Halfway between the standard C-Class and the bonkers AMG V8 hot versions lies the C43 AMG. Mercedes’ C-Class has plenty of history: the first C-Class badge appeared in 1993, taking on the BMW 3 Series in the process as another compact premium German machine. It was the first “baby Benz”, and stayed that way until the A-Class popped onto the scene, in the meantime undergoing multiple iterations with multiple engines.
AMG first breathed on the C-Class in 1995, creating the C36 AMG saloon and estate. They had a 3.6-litre straight-six engines developing 280 horsepower, a decent sum in the mid-nineties, but, unhappy with a sub-300bhp headline figure, AMG created the 306bhp C43 in 1997. And now we have today’s version…
It’s a sober interior, bar the red seatbelts and matching stitching, which suits this grown-up warm four-door coupe/saloon. The space inside comes as a surprise - there’s plenty room in the rear and a big boot.
There’s a collection of digital dials behind the busy AMG-festooned steering wheel, and Mercedes’ traditional auto transmission lever on the steering wheel. The infotainment system is Merc’s standard system, set in this car on a floating screen rather than laid into the dash. It's worth noting that Mercedes has a great factory navigation, which isn’t always a given these days, even in pricey cars.
Is this a true AMG machine, or an exercise in marketing? We’d say the former: while petrolheads will scoff at the absence of a V8, it still feels and sounds the part, and bridges the gap between the standard sporty C-Class and the fuel-downing V8. Whatever the purists say, it’s a hit with customers.
Under the bonnet is the company’s bi-turbo 3.0-litre V6 developing 390 horsepower and 520Nm (385lb ft) of torque, giving it a 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds, which feels suitably AMG-ish. The automatic transmission is swift, and there’s four-wheel-drive with rear-wheel bias for as much sporting character as someone still after good traction will get.
It feels quiet and refined on the move, with enough distant exhaust growl to remind you you’re in something a little spritelier than a standard C-Class.
This is another purchase for the head (and the wallet) rather than the heart, but as any adult knows all too well, sometimes you can’t have everything you want. In our case would always be a howling V8.
Instead, the twin-turbo V6 gives you plenty of power at a better price, both on the forecourt and at filling station.
While it loses some dynamic edge to the likes of BMW, what you gain is the comfort and ease of travel associated with a grand tourer. Maybe we’re getting old, but space and tranquillity sometimes trump outright pace.