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Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic Coupe review: Why the best C-Class AMG model isn't the most expensive one
THIS is a car that growls at you when you prod it awake, and laughs when you try to unstick its tyres through a corner.
We all know someone like that, all grouchy in the mornings and far too ready to chortle at you for trying to demonstrate your skills. Some of us might even be married to that someone.
But what's annoying in a person is captivating in the C 43 Coupe - or, if you're in the habit of addressing cars by their full name, the Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic Coupe.
That's a lot to unpack in one long moniker, but it's the three-letter acronym that tells you most of what you need to know about the C 43. Namely, it's a product of AMG, the lunatic asylum where engineers do nothing but think up ways to make Mercedes's cars go faster.
Handcrafted engines, aggressively flared bodywork and thunderous exhaust noises are AMG traditions, but like other cars designated "43", the C 43 is merely a gateway to that high-octane world.
That being so, its engine comes off a regular assembly line, and its fenders neither bulge nor swell. But that doesn't mean it isn't a riotously fun car to be with.
Revamped C 43
The C 43 got a facelift recently to keep it looking fresh, and the exercise seems a bit half-hearted since it's fiendishly hard to tell what's new at a glance (for the record, there are new lamps and new bumpers, along with a new front grille that has twin louvres flanking the big Mercedes emblem).
Yet there's a real sense of occasion when you climb aboard. The coloured seat belts (yellow, in this particular car's case) are a bit gimmicky, but the C 43's cabin is otherwise a tantalisingly racy place to be. The steering wheel has a ring of red leather on top so you can keep track of which side is up (really), and on the bottom the wheel itself is flat so you can sit nice and close to it even if your stomach isn't.
Also new are digital instruments that let you choose between traditional, analogue-looking dials and a setup that could pass off as a professional racing driver's workplace: speed, gear position and engine revs take centre stage, but also on display are things like the oil temperature, engine power, the individual tyre pressures and even their temperature. Heck, it even tells you the gearbox fluids' temperature.
Whether or not any of that is useful is anyone's guess, but it sure is great for posing. At least you can plausibly tell your pals that you slid wide at Turn 4 on the Sepang Circuit because your front left tyre overheated.
Actually, that's nonsense. I can't imagine anyone sliding off into the scenery in this car, on the track or elsewhere.
That's because the C 43 is just so good around corners, you'll do your best to rise to the occasion. It has grip, balance, precision and agility, and it's reasonably communicative with it, so if you simply chuck it around from bend to bend it'll work, but then you end up feeling like you just tried to use a fine pencil with your toes.
Far better to work with the car, and make use of what AMG's engineers did with the suspension to try and hone your abilities to match it.
A strong stomach will help, because in addition to being a beautiful car to sling through bends, the C 43 is no slouch in a straight line.
Mercedes says it made the gearbox a bit snappier after then facelift, but it's also become jerkier as a result. But you'll forgive the C 43, because it has an engine that makes you want to forgive anything. It's brawny, but has a smooth, cultured nature that extends to the way it sounds. The way its six cylinders sing, it's clear that somewhere in AMG is an engineer whose life goal was to be a musician.
This time around, the engine tuners found an extra 23 horsepower, not by looking under the sofa cushions, but by fitting slightly bigger turbochargers. That brings the total to 390hp, which in turn sends the C 43 scurrying to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds. By today's standards that's no longer considered fearsome, but it's still bloody quick.
Inevitably, some snobs will pooh-pooh the C 43 as an AMG-lite and compare it unfavourably to the C 63 S, which is explosively fast and sounds like a volcano who's had a virgin snatched from its maw.
But while the C 63 S is undeniably more thrilling, there's a case to be made that the C 43 is the better to drive.
It's less volatile and more comfy, making it easier to live with every day, and though it's less speedy it feels more like a car that works with you instead of fighting you.
On a twisty mountain road with bumps and the odd pothole, it would be just as fast as the C 63 S in most drivers' hands. And if it happens to be raining, I daresay it would be faster, thanks to its 4Matic all-wheel drive system.
In Coupe form, the C 43 could use blind spot monitors because it's hard to see out of sometimes. But those are only available as part of a package of driver assistance features, such as active cruise control, which costs S$10,000. In for a penny, in for 10 grand.
One recommendation is to spend S$5,700 on the active exhaust system, which turns up the volume at the tailpipes. Hearing that growl first thing in the morning when you fire up this Mercedes is the perfect way to start off any petrolhead's day on the right foot. If there's one way the C 43 Coupe is different from any grumpy person, it's this; you'd never pay to make the latter louder.
Mercedes-AMG C 43 Coupe
Engine 2,997cc, V6, bi-turbo
Power 390hp at 6100rpm
Torque 520Nm at 2500-5000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
0-100km/h 250km/h (limited)
Top Speed 4.7 seconds
Fuel Efficiency 9.4L/100km
Agent Cycle & Carriage
Price S$350,888 with COE