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2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 Saloon – New Car Review – Back road weapon

2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 Saloon – New Car Review – Back road weapon

Back in 2017, we tested the Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 Coupe – and loved it. It made great sounds, and handled beautifully for the size of the car, and was only the second car ever that I gave a 5-chevron rating to. It made me wonder if you really need the C63, when the C43 was so good.

This year, we got sent the 2019 C43 saloon to review. The last thing I wanted was for it to be worse in any way – you never know, sometimes it’s like a computer programme update where they break something that wasn’t broken, or make something that was great, worse.

The Range

There’s three options in the C43 AMG range – the Sedan, the Cabriolet, and the Estate. All are fitted with a 3-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol engine, putting out 287kW of power (up from 270kW of previous model) and a more-than-decent 520Nm of torque. This should get you to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds.

There’s a 9-speed 9G-TRONIC transmission behind the engine, and 4MATIC (all-wheel drive) is standard.

As you’d expect, standard equipment levels are high. For the base price, you will get a heads-up display (HUD), AMG 19-inch alloy wheels, Multibeam LED intelligent lighting, panoramic sunroof, a performance steering wheel with nappa leather, AMG sports pedal cluster in brushed stainless steel, black ash open-pore wood trim, a Burmester surround sound system with 13 speakers and 9-channel DSP, COMAND online infotainment system with SatNav, heated front seats with memory function (3 settings including exterior mirrors), Qi wireless phone charging, keyless entry and start, electric boot operation, auto wipers and lights, dual zone AC, paddle shifters, AMG Night Package, AMG Ride Control sports suspension, AMG speed-sensitive sports steering, a sports exhaust system, a 360-degree camera, auto parking, traffic sign assist, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

Being a Mercedes-Benz, there’s a lot of driver assists to help you along the way. These include the Driver Assistance Package Plus which includes Active Lane Change Assist, Enhanced Automatic Restarting in traffic jams, and Route Based Speed Adaptation.

The brakes in the AMG C43 also get upgraded, with larger, perforated front discs, with the callipers at the front having ‘Mercedes-Benz lettering – not that that helps your braking.

Our test car was fitted with the Performance Ergonomic Pack ($5,400) and the ENERGIZING Comfort Control option ($1,000), to bring it up from a base price of $122,800 to $129,200.

The Estate version has a base price of $125,700.

There’s a huge amount of different options to up-spec your AMG C43 – go here to check them out.

First Impressions

I was a bit sad to see our test car was finished in Selenite Grey Metallic, which made it hard to pick out at the dealership, among all the other grey and silver Mercs and AMGs. Still, most Mercedes-Benz look good in silver or grey, and our test car certainly looked the part.

I’ve got to say, in that grey colour it’s a bit of a Q car; it could almost be any mid-size Merc, perhaps even a C200. Only those with a keen eye would see the rims, the lower stance, or the AMG badge and quad exhausts at the rear. Otherwise, this is an AMG that will fade into the road with the rest of the traffic – and I expect that’s what many AMG buyers want to achieve.

Styling-wise, it doesn’t look too much different from the previous model, until you see the previous model. The new one is just that bit more modern, and a bit tighter in its design.

At the rear of the car, the 4 exhausts with black exhaust tips catch your eye instantly. A shame though they are almost decorative; the exhaust pipe from the rear mufflers finishes just before the exhaust tips, then there’s a gap, then there’s the exhaust tips. It all looks a little strange when you get down to check it out, but I guess it works as intended.

The Inside

Opening the driver’s door, you see a key AMG feature: the seats. The side and rear bolsters on this new model look even bigger than the previous ones, and I’ve got to say when you get into the car, you sure slide down into the seat, forced that way by the massive high sides of the seat.

The bolsters on the rear of the front seats are just as big – you fit very snugly into this car, almost cocooned in by those seats.

Although the interior of our test car was all black, the red stitching on the doors, dash and centre console set it off beautifully. Any passengers I took in the car (and yes, there were many requests) were blown away by the look of the interior.

In saying that, the C43 AMG misses out on the two 12.3” screens of the C Class, ‘making do’ instead with a 10.5” central display. But at least it has lost the ‘tacked on’ look of the last model’s central display. Not quite integrated, but still better than the previous model.

