The name AMG is made up of the first letters of the surnames of the founders of the famous performance vehicle company - Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher - and the town of Grossaspach, where Aufrecht was born and where the company was based until it moved to its base in Affalterbach. When Mercedes-Benz bought the company in 1999, it already worked on some of their vehicles and, much like BMW’s Motorsport division and Audi’s RennSport, was synonymous with power and performance.
Most AMGs have had trademark bellowing, naturally-aspirated V8 engines. Loud, and with tyre-shredding performance, some would describe them as brutish. When the turbo-charged C63 was introduced, many questioned whether it would maintain the AMG’s distinctive growl. Thankfully, the wizards from Affalterbach didn’t disappoint.
In 2016, the company launched the C43.Then AMG CEO Ola Kallenius realised not everyone wanted the aggressive V8-powered C63 - some would prefer a more subtle and quieter AMG which still has the performance, when required. That was an inspired move as the C43 has proved to be their biggest selling AMG to date and has attracted a new, less sporty, clientele who want an AMG-badged car without breaking the bank.
As I hadn’t driven an AMG before, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the C43, other than the roar I had heard its bigger brother make, so I was slightly disappointed by the more muted sound emanating from the quad pipes. Purists might frown upon this as diluting the AMG brand, and that makes sense because it was created to be a fast, brutish beast, but not everyone wants that growl every time they get behind the wheel.
Mercedes decided to give the C43 4Matic a subtle midlife update in 2018, with tweaks to the front and rear bumpers that differentiate it from its predecessor. The front lights and taillights were also given a subtle makeover.
Power output has been increased by 17kW to 287kW with 520Nm of torque. This makes the car enjoyable to drive and it’s also comfortable when you want to take a leisurely trip on the open road, which makes it a great day-to-day car.
There are more obvious changes inside, where there’s the option of an S-Class-inspired 12.3 inch instrument cluster for the dials, a larger, standard 10.25 inch infotainment screen and a new three-spoke steering wheel, incorporating S-Class-style touchpads, which I found convenient when navigating the infotainment system.
The company claims it has improved the car’s semi-autonomous driving functions too, with the Drive Assist adaptive cruise control now working in conjunction with the GPS to adjust your speed based on potential hazards lurking around the corner. I honestly didn’t notice this but I guess it’s like a guardian angel - there to protect you, whether you are aware of it or not.
What surprised me was that the nine-speed gearbox became a bit jolty in its shifts when I engaged Sport or Sport+. With downchanges, it juddered a bit, particularly when I used the manual paddles. I had to keep an eye on the rev counter when accelerating because, as I upshifted close to the red line, it seemed to trigger the ECU, which initially refused to engage the next gear ratio, causing the car to baulk uncomfortably. I didn’t expect this annoying occurrence in a car of this calibre.
In Comfort mode, the suspension soaks up the bumps impressively. Then, when going through the Sport and Sport+ settings, the dampers flex their muscles delivering impressive body control. The grip is enhanced by Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive system, which splits the torque 31% to the front and 69% to the rear, giving the car the feel and balance of a rear-wheel drive car but with the traction and security of an all-wheel drive.
The steering is direct and well weighted, especially in Comfort mode. I didn’t get to mix and match the damping, throttle and other settings in the Individual mode.
Overall, the C43 is a very good car, which is enjoyable to drive and has a loud enough exhaust note without being boorish or braggy. It is a subtler car than its big brother. While it doesn’t benefit from the “One Man, One Engine” philosophy of a genuine AMG, with the signature of the engineer who put it together on the engine, I could comfortably live with it.
It is not the epitome of driving pleasure but it is a fast, composed and comfortable daily car, almost without equal in this segment. It is the impressive dual nature of the car that stood out - it is very fast, noisy and clingy on the curves but also glides comfortably on the roads when one feels like cruising.
Does the C43 deserve the AMG badge then? In terms of marketing strategy, yes, but not if you are a purist.