2017-08-16 / Business News

Mercedes AMG C43 is the new ultimate middleman

BEHIND THE WHEEL
mylesKORNBLATT

Somewhere between fantasy and cold hard reality is the Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 Coupe. Priced at $56,495, it represents a midpoint — about $12K less can purchase a base C-Class coupe, and $12K more will provide the ultimate turbo V8 versions. And while compromise isn’t always the best answer, in this case, balance is the greatest virtue.

AMG is the performance arm of Mercedes, and to have its name on the car means some added aggression in the appearance. But the C-Class coupe is already a nice design with plenty of sleek sports car lines and flared fenders. The AMG treatment here is about subtle intimidation by altering the front and rear fascias as well as blacking out the side trim.

The “43” line of cars has been reintroduced as new beginning step in the AMG hierarchy. While these cars do get treated to a more assertive appearance, they miss out on some of the signature elements the ultimate high-performance Mercedes cars receive. For example, the hotter AMG C63 gets a broader makeover with more new body panels, but it also loses the snazzy starry-night style grille that only comes on the C300 and our C43. So the full upgrade is not always desirable.

But as debatable as exterior styling can be, buying a Mercedes — at any price level — comes with the expectation of a premium interior. The C43 is no exception.

This car nicely mixes a sporty and luxurious nature with a wraparound interior. The high center tunnel is the perfect height for a driver to rest the right elbow while gripping the flat-bottom sports steering wheel.

Buying the tweener also means getting a few options as standard. The C43 already receives the first rung of the C-Class three-tier premium packaging level. It includes a premium audio system, rear view camera, keyless entry/ ignition, and blind spot monitoring. And the panoramic sunroof is always a nifty feature to show off.

Plus, it receives the power adjusting memory seats. The MB-Tex with Dinamica inserts are not real leather and suede, but it takes looking at the window sticker to realize this. Also, adding to the premium presentation is the standard AMG interior that goes for a performance vibe by contrasting the black materials with red seat belts and red stitching on every surface.

But the real upgrade to justify the price is under the hood. The 3.0-liter biturbo motor produces 362 horsepower — rated squarely in-between the V6 and V8 of the Lexus RC series. This motor barks to life with a nice performance growl at startup, but settles into a nice everyday pattern for the city streets. The coupe feels luxurious, confident and solid, just like a normal C-Class

Once there is an open stretch of road, the AMG animal takes over again. With a quick prod to the accelerator, there’s an instant bark from the exhaust and a solid hit of power. The turbos working in sequence (one for each bank of the V6) have no lag and the utility of the nine-speed automatic transmission keeps them in the optimal RPM range. Life begins to move in the fast-forward kind of sequence felt when an engine is even more eager than the driver to release the full power.

The C43’s standard all-wheel drive means that while this has seat-pinning power, there’s also a constant underlying feeling of control — even when speed approaches triple-digits. And a car that adapts to be confident no matter if its 30 mph or 100 mph shows a true investment in engineering.

It’s hard to say the C63 wouldn’t be able to achieve the same all-around composure with its 469 hp 4.0-liter bi-turbo. But that car starts at $68K and has a hotter 503 hp S version for $76K. Those price points open up a much wider world of performance coupes and hardtop convertibles.

Instead, the C43 cracks the seal of the high-performance AMG without breaking the bank. The price isn’t cheap; it doesn’t feel cheap; and it might just be the best way for your enthusiast’s heart and practical brain to find a compromise. ¦

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