Driven: Mercedes-AMG C43 Sedan

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FIVE STAR - Mercedes-AMG C43 Sedan

Could the C43 be the most perfect model in the latest C-Class line-up?

When it debuted in South Africa in 2015, the Mercedes C43 was a bit of an unknown quantity. Despite packing more punch than the BMW 335i – against which it was positioned – it wasn’t considered a true AMG because it just didn’t look the part. For 2019 though, AMG decided to inject some true AMG-ness into the sporty sedan, giving it the look and feel of what it should have been in the first place.

The C43 is actually available in three body styles – a family-orientated four-door sedan, a low-slung sporty coupe, and a gorgeously glamourous cabriolet. Pricing is relatively consistent, with the sedan priced from R1 007 365, the coupe from R1 044 571 and the cabriolet at R1 167 630. However, when you factor in that the C63 S starts from R1 560 136, you seen realise that the C43 represents a massive R552 771 saving over its brawny sibling. 

Sure the C43 has a smaller engine, but is the C63 S that much more powerful? Yes, and no. The reality is that the C63 S uses AMG’s state-of-the-art, twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 that produces a mammoth 375kw and 700nm. By comparison, the C43 utilizes a bi-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 that sadly does not conform to AMG’s mantra of ‘One-man-one-engine’. That aside, it still produces class-leading outputs of 287kw and 520nm. But thanks to a 4Matic all-wheel drive, the C43 isn’t wholly embarrassed by its more powerful rear-wheel drive sibling. As a result, the C43 will rip from 0-100kph in a claimed 4.7 seconds, not very far off the 4.0 second claim for the C63 S, and will keep on accelerating until a top speed of 250kph.

While it may be giving away up to 88kw and 180nm to its AMG sibling, the C43 never feels underwhelming in the performance stakes. Instead it offers up a very different, but arguably no less impressive, driving character to give Mercedes customers a new AMG experience. Whereas the C63 is a brutal machine, with gobs of power than is really necessary and an edgy rear-wheel drive chassis, the C43 is an easier and more relaxing car to drive quickly. And in some cases more rewarding, especially on a wet country road.

The sporty sedan being a Mercedes-AMG model, is naturally endowed with a more aggressive look, thanks to the AMG styling, a twin-louvre grill up front and larger wheels, showing that the C43 means business. Twin pipes exit on either side of a rear diffuser and give off a very meaty and racy tone. No artificial sounds here, just pure AMG goodness. Compared with the R789 507 AMG-Line C300, it features a modified chassis setup, a sports suspension with AMG Ride Control selectable three-stage adaptive variable damping, a sports-tuned steering system, and larger brakes. And thanks to the rev-matching downshifts, it makes all the right noises - enough to put a huge grin on any face.

The C43 has a stunning interior almost indistinguishable from the C63 – both lavish and sporty - complete with the chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel and affixed alloy paddles. While lateral sport seating, designo red safety belts, and checkered‑flag design details reinforce its overall motor racing flair. You can even spec identical Recaro bucket seats from the baddest C-Class. All the bells and whistle are there too, but the only option that isn’t available is the IWC Schaffhausen analog dash clock, a feature limited to the C63 models.

The C43 also gains refreshed interior technologies, including a fully-digital instrument cluster, a new 10.25-inch infotainment screen, and some new trims and materials. It still retains its famous touchpad but now features haptic feedback, and also gains a steering wheel that features touchpads for controlling displays.

Priced from R1 007 365, the C43 represents somewhat of a performance bargain relative to its big bad brother C63 S, and while on paper it might appear trounced it terms of pure output, the C43 impresses with a very unique and special personality that makes it a perfect everyday sports car. Call it, the best of both worlds. The AMG C43 comes standard with a 6-year/100 000km premium maintenance plan.

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