Had someone told me a year ago I’d be buying a Mercedes-Benz product, I would have just laughed. Despite what my General Motors-only vehicle history suggests, I’m not actually brand-loyal when it comes to vehicles. The GM thing stems largely from familiarity; buying GM became a routine. It also helped that each time I purchased one I generally made out like a bandit because everyone knows GM [used to] love steep discounts.
Nonetheless, given that the last two GM products left much to be desired on the quality front, I jumped ship. On April Fool’s Day I swapped out my 2015 GMC Sierra for a Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe. Wait, what?
The purchase date proved to be oddly fitting, as many people—even those who know me well—assumed my social media posts announcing my new purchase was a complete joke. Although the only joke in this situation was the fact the Sierra’s engine needed partially rebuilt at 12,000 miles (sadly, that’s a rhetorical joke).
I’ve pondered quite extensively why I ended up with a C43. I’ve concluded that it simply checks all the boxes for me. It’s unusual here in Kansas, it’s very quick, it’s a luxury vehicle with all the features I want and it was within the budget. Basically, I’m the exact person that is supposed to be buying the new 43 series AMG cars so I did.
Make no mistake, I would have loved to just go straight for the AMG C63, but every attempt to spec one to my standards left an MSRP hovering around $90,000. Yeah, that’s a little too rich for this 27-year-old’s blood. Perhaps next time.
So, I compromised with the C43, which has been a bit controversial for Mercedes-AMG. There’s two schools of thought surrounding the 43 series cars. The first is that it is simply diluting the proud AMG performance brand with cars that don’t even have hand-built engines under the hood like the coveted 63 and 65 series cars. That opinion is countered by AMG’s own lip service, which is that AMG wishes to become more attainable. You know, attainable to aspiring 20-somethings, perhaps?
Much like all automotive brands, the debate surrounding making AMG more attainable will never end. The only thing left to do here is simply judge the AMG43 cars on their own merits, which perhaps will ultimately sway some folks one way or the other with regards to branding.
Every C43 has a slightly unique exterior design to differentiate itself from the rest of the C Class lineup. The front is given a unique, silver splitter below a more aggressive fascia and grille design. The grille also features a unique, bedazzled look with the AMG badge on the right side of the massive three-point star.
Small “Biturbo 4Matic” badges flank the front quarter panels as a slight nod to the fact there’s two turbochargers under the hood and they’re blowing torque to all four wheels. A traditional AMG badge is found on the trunk decklid with a slightly different rear fascia to round out the overall look.
Inside is a similar story. The AMG team has swapped out the standard C Class Coupe seats with more aggressive ones, while red stitching and a flat-bottom wheel round out the variances over the pedestrian C Class. From a design perspective, the car looks the part: it isn’t as badass as a C63 in person, but it has more gusto than the boring base car. It “feels” more sport than luxury, which is sort of the point with AMG in the first place.
All C43’s come with Mercedes’ well-known 3.0-liter biturbo V-6. This “AMG-enhanced” version generates 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque that peaks at a relatively low 2,000 rpm. All that torque flows through an “AMG-enhanced” nine-speed automatic transmission, while AMG’s version of 4Matic all-wheel-drive comes standard as well.
Perhaps the performance of this car has been its most surprising trait. The low-end grunt of the forced-induction V-6 paired with AMG’s all-wheel-drive system yields a zero to 60 mph time of around 4.6 seconds, while it can consistently run a quarter in 12.8 seconds. Most people are surprised to hear this is a 12 second car, but it’s been validated by several publications.
The surprise wears off a bit after spending time with the car. In Sport+ mode, it is remarkably aggressive both in throttle response and transmission tuning. The car wants to go fast and has no problem accomplishing its mission. And hitting bends doesn’t slow it down much either.
One of the beauties of the AMG’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive is that by default it sends 70 percent of the torque to the rear wheels. This trait creates a C43 that generally handles like a rear-wheel-drive car until you have too much fun with it and the added grip of the front 30 percent comes in to remind you all four’s are getting some love. Disable the car’s stability control system and it will even understeer a bit because the torque vectoring system is on ice when all the electronic nannies are in the proper settings.
My C43 is also equipped with the optional AMG Sport Exhaust system, which means the exhaust has butterfly valves to open on command. When opened, the C43 almost sounds like it has eight cylinders, complete with backfire notes like the AMG63 cars. Let’s just say my neighbors generally hate me after buying this car.
There’s no question the car is fun to drive and it is certainly athletic, but this is possibly where the AMG brand debate becomes more one-sided. The C43’s four-link rear suspension and run-flat tires are clearly performance-tuned. Even in the default Comfort mode, the car has a harsh ride quality; almost to the point it feels like the AMG boys are trying extra hard to give this car AMG credentials.
The ride quality is largely the blame of the tire selection. Mine is equipped with the optional AMG 19-inch wheels with run-flats that have super stiff sidewalls. My guess is the standard all-seasons ride a little softer, but take a noticeable hit on handling.
Like every Mercedes-Benz product these days, the C43 comes equipped with the brand’s COMAND infotainment and software system. In typical German fashion the system is not immediately intuitive, but over time I’ve become accustom to the system and not having a touchscreen interface. It did take two months for me to figure out how to increase the bass on the Burmester surround sound system, if that tells you anything.
So, that’s generally why I bought a Mercedes-AMG C43 and what I think of it after owning it for a while. Let me be clear: I don’t have expectations that this car will be of any higher quality than the GM products were, but it was time to try a new brand. Also, the buying and ownership experience with Mercedes-Benz has been nothing short of excellent.
I’ll report back at the end of the lease.