price difference between this and its BMW and Audi rivals will favour the latter, though we suspect not.
No matter how you look at it, the new 2023 Mercedes-AMG C43 is still properly fast and loaded with tech and luxury. Most importantly for the majority of buyers, it presents the allure of the three-pointed star badge and the letters ‘AMG’ on the bootlid, and it’s not just for show as it does the label justice.
This is a real AMG, it’s just not a hardcore AMG.
If you’re looking for a performance vehicle that can be driven comfortably on a daily basis while showering you with the latest technology and luxury – and fitting in where it needs to – it’s hard to ignore the German’s latest offering.
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