While the C-Class has always been a top compact vehicle for Mercedes-Benz – often beating BMW’s 3 Series and Audi’s A4 in comparison tests – it’s the AMG-influenced C43s and C63s that are the true stars in the lineup.
These higher performance vehicles have created a niche in the same way the “M” series (for BMW) and “S” or “RS” series (for Audi) have in the ever competitive performance market. While many people might still associate BMW as the “driver’s car,” it’s actually Mercedes these days that seems to provide all around better performance.
In fact, driving the BMW, Audi and Mercedes back to back reveals that the sweet spot in this market is the Mercedes C43, because it has just the right amount of performance and features for a surprisingly reasonable price, at least for a so-called performance segment.
Even more intriguing is the fact that the C43 wagon is only offered in Canada and not the U.S. – likely because Canadians don’t mind purchasing wagons while Americans seems to avoid them like the plague.
Yes you can also buy the significantly more expensive C63s but personally, I find that the C43 is the better day-to-day vehicle that provides performance without sacrificing comfort and refinement. The C63 is all-powerful, but it’s awkward to drive in the traffic-heavy towns and cities we live in.
If you are wondering why anyone would buy the C43 wagon over the GLC 43 sport utility vehicle (which shares the similar platform), it’s because the lower and more stable C43 actually performs better than the taller GLC 43. The GLC 43 might offer more space here and there, but the C43 wagon is the winner here. The C43 also comes in a coupe format, but our focus of the review is the sedan and the wagon.
Design and features
The styling is showing its age but the C43 lineup is still a handsome bunch. The C43 comes with a special AMG-style front grille and air intake system. The rear of the vehicle offers a quad-tip exhaust system and if you opt for the sedan, there is also a small and inconspicuous spoiler.
The 2020 AMG C43 is all about personalization: a new 64-colour ambient lighting system is a great example of this.
Along with the signature AMG instrumentation, the dashboard is modern and sleek. Rocker switches replace most buttons in the console and the infotainment system is a generous 10.5-inch size. The Burmester sound system offers amazing sound and audio quality.
The cargo capacity in the back of the wagon version is quite good: between 460 litres and 1,480 litres when the back seats are folded down.
Standard in the AMG C43 are a number of safety features including Crosswind Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Attention Assist, Active Brake Assist, Vehicle Exit Warning, multiple air bags and something known as Pre-Safe. Pre-Safe is a feature that will detect when a rollover or collision is imminent, and act to create to avoid injury. This includes tightening of the front seatbelts, closing the windows and sunroof and adjusting the passenger seats.
The 2020 AMG C43 is a vehicle that is designed specifically for driving performance. The C43 sedan is a wonderful model but once again, I am drawn to the unique C43 wagon.
One of the main benefits of a wagon over an SUV is the lower centre of gravity – a wagon will provide much better handling in similar circumstances. Speaking of a lower centre of gravity, the ground clearance for the C43 is just under nine centimetres or 3.5 inches, meaning the vehicle sits precariously close to the ground.
The AMG C43’s bi-turbo 3.0-litre V-6 engine creates an impressive 385 horsepower and 384 foot-pounds of torque. The engine is punchy, responsive and can accelerate the car from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in just 4.8 seconds. Paired to the engine is a nine-speed AMG Speedshift TCT transmission with shift paddles that can downshift multiple gears with a double-click of the paddle.
There are multiple drive modes including Comfort, Slippery and Sport+, as well as a personalized mode the driver can set up individually. Driving the AMG C43 around curves is easy thanks to adaptive damping and the suspension that incorporates three-stage electronically-manoeuvred shock absorbers.
The 2020 AMG C43 is reasonably lightweight (1,760 kilograms) and corners exceptionally well thanks to a 69 per cent rear-axle torque bias. The brakes on this vehicle feature large, 360-millimetre multi-piston front calipers that help spread out the heat of braking.
Overall, the Audi S4 compares favorably but the C43 feels more updated and advanced. The BMW 3 Series may have been the standard in earlier years, but these days the 3 Series struggles from steering feel that is disconnected from the driver.
Fuel economy for the C43 is 8.9 litres/100 kilometres for highway driving and 12.4 l/100 km for the city. The limited warranty that comes with the C43 also only covers four years, or 80,000 km.
The starting price for the 2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 sedan is $59,900, and the wagon lists at $60,900. While there are no additional trim levels, add-ons quickly bring up the total price on both models.
The premium package alone is an extra $5,900 but adds 17 additional features including foot-activated tailgate, keyless entry, 360 degree camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Active Parking assist as well as others. Heads-up display costs a cool $1,500, while adding on climate comfort seats will set you back another $1,200. The Intelligent Drive Package with safety features will cost $2,700.
I’m in love with the C43 wagon, but wagon or sedan, the C43 delivers performance and smoothness that are truly world-class.