The C43 had huge shoes to fill when it arrived out front for its review recently. The car it replaced was none other than a flagship from its top rival BMW in the M850i. Though not size or price rivals at all, the level of excellence as my benchmark for comparisons was sky-high.
So it is a shock to say that this car exceeded all expectations of what a hot exec sports coupe can and should be.
The AMG C43 is a scalpel for slicing apexes on track, dicing with rivals in long straights, and icing its competitors with brick-wall brakes and superior cornering speeds.
This precision shocked your author, frankly, as we’ve gotten to know and love AMG’s mostly for their fire-breathing V8’s over the years. Yes, the brakes and suspensions were beefed up to match the engine’s intensity… but were they ever objectively class-leading in their dynamics? Not in my hands.
There’s a welcome time and place for ultra-smooth rocket limousines — and certainly a huge place in my heart! — but the track is not their best environment. This C43 Coupe on the other hand? It is dying for some track time, and frankly turns any fun and twisty route into your own secret road course.
Is it flawless in life with its best-ever-felt steering in an AWD machine? And is its 4.3-second sprint to 60-mph enough to hold its ground to rivals like the M4, RS5, Q60 Red Sport 400 and Lexus RC-F?
We found out in this performance drive review video, followed by a discussion of the highlights, lowlights and spec recommendations below that.
Performance Drive Review Video
The C-Class Coupe range got more exciting for 2019 with a boost in ponies up to 385HP from the turbo V6, and updates to the tech and style. Fresh standard LED lighting, new grilles and new bumper detailing front and rear with functional aero pieces are the most notable tweaks versus the 2018 models.
It seems at first glance like this is just a two-door version of the C-Class sedan. It is, but only the hood appears to be identical to the sedan. A slightly wider stance with subtly flared front fenders is cool and the roofline is classic megabuck Mercedes. It is the rear shoulderline and more aggressive slant to the side windows that helps this machine’s design really come alive. It just looks so sporty and sexy from all angles!
Shared familiar looks with the bigger S-Class and E-Class Coupes really helps the C43 to make a starp statement on the roads. It does – and that extends to the humble C300 Coupe that has a base price in the mid-$40s versus the mid-$50s for this C43.
As we note in the above video, the C43 AMG has the tightest and most amazing steering feel and responsiveness of any AWD car we’ve ever tested. High praise indeed. It simply feels magnificent in your hands – giving you total control and informing you of every ripple or pebble your wheels roll across.
Beyond feel is the turn-in and overall response to rapid cornering. This vehicle is giddy for slalom tests and hairpins in a way that few AWD vehicles ever are. Simple zero understeer or any sense of AWD-ness, frankly, except the perfect traction at all times.
This single twin-scroll turbo delivers massive pace in the form of a 4.38-second sprint to 60-mph using the on-board Track Apps timer. But off-the-line speed is not quite it’s strongest suit. It could be the lack of purse launch control — Race Start really doesn’t count — but this was one area where the AWD BMW Launch Control really trounces the C43.
So how does the C43 still feel so rapid? Top-end power. From 3000-rpm upwards the surge is relentless and building steam right until the rev limiter. The rush to the redline is accompanied by a sonorous growl that becomes a howl to the heavens. It just really sings in a way that the most turbo V6’s do not. Looking at you, Q60 RS400!
Is there magic in the three-pointed star from Mercedes-Benz? Yes, yes there is.
Perhaps it is the AMG-ness of the car, or the red paintwork, but this C43 AMG clears the left lane like a champ. Folks let you pass. This is interesting because it certainly isn’t the case in how BMW’s, at least here in South Carolina.
There’s also just that little bit of special-ness in a lot of the details inside C43. Examples? The jeweled overhead lighting. The Mercedes script embossed in the lower windshield. And finally just knowing you’re driving such an exclusive car helps too.
Awesome Steering Wheel, Seats and Black-Out Options
The new AMG sport steering wheel is divine and standard equipment. Little, thick-rimmed and precise with awesome road feel and grip. Love it. The $2500 AMG sport seats are incredible.
The $300 AMG Night package is superb value too. We’d also pick the $1250 adjustable sport exhaust.
Idle Exhaust Burble
The most notable overall Low is the cost of the options on the test car. $58,445 (incl delivery) became $74,410 pretty darn fast in the configurator. That is kissing close to the top-dog C63 with its worlds-best V8TT. Not to say that there aren’t some sweet goodies on the test model. But go easy and the sense of value stays more intact than it does past about $66k.
The Optional Headlights
The optional Exterior Lighting package for $900 is a must-skip. Not only is the design quite off-putting with its giant centrally-mounted projector ball, but the actual low-beam performance is very poor. This package brings auto highbeams that are super bright. But driving around the town or city with low beams? Shockingly bad. The light cutoff is about 20 feet in front of the vehicle when it should be about 60 feet. We have a hunch this relates to different lighting rules for the US versus Europe, where the auto highbeams can be on more often. But as it stands for US customers these low-beam lights are almost a deal-breaker in how bad they are.
No Launch Control in the AMG Track Pace option)
Disappointing on-road functionality and questionable how often you’ll be at the tracks it has pre-programmed. The Race Start is basically just a timer and does not appear to help the car off the line any better than a normal brake-torque launch. That being said, it was awesome to know we beat the official 4.5-second pace.. on our second try! Proof that this motor is a gem and has much more power to give than its on-paper numbers suggest.
Options to Consider Skipping
$850 for bigger 19-inch wheels seems stingy, although it is odd that 18’s are standard in the first place. 64-color ambient lighting and wireless charging for $500 is also not a must. We’d skip the $990 heads-up display, $1750 carbon fiber package, $1090 Parking package and $1800 driver assistance package too.
$2300 for Nav and touchpads is not friendly pricing, and this does not include the $750 digital 12-inch instrument cluster. This does change completely between modes, though, which is pretty damn cool.
Hopefully griping about the option pricing just shows how few actual downsides this car has. The C43 Coupe is shockingly capable at its track-junkie mission. Yet instead of that hard ride making it a crummy road car, the focus of the machine is simply evident all the time.
The style, the speed and the panache of this car were enough to seriously tempt a bunch of the M3 fanboys at the local cars and coffee. There is definitely interest in AMG among all enthusiasts, and this powertrain that focuses on finesse and perfect balance makes a nice intro to the performance gurus at Mercedes. This one is aimed at the younger or young-at-heart group of individuals out there — and the dynamics and head-turning appeal inside and out are proof that the C43 Coupe hits the bullseye.
Take one for a spin. We guarantee it will exceed your expectations. Just go easy on the options!
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.