words & photos by TOM STRONGMAN
The Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 blends the soul of a sports car with the utility of a sedan, thanks in large measure to its 3.0-liter AMG-enhanced biturbo V-6 that cranks out an impressive 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. Get frisky with the throttle; it zips to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, and the top speed is electronically limited to 130 mph, which is moot for most drivers unless you have a racetrack handy.
The C43 is more than snappy acceleration. It’s a complete package of performance, comfort, and technology. The taut suspension delivers a firm ride that enhances agility without punishing roughness, and the optional 19-inch wheels with summer performance tires let it carve through turns with precision. The steering is light but direct and the big brakes scrub off speed with ease. The 4Matic all-wheel drive not only enhances dry-road handling but also adds security when roads are wet, icy, or snow-covered.
The C-Class is the top-selling Mercedes-Benz model series, and it was extensively redesigned for the 2015 model year. The new model is 200 pounds lighter than the previous models due to extensive use of aluminum. The 111.8-inch wheelbase has grown by 3 inches, and that results in greater legroom for rear-seat passengers.
The C-Class is available in coupe, convertible, and sedan configurations. The sedan is offered in five variations, starting with the C300 at $39,500; the C300 4Matic at $41,500; the AMG C43 sedan at $52,000; the AMG C63 at $65,200; and the AMG C63S at $72,800. The test car was an AMG C43 with the sticker price of $63,070.
The C43 bridges the gap between the basic model and the full-tilt AMG C63 whose handcrafted V-8 engine is available with 469 horsepower or 503 horsepower in the C63S. In many ways, the C43 offers the best of both worlds: stirring performance and crisp handling at a price that is several thousand dollars less than the C63.
Given the C43’s multipurpose role, there are five selectable drive modes — Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual — each chosen by a small knurled knob on the console. Each is pretty much as its name implies. Eco gives the best fuel economy, although at a slight drop in performance. Comfort is the default setting, and it is a good everyday setting. Sport livens things up a bit, with sharper throttle response and tighter suspension settings; however, Sport Plus is the one you want for that Sunday morning charge through some winding country roads. The exhaust takes on a throatier growl, the engine responds with sweet urgency, and the automatic transmission snaps through its nine speeds with the precision of a manual. The Individual mode lets the driver mix and match settings according to personal taste, such as choosing the comfort suspension with the Sport Plus engine tuning.
The C43’s cabin is cozy and plush. The Irridum Silver test car had a black interior with Cranberry Red seats and the optional carbon fiber trim panels on the instrument panel and console, a most handsome combination. The 8.4-inch color LCD screen sits in the center of the dash like a tablet computer. It is not a touch-screen because Mercedes-Benz feels operating a touch-screen can be distracting. The console has a mouse- like touch pad and a rotary knob for operating audio and navigation, but the system can also be managed with voice commands. The steering wheel has fingertip controls, as well. The navigation system has five years of traffic and weather services provided by SiriusXM.
The front sports seats have proper support in all the right places. The adjustable thigh support extends forward so the driver can tailor the seat to his or her liking.
Advances in semi-autonomous technology continue to play an increasingly important role in automotive design, and the C43 is up to date with several features that make driving safer.
Attention Assist learns a driver’s habits and then sends an alert if it feels the driver is getting drowsy or not paying attention.
Collision Prevention Assist Plus sends an audible warning if it senses the driver is closing on a vehicle too quickly. This system will apply the brakes at speeds up to 124 mph. At speeds up to 31 mph, the vehicle will apply the brakes to avoid a stationary object.
Pre-Safe tightens seatbelts, closes windows, and closes the sunroof if it senses a collision is imminent. Pre-Safe Plus adds the ability to sense a rear impact and activates the rear hazard lights at increasing frequency and initiates preventive braking.
Brake Assist applies maximum braking force in an emergency.
Distronic Plus is the adaptive cruise control that adjusts the car’s speed when approaching a slower vehicle.
Enhanced Lane Keeping Assist prevents the vehicle from drifting out of the lane by gently applying the brakes on one side.
Optional assistance features include a 360-degree camera view and Active Parking Assist for parallel and pull-in parking.
The beauty of the C43 lies in the fact that it can carry four passengers when required but has an overall size that lets it slip through traffic with greater ease than a larger car. The biturbo V-6 flexes its ample muscle at the slightest prod, yet it is perfectly happy running mundane errands.
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