The all-black interior of our test car was hugely lightened by the two sunroofs – a panoramic one in the front and a much smaller one right over the rear seats. Both could be covered with an electric roller blind.

As always with a Mercedes-Benz, there’s an analogue clock in the centre of the car to give you a touch of class.

Thankfully, Mercedes-Benz have retained the hard buttons on the centre console for SatNav, Media, Phone, and Radio. Yes, you can use other methods to get to these things on the move, but one click of a button is always going to be easier.

There’s a small, rear centre console cubby, that also gives you access to an SD card slot and 2xUSB ports, and there’s also a front cubby that has a single USB.

That front cubby also has the Qi charging pad in it, and I’m happy to say it has a good, grippy base for your phone. We’ve had more than a few test cars with Qi wireless charging where the phone moves around on the base and then stops charging. A nice touch for the AMG is an icon on the central display so you know it’s charging. Others do this with a light by the Qi charger, but such an obvious place (for your eyes) is a much better option.

On the steering wheel and centre console are buttons for this and that, as well as the jog dial to operate the central screen. Most of these are real alloy, and look bloody brilliant. They really add another level of class to the interior of the car. The only drawback I found was on a hot, sunny day. After returning to the C43, I couldn’t touch any of the buttons – they were roasting hot. Fifteen minutes later with the AC on fixed that.

Rear legroom is average for the class, if a bit pushed if you have a taller driver. Still very usable, and the seats back there are just as comfy as the front ones according to my passengers.

The boot is more than reasonable in size, at 435 litres. Under the false floor, there’s a collapsible plastic crate which could be handy, and a deep well around 400mm deep for putting odds and ends in, or maybe sweaty clothes after a day at the golf course..

There’s no spare in the boot of the C43 – instead you get an electric pump for emergencies.

The Drive

Before I tell you about driving the AMG C43, first I have to rave on about the seats. There’s so much adjustment, I believe anyone can find their perfect seating position. As it was with many cars in this price bracket, you can adjust the seat cushion length electrically – perfect for taller drivers. This also includes passengers, since they almost have exactly the same adjustments available.

Since the headrests are part of the seats, these aren’t electrically adjustable either. The only driver’s seat feature the front passenger misses out on is the electrically adjustable rear bolsters.

The only drawback with the front seats and getting out of them. With such high sides, it’s tricky to get out of the car gracefully. It almost reminded me of the Mazda MX-5, although that was tricky because it’s so low to the ground. The C43’s front seats are deep as can be.

That’s a benefit of that of course; on a windy, twisty road, you are held solid in the seat. There’s simply no lateral movement of your body, and if there is? Push the two buttons to bring in the sides and rear of the seat. Sorted.

Right, I’m sitting in the driver’s seat, and my hands fall to the steering wheel. Instant memories of the last C43 I drove – the steering wheel is a mix of nappa leather and microfiber, and feels bloody fantastic. It’s flat-bottomed of course, but it’s such a pleasure to hold it – not to mention the grip that the microfiber gives you, especially when on a twisty road.

I was ecstatic to see that Mercedes-Benz listened, and have dumped the cruise control stalk. Rejoice! Now the adaptive cruise control is operated completely from the steering wheel, and it works simply and effectively. After a time of familiarity, there’s no need to look down to operate any of the steering wheel buttons; perfectly positioned and logical, as you’d expect.

Time to start this car. Oh, man. Not only does it sound as good as the last model, it sounds better. And by better, I mean louder. Even in Comfort mode, this new C43 makes noticeably more noise. On the upshift, you will get little throttle blips between changes, and full-throttle acceleration will give lots of crackles and pops – again, this is in Comfort mode.

There’s no Nana Mode here – Comfort mode is pretty loud on acceleration. Not that that’s a bad thing. However, on the motorway the motor is serenely quiet on a steady throttle, and won’t bark at you unless you floor it. At 100km/h, the V6 is turning over at just 1,400rpm in 9th gear.

Speaking of the transmission, it’s perfect. This is a model of a gearbox – upshifts at the right times, downshifts when you are going downhill that are perfectly timed to when you need a little engine braking. You can of course use the paddles – and I did, regularly. Funny that, as often with an 8-speed or 9-speed automatic, having paddle shifters seems like a wasted effort, but in the C43 I used them more than any other car. Sometimes it was just to get a bit of noise happening for a corner, though.

