We drive the latest version of the C-Class, the amped up AMG C43, out to the quiet country town of Bathurst in NSW
Traditionally AMG vehicles have been defined by large engines that make lots of noise. But a changing of the times and pressure to reduce emissions sees the new C43 AMG ditch its V6 in favour of a 1991cc four-cylinder that is bolstered by a 48volt mild hybrid system and an electric exhaust gas turbocharger. That’s not to say AMG has never done four-pot performance cars before. Going back in time, there was the 190E 2.3-16 and 2.50-16 and more recently the A45 and AMG A45 S.
The C43’s Garret 48V turbocharger uses a compact motor and spins it up to 175,000rpm producing nearly 50psi. It also harvests energy from the exhaust gas. Working together with the hybrid system, the C43 makes a peak output of 300kW and 500Nm of torque. The hybrid system can put around 10kW into the motor to help fill any torque gaps. It also helps with weight distribution, gubbins in the rear giving the C43 50:50 weight distribution.
Shifting is handled by a new AMG speedshift MCT 9G nine-speed automatic gearbox that utilises AMG’s wet start-off clutch system. This can also handle ‘race start’ launches. Power flows via an all-wheel drive 4MATIC system with a torque split of 31:69. The C43 also gets four-wheel steering with the rears switching to turn in the same direction as the front wheels above 100km/h for extra stability. Adaptive damping is standard.
Aside from the C43 on the boot and turbo electrified badges on the front wings, this $145,900 sedan gets vertical strakes in the grille and a small lip on the bootlid. It also has four exhausts tailpipes, and accentuated carbon sill extensions. The 18-inch wheels look quite sharp with their 10-spoke forked design and subtle fan element reminiscent of the AMG One. There are rim options of up to 20-inches. This one was rolling on Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres. Braking is handled by four-piston front calipers and single rear calipers.
Australia and New Zealand aren’t getting the estate version of this C43 or the upcoming C63, as not enough customers buy them. A shame as it is even better looking in long roof configuration.
Setting off in the C43 from Sydney to Bathurst, we began on the busy city streets with the car in Comfort mode. While not quite plush, the ride is really quite forgiving and compliant for a speed machine. There are some jerks and hesitation from the gearbox at low speeds however. The steering is quick and rather light. Its head-up display works great, as does the augmented navigation making sure you don’t miss an exit or turn. As we headed toward the Blue Mountains, we picked up the pace, stretching the C43’s legs. On motorway roads, it’s smooth, quiet and refined. Drive modes are easily selectable via a dial on the wheel and circulating through Sport and Sport+, the damping firms and body control is tightened. Put your foot down and the C43 definitely lives up to its 4.6sec 0-100 time, with the electric motor and turbo making good on AMG’s claim of lag-free performance. The combination of the turbo, electric motor and quick downshifts made it hard to catch the motor off guard.
The drive out to Bathurst is mostly long multilane tunnels as you leave Sydney and then open multilane motorways, so about an hour away from Bathurst we take a little detour on some windy back roads to put the C43 through its paces. Once you get going, you forget about the noise a snarling V6 might make, and appreciate its ability at bend swinging. The grip and traction are superb and having a lighter motor up front makes it change direction easily without it feeling too twitchy. Guess that’s the four-wheel steer working as well. The engine actually sounds rather good making pops when you lift off the throttle, even if some of that is coming via the speakers.
Inside the interior is luxurious with a large portrait-oriented screen tilted towards the driver which operates the climate controls, with a touch panel below and an AMG shortcut button. The large driver display screen has plenty of customisation for your information but the star of the show is the steering wheel with plenty of buttons on the four horizontal stalks and dials with little screens that are AMG specific to control drive modes and damping. The seats are very comfortable, wrapped in synthetic leather.
Overall the C43 is greener and as quick as its forebear despite the switch to an IL4. Some might miss the V6 but this AMG marks the start of a new era for a brand that has made a name for itself with big noisy engines. The technology Mercedes has gleaned from the hybrid era of Formula 1 is starting to make its way into AMG cars. While the AMG One is the ultimate example of this, the C43 has enough power for genuine fun while being refined enough to be used as a daily drive.
|Clean Car Discount||TBA|
|Engine||1199cc, IL4, T, DI|
|Drivetrain||9-speed auto, RWD|