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All-wheel fun in the sun
IF YOU were like Goldilocks and thought the C63 was too hot, then Mercedes-Benz has something more to your taste - the C43.
The Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet is the second AMG model available in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet line-up after the C63 high-performance flagship.
Instead of the latter's 4.0-litre biturbo V8 engine, the C43 has a 3.0-litre V6 which also has twin turbos.
If you're now scratching your head wondering why there are two AMG versions of the same bodystyle, it is because the C43 would have been an AMG Sport model except this performance-oriented line has since been dropped.
Instead, the brand with the three-pointed star will use just one name - AMG.
Apart from the engine, the C43 is also different from the C63 in other distinctive ways.
Unlike the rear-wheel-drive C63, the C43 has 4Matic permanent all-wheel- drive. And the C43's V6 channels 367 hp and 520 Nm to all four wheels through a 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission with a torque converter, not the C63's seven-speed multi-clutch transmission.
With an eye-popping nine gear ratios, fuel efficiency is optimised and seamless gear changes are guaranteed.
So while the C43 is still powerful compared with non-AMG C-Class Cabriolets, it is a more comfortable and less aggressive alternative to the wilder C63.
Its styling follows this philosophy and its body is no different from other C-Class Cabriolets. That means it does not have the flared wheel arches of the C63, nor twin power domes on the bonnet.
The drive, on the other hand, is still very special.
The steering is perfectly weighted and unerringly precise. Some Mercs with smaller engines have steering with varying feedback depending on the speed but the C43's is reassuringly consistent throughout.
Shift paddles allow manual gear changes but with nine ratios, the 9G-Tronic is best left in automatic. In the more dynamic drive programs, the transmission skips individual gears when downshifting for faster response.
And despite having one litre less and two cylinders fewer than its big AMG brother, the C63, the C43 still accelerates from zero to 100 kmh in under five seconds (4.8 versus the C63's 4.2), thanks to all-wheel-drive.
4Matic system maximises traction but its 31:69 front/rear torque distribution is more rear-biased than the usual, non-AMG 4Matic split of 45:65 split.
Together, these two attributes guarantee driving fun.
Floor the accelerator and the C43 takes off swiftly but smoothly - there is no drama because the rear end won't squirm.
This surefootedness is enhanced by an AMG-tuned suspension with three-stage adaptive dampers, making the C43 remarkably alert for a 1,870 kg four-seater convertible. As for the convertible body itself, it feels rock solid with no trace of flex or shake.
For an AMG model, its performance may be dialled down but it is also more accessible. For those who like this, it will mean the C43 Cabriolet is just right.
Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet
Engine: 2,996cc V6 turbocharged
Transmission: 9-speed 9G-Tronic automatic transmission
Max power: 367 hp @ 5,500-6,000 rpm
Max torque: 520 Nm @ 2,000-4,200 rpm
0-100 kmh: 4.8 secs
Top speed: 250 kmh
CO2 emissions: 194 g/km
Distributor: Cycle & Carriage