I started the C43 in my driveway one morning with the window down, and nearly had to change my underwear. It’s loud at idle. Then you put it into Sport mode, and the car changes – it accelerates better, steering feels just that little bit tighter – and louder.

Then it’s time for Sport + mode, and it’s all on. I know this mode really should only be used on the track, but still… the exhaust flaps open up, and this car shouts and screams at you – in a good way. I know, I know, the C63 probably sounds better, but even a twin-turbo V6 can sound damn fine when the exhaust is done this well.

In Sport+ mode, the changes go from quick, to lightning quick. Full-throttle acceleration from a standstill will see the car surging forward (after a moment of lag, it has to be said), with your body forced back against the set. But it is the gear changes that you notice – maybe because the exhaust crackles on the upshift, but again – they are just so quick. It’s bang-bang-bang through the gears.

I’m not going to go on any more about the sound of the car (well, maybe just a little) but if there’s one thing that will get you grinning, it’s the exhaust popping and barking on the up and downshifts. Ask any of my passengers.

So the exhaust is definitely louder, what else has changed? The ride – it feels harder. A lot harder. Even in Comfort mode, you get the feeling this car is one with the road, as you jiggle with each bump you come across. It’s not annoying or disconcerting, but it’s definitely harder than before. Thankfully, in Sport or Sport+, it doesn’t really feel any firmer, so that’s a bonus.

You’d expect that with a hard ride, cornering would be almost flat. It is. With all-wheel drive, grippy Continental 225/40 tyres and sports suspension, the AMG C43 grips the corners like a certain substance to a blanket. It’s hard to get it to lose grip in a corner, but you can if you try hard enough. Then comes the revelation – when it is four-wheel drifting, it is so controllable I can’t describe it. I see in my review from 2107 I though the same thing then. I’m happy to say Mercedes-Benz hasn’t broken it – it’s just as good as it was.

Turn in to the corners too, is top notch. It almost falls into them, then tracks around them beautifully. I loved it the day I had to (had to, obviously) take the C43 over the Remutaka Hill to the Wairarapa. At the times when I had the corners to myself, it was a dream drive.

Not quite perfect though – the steering could use a little more feedback, and at times the brakes can feel a bit wooden. The brakes get better as they get hotter – then you can modulate them perfectly – but around town especially, the pedal feels hard. That’s not to say they aren’t powerful. Those huge discs will wash speed off extremely quickly – even repeated panic stops from 100km/h see no loss in braking.

It’d be great to get the C43 and the C63 on the track. I know where I’d put my money.

I mentioned earlier that there’s some turbo lag on acceleration from a standstill – and this shows up when cornering, if you don’t keep your revs up. Accelerate hard out of a tight bend in too high a gear, and there’s no action for a half second or so. Not the end of the world, but it does catch you out now and then.

This isn’t the case when you’re on the move. Open road passing is a breeze, as the car shoots forward to alarming speeds bloody quickly. Midrange acceleration is brilliant.

So what about your day-to-day drive? Last year we went to the launch of the new S Class and had a demo of the GPS-based adaptive cruise control, that slows the cars down for a corner. I know lots of people who won’t use cruise control, because it maintains the same speed around a corner, and can freak some out.

Active Distance Assist on the C43 means when it comes to a corner, it will slow down, and then accelerate again on the other side. Brilliant. But…it can be a bit aggressive, slowing down a little too much for my liking. I had it set to 80km/h on an 80km/h road, and the car slowed down below 70 for a corner that could be taken at double that (not that you would). Still, overall it’s a far better system and it’s early days. This is a good step forward for adaptive cruise control.

Naturally the C43 comes with a HUD, and while the car doesn’t have the two 12.3” screens of the C Class, it does have seven options for your HUD display. These are a mix to include things like current speed limit (or not), rev counter, current gear – things like that. The only issue I struck here is that if you want to use the HUD for Satnav, you have to change the HUD setting to include SatNav directions – it doesn’t automatically put them there.

