Review: C43 AMG makes sense

In the not too distant past Mercedes-Benz would hand one of its cars, let’s say a C-Class, to its performance division, in this case AMG, and tell the arm to put a big V8 engine under the bonnet.

Whether the engine would fit or not, it was up to AMG to make sure that said engine fits. The problem would not be that the engine was powerful, but rather that it was too powerful for what the car’s chassis could handle.

READ: Mercedes-Benz updates its most popular car: The refreshed locally-built C-Class is a blast to drive in Mzansi

Because let’s face it: AMG’s of yore were unrefined hooligans that had insanity written all over it. But by God, didn’t we love it!

As the years went on Merc upgraded their factories and gave AMG their own too, allowing them to build the special cars properly. Engines were built and Merc’s vehicles would be altered accordingly to have the engines fit in the engine bay.

Chassis were built by AMG for AMG purposes, and the drivetrains came directly for the AMG cupboards. But as luck would have it, calls for automobiles to be made ‘greener’ and lighter on fuel forced Mercedes-AMG’s hand to build smaller engines with turbochargers bolted on.

Still not satisfied, calls from outside came for even greener engines and AMG added a bi-turbo 3.0-litre V6 alongside its bi-turbo 4.0-litre V8.

And while the V8 would continue to be known as the 63 model, the V6 AMG would be called the 43 AMG. Which brings us to the revised and reworked Mercedes-AMG C43 sedan.

That’s a sleeper

Slotting in below the C63 AMG and C63 S AMG, the C43 is almost like the middle child in the C-Class range. It’s not as subdued as the lesser models, but it also isn’t as robust and in your face as the aforementioned models.

All around the car there are hints that this is an AMG, but it does not scream its presence or position as loudly as its bigger brothers. The grille upfront has a menacing look about it, with slit gills around at the edges. There’s also an AMG badge on the diagonal bar running between the daytime-running LED headlights.

On the sides, the only giveaway is the ‘Bi-Turbo 4Matic’ signage and the wheels that are properly AMG. A set of fancy 18″ wheels. And at the back, you have the C43 AMG signs, as well as a quartet of exhaust pipes; noisy and loud enough to wake your uptight neighbours on a quiet Saturday morning (I did not do it, though. Tempted, but no.).

From the off, it is really difficult to understand the understated nature of this car because we’ve come to know AMGs to be wild and bewildered animals. Not only do they look scary and menacing like the children of the corn, but they act the part as well.

But this one… this C43 AMG is anything but in your face. It looks tame. Calm, almost. But perhaps therein lies its strength. The middle child is often the quiet one, but when pressed in a corner and a response is demanded, the said child will not keep quiet.

Logical performance

And quiet this car is not. Anything but! Flick the Dynamic mode selector into Sport+ and as soon as that exhaust note deepens, it’s the sign that hell unleashed one of its demons.

Okay, that’s perhaps a bit of a stretch to describe the car as such, but performance is very lively in this car. Other driving modes include Sport, Comfort, Individual, and Slippery (for those snowy days in Europe), but none induce a grin as much as Sport+.

The engine makes do with 287kW and 520Nm of torque, which means that when that throttle is planted, the car will literally lunge forward faster than a cheetah chasing a gazelle. It’s a hurried experience behind the wheel, but you never feel as if you’re about to reach the end of your rope.

The car is safe, it’s composed, and it’s manageable thanks to its all-wheel-drive system. There is no launch control to help you get off the line cleanly, though, but with enough throttle modulation and the right conditions, you’ll easily slip past 100km/h from standstill in under five seconds.

It’s a wonderful experience, this C43, but with the benefit of not having to bite the bit or you having to keep a tight leash. Unlike the C63s, this car can adapt to everyday usability but also unleash all furies of hell when a pretender pulls up alongside you at the robot.


In the broader spectrum of it all and the car’s position in both the range and against its rivals, the C43 AMG has ample going for it.

Whether you’re being deliberately late for church as an excuse to pull up with exhausts clattering just as the congregation sits down after the first hymn, or taking grandma on a nice scenic drive, this car manages to do it. What’s asked of it, it can do.

Purists (and those with deep enough pockets) will opt for the V8 AMG – and that would be the default choice – but you’re not going wrong with this car.

The electric boot does close with a shudder and perhaps technology like lane keep assist and blind spot warning could be added to the package as standard, but apart from that, there is very little to fault on this car. Mercedes-AMG managed to find the middle ground when it comes to applying logic to real-world situations.

For R960 265 (before options) you are spoiled to a performance car of note. An exhilarating and liberating sensation of being behind the wheel of an accomplished vehicle. It’s been a minute since something made as much sense as this car.