Daimler’s Mercedes-AMG division has largely made its name on theatrics: things like burly sounding engines, flashy styling add-ons, and wild performance. It’s practically the German equivalent of classic American muscle-car culture, as we saw with the latest C63 S coupe. Its 503-hp, twin-turbocharged V-8 makes a beastly noise and goes like stink, while its rear-wheel-drive setup makes tail-out antics a snap. It also looks the business with huge wheels and flared haunches that set it apart from lesser C-class coupes.
While the new Mercedes-AMG C43 coupe shares all but one digit in its name, it’s really a completely different animal, one considerably lower on the food chain. For this more accessible AMG variant, the V-8 is thrown out in favor of a twin-turbo V-6, while standard 4MATIC all-wheel drive means that you won’t be able to drift around quite so easily. The exterior look is restrained, too, with the same bodywork as the C300 coupe, undersize 18- or just-right 19-inch wheels, and subtler aesthetic addenda, such as a small lip spoiler on the rear deck and a diamond-look grille.
And yet, some AMG drama remains. The 362-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6, modified for performance duty with different turbochargers and AMG-specific tuning—compared with the same engine in applications such as the E400—moves the coupe with authority, delivering strong midrange torque and free-spirited revving to its 6550-rpm redline. An optional $700 sport exhaust makes for a fun soundtrack, cracking and popping on the overrun in Sport and Sport Plus modes. Of course, it doesn’t produce a rumble as distinctive as the C63’s V-8, but not every performance car needs to scare away small children and wake the neighbors.
Starting out at AMG’s Affalterbach headquarters—where most AMG engines, but not this AMG-lite twin-turbo V-6, are assembled by hand—our drive route through southern Germany took us on gently curving rural roads and included a few stints on the autobahn. On these smooth, well-maintained byways, at least, the C43’s suspension setup proved balanced and composed, never transmitting harsh impacts into the cabin yet keeping body motions well-controlled. Lateral grip is impressive, and the brake pedal is reassuringly firm. Based on this first impression, the C43’s ride quality is better than that of the C63, which can clomp over bumps, especially when equipped with its larger wheel setup that staggers 19-inch front wheels with 20-inch rears. We left the C43 in Sport mode most of the time, finding this setting to be a good compromise; Comfort softens the damping and lightens the steering, while Sport Plus is the stiffest chassis setting and also brings quicker, more aggressive shift mapping for the nine-speed automatic transmission. Complete review on www.caranddriver.com, by Manufacturer