There’s a frontal collision avoidance system on the C43, which is a great idea. It warns you if you are too close to the car in front. The only problem with this is that the icon giving you the warning is on the dash – not in the HUD. The HUD is the perfect and logical place for something that like.

There’s a 360-degree camera system too, which is always appreciated. You have 5 views to choose from; Front Wide, Front, Kerb View, Rear Wide, and Rear. All are crystal clear, and usable. As happens with other cars with a 360-degree camera, if you get too close to an object, the camera will come on automatically to show you how close you are. I dream of the day when this is standard equipment for all cars.

The main dashboard’ ‘Active Display’ has 3 options. Classic, Sport, and Super Sport. You can tweak each one, especially handy when it’s split into three and you can customise what you want on the left and/or right panels. For me, it was speedo on the left, Satnav in the middle and then media playing on the right. This is all easily changed from the small thumb controller on the steering wheel.

The Super Sport option has massive central rev counter, with digital speedo – and of course you can get the rev counter in the HUD as well. For the Super Sport option, I had the rev counter in the middle, the like boost (which also includes an active power and torque output), on the left, and a G meter on the right.

Advanced Lane Change Assist is standard, and freaks out your passengers. On the motorway, simply flick your indicator on to whichever lane you want to go in, and the C43 will assist you in getting there. Of course you shouldn’t, but I’m pretty sure if you took your hands off the wheel it would change lanes for you. If there’s a car in the lane you want to go to, the system won’t allow you to move over until the object is out of the way. Another thing moving us towards autonomous driving, and it works well.

In the last C43 review, I raved on about the Burmester sound system – absolute clarity and quality. It’s just as good in the latest model, and with the speakers up high in the rear door, maybe even a little better.

Fuel consumption isn’t going to be low if you want to hear that engine. Over 600kms in my week in the C43, I averaged 11.2L/100km. The suggested number is 9.4, and I’m sure that would be achievable, but not if you like to hear that exhaust sing.

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/Torque

kW/Nm

Number of seatsCargo capacity, litres0-100km/h, secondsFuel L/100kmBase Price – High to Low
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio RWDV6, 2.9-litre twin-turbo petrol375kW/600Nm43.98.2$139,990
Audi A6 S Line sedan AWDV6, 3-litre turbo petrol250kW/500Nm55.16.9$126,900
Lexus GS350 F Sport Sedan RWDV6 3.5-litre petrol232kW/380Nm56.09.3$122,900
Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 saloon AWDV6, 3-litre twin-turbo petrol287kW/520Nm54.79.4$122,800

The Pros and Cons

ProsCons
  • Exhaust note
  • Seats
  • Performance
  • Handling
  • Grip
  • Burmester sound system
  • Just about everything else
  • Very firm ride
  • Seats – getting into and out of
  • HUD could operate better

The Verdict

Who said performance sedans were dead? The C43 throws that in the face of anyone who suggests it, and adds a bit of exhaust crackle in there for good measure.

Before I picked up the C43, I was a bit worried that maybe my test of the last model wasn’t on the mark, perhaps I was thrown by the noise of the engine, and the looks of the C43 coupe.

The C43 saloon proved again, it has what it takes. It still looks good with four doors, goes fantastically and handles B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L-L-Y. This is such a well-balanced car – and I said exactly the same thing of the 2017 C43 coupe.

I gave that 2017 model a 5-Chevron rating, and the 2019 model is only better, so it’s an easy decision – my first 5-Chevron award for this year goes to the AMG C43.

2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG C43

5.0 Chevrons

Vehicle TypeHigh-performance, AWD, 4-door saloon
Starting Price$122,800
Price as Tested$129,900
Engine3-litre, twin turbo V6 petrol
Transmission9-speed automatic
Power, Torque287Kw/520Nm
0-100km/h, seconds4.7
Spare WheelElectric pump
Kerb Weight, Kg1,705
Length x Width x Height, mm4686x1810x1442
Cargo Capacity, litres435
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – combined – 9.4

Real World Test – combined – 11.2

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Fuel tank capacity, litres66
Towing Capacity

Kg, unbraked/braked

NA/NA
Turning circle, metres12.1

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

WarrantyThree year, unlimited kilometre, Owner Protection Plan
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star

 

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