Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe: the 8000-mile long-term test verdict

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Month 9 of our Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe long-term test review: the verdict is in

So the C43 heads home and I finally get to answer the question I posed at the very start: is it really worthy of the hallowed AMG name plate or is it a repmobile in sports-casual wear?

To answer this definitively and attempt to draw some sort of conclusion, I thought it only proper to put it up against a C63 S Coupe in the week before it left. Clearly there’s a difference between the two: eight cylinders to six, about 150bhp, rear-wheel drive on the 63 along with more AMG-branded musculature inside and out, and that associated feeling of smugness every time it starts up and all the birds in the trees burst into the air in panic.

Clearly, the fabulous C63 AMG is a better car, and it has every right to be seeing as it’s nearly £25,000 more expensive, but then there are plenty of areas where the 43 can hold its own. For a start, that V6 may not have the pounding roar of the V8, but in Sports Plus mode it screams and crackles. It’s a different soundtrack, but still exhilarating.

And although the 43 can’t hold a candle to the 63 in terms of acceleration or handling, it makes up for that by being fantastically versatile. Driving it every day through wintry thick and summery thin, it was docile as a labrador when it suited, and vicious as a pit bull when the mood required it. Perhaps I’m getting old and don’t push hard enough, but it’s not one of those four-wheel-drive cars that tends easily towards understeer: it holds its line very accurately and gamely, while on a wet road its grip would make the 63 seem highly strung. 

This all makes it a great all-rounder. More extreme cars such as the 63 are great in ideal conditions. I’d contend the 43 is the ideal car more of the time. And while it may not have all the AMG trinkets, you sit lower and more comfortably in the 43, and I prefer its slimmer steering leather wheel too, although I’d like a bit more muscle to the bodywork.

Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe long-term test review by CAR magazine and Steve Moody

So you might conclude from all of this that I’m a fan of the 43. I am. I thought it was a brilliant car. The elephant in the room is the gearbox change after barely 800 miles. Clearly not ideal by any stretch, and I hope that should this happen to an actual paying customer, rather than pampered journo, you’d get the same superb treatment I got.

When it came back from Mercedes Car Hospital, it never missed a beat again, and in fact there was nothing else about the 43 that even threatened to glitch or break. So I shall put that down to a freak occurrence and move on, because the rest of the time with the car was joyful.

The question of whether this is a true AMG depends not on the 43, but on your view of AMG. Some seem to think that AMG should be reserved for many-cylindered cars that scare the living daylights out of you – I seemed to take a bit of stick on that Twitter thing about it from some correspondents for even daring to run a C43 AMG. 

But I beg to differ. Times have changed, and AMG has changed. The last few years have seen its sports cars become more nuanced and balanced, because customers want to be thrilled and use the things every day, and to my mind the C43 AMG is a perfect example of the breed. The C63 and 43 both went back within a couple of days of each other. I loved the 63 – it’s a bonkers, passionate love affair that ends spectacularly. But the car I’ll really miss every day, the one you’d marry for the long term, in sickness and health, is the wonderful C43.

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe 4matic

Price £47,650
As tested £56,870
Engine 2996cc 24v twin-turbo V6, 360bhp @ 5500rpm, 378lb ft @ 2000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 4.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 183g/km CO2
Miles this month 865
Total 8242
Our mpg 28.6
Official mpg 35.3
Fuel this month £176.61
Extra costs None

Counting the cost: Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe depreciation

Cost new £56,870 (including £9220 of options)
Private sale price £33,450
Part-exchange price £31,765
Cost per mile 20.4p
Cost per mile including depreciation £3.24

Month 8 living with a C43 Coupe: how comfy are the seats?

I’m not convinced by the colour of the leather seats in the C43, which started out as a deep red but have aged into a darker Farah Stay-Press Burgundy, which seems a bit old-mannish. 

Comfy seats in our Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe

Having said that (and perhaps in keeping with their hue) they are exceptionally comfortable, and actually sit you much lower in the car that the optional stitched AMG chairs which look fabulous but have been stuffed with testosterone and girders, making them very hard.

Being made of Artico rather than real cow, they’re also very hardy, which means resistance to stains created by the grubby sproglets cavorting in the rear. 

See also  Mercedes X-Class long-term test: our year-long verdict

By Steve Moody

Month 7 of our Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe long-term test: driver aids

Bong! I know I’m approaching a car quickly – I’m in an AMG. Instead Merc should have an AMG Driving Assistance Package, something less panicky and more encouraging than some of the regular Merc’s driving assistance systems, like having Bernd Schneider sat next to you: ‘Floor it, beat those lights!’ or ‘Don’t brake, there’s ages before that corner!’ At least there’s an AMG menu in the trip computer, so you can track your g-forces or lap times (or, more plausibly, your school-run times).

Merc C43 AMG Coupe

But there is some tech that is very useful. For a start this car’s infotainment is too old to be afflicted by the addition of Apple CarPlay, surely one of the most glitchy, wobbly systems you can have. So instead I’m on Bluetooth and it works perfectly. I like the touch-sensitive pad too, which lets you change tracks using just a flick of your index finger.

I’ve gone all virtual as well. The head-up display, an £825 optional extra, shows speed, revs and gearchange. I can’t remember the last time I looked at the dials to see what was going on. I’d be lost without it, especially in manual mode, where it lights up like Piccadilly Circus as you approach the rev limit. It’s especially useful in this car, as the first few gears are very, very short. Of all the options, I’d say this is the one to have.

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe

Price £47,650 
As tested £56,870 
Engine 2996cc twin-turbo V6, 360bhp @ 5500rpm, 378lb ft @ 2000rpm 
Transmission 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive 
Performance 4.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 183g/km CO2 
Miles this month 974
Total 5261
Our mpg 28.1 
Official mpg 35.3 
Fuel this month £191.35 
Extra costs None

Month 6 living with a Merc C43: lack of an AMG badge doesn’t have to mean an absence of performance

You may think I’m a right old sell-out, but I’ve become very comfortable with the C43: homely Mercedes pipe, slippers and cocoa rather than wicked AMG whips, chains and tequila.

Our C43 comes equipped with Distronic Plus active cruise control and Steering Assist, which combine to let you set it up to follow other cars and lock itself into a lane. On motorways, especially when they’re busy and slow moving, I’ve taken to switching all this stuff on and letting the car do as much of the work as possible. 

Browse thousands of Mercedes C-class for sale

It’s hardly ever scared me, although it does leave it later than I would to apply the brakes. But on a long trip, giving a few per cent of my limited brain power a rest seems to have an exponential effect in how refreshed I feel at the end of the journey.

As a trade-off, I have taken to switching everything to full loony Sport Plus level every time nice winding A-roads are clear: it makes all sorts of explosions, bangs and screams as you speed up and slow down. I took some stick from Twitterers about this not being a proper AMG – trust me, in psycho mode with the nursemaiding switched off, the C43 is wild.

By Steve Moody

Month 5 of our Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe long-term test review: the details matter

We’ve lived with the C43 halfway-house performance coupe for nearly half a year now. Time to pore over all the details and discuss some of the finer points of our £50k coupe. Daily life has revealed plenty about the C43 – so read on as Steve Moody discusses some of the small print about life with the 3.0-litre V6 C-class.

Perving at other people’s bulges

The CAR magazine Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe and Steve Moody

I have been enviously eyeing up other people’s bulges, feeling rather inadequate at my lack of tumescence. Unlike various E-Class Coupes and the C63, the C43 has the flaccid bonnet metalwork of the standard Coupe. I’m thinking of going Max Power and gaffa-taping a couple of drainpipes on it by way of compensation.

Pipe up, or pipe out

Fake exhaust trim finishers hide the real pipe count on our Mercedes C43

The C43 looks like it’s sporting four near-rhomboidal pipes, but if you get on your hands and knees and peer there’s actually only two hidden behind the cladding. Fortunately, it sounds amazing with the Sport exhaust engaged (and even more manic in Sport Plus mode). So, being a bit of an unreconstructed teenager, I drive everywhere with it switched on.

Through a reversing camera, darkly

Reversing camera on our Mercedes-AMG C43: a bit gloomy in the dark, frankly

There’s a couple of practical shortcomings: you can’t open the boot with the key or by using the button on the door, and the reversing camera in the dark is as good as useless. It makes everything look like a particularly grim scene in an Ingmar Bergman film.

Short shifting

The driver settings on the Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe: pick the driving mode that suits your mood

Now that I have nine gears, I’ve been using the manual shift in Sport Plus because otherwise it only wants to shift at maximum revs. But you really need to have your wits about you as the first three or four gears are incredibly short. The shift indicator on the head-up display helps a bit, but lose focus for a split second and you hit the limiter like a brick wall.

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe

Price £47,650
As tested £56,870
Engine 2996cc twin-turbo V6, 360bhp @ 5500rpm, 378lb ft @ 2000rpm
Transmission 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 4.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 183g/km CO2
Miles this month 1339
Total 3499  
Our mpg 27.8
Official mpg 35.3
Fuel this month £273.71
Extra costs None

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Month 4 running a Merc C43 Coupe: 4wd, mud and traction aplenty

We sent ourselves into exile at the bottom of a valley this winter, with the only escape routes permanently covered in black ice or a film of slick mud. 

Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe vs winter

If we’d run a Mercedes-AMG C63, I’d have been forced to spend more time indoors than Julian Assange, but the C43’s four-wheel drive happily handles it all, with a delicate touch: you rarely have all four wheels clumsily driving you away from an apex, there’s hardly ever understeer and it feels rear-biased.

In Comfort mode it’s pliant and engaging and in these conditions would leave most things in its muddy wake.

By Steve Moody

Read more Mercedes-Benz long-term tests by CAR magazine

Month 3 of our Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe long-term test: a transmission fault!

So the C43 AMG comes with the ubiquitous 9G-tronic gearbox that can be found in Mercs of all shapes and sizes the world over. Unfortunately, though, after less than 800 miles of gentle running in, ours had devoured itself and for the last three miles before it was unceremoniously carted away on the back of a truck, it was operating as a 1G-tronic, with seventh gear its only operating cog.

Keeper Steve Moody and the CAR magazine Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe

The car came pretty much straight off the boat to me, with barely 100 miles on it, and I resisted the urge to thrash it from the off, figuring that a few weeks of old fashioned self-control would be paid back in spades over the next eight months. Everything was fine for the first couple of hundred miles and then, every now and again, particularly on downshifts, and even with only 2000 revs or so, the odd change would bang home like a runaway steam train in a shunting yard. Odd, and a bit disconcerting.

I had a chat with some technical people at Mercedes-Benz and they said that sometimes it can take up to 1000 miles for the gearbox to bed in and fully smooth out. Then one day I had to go on a 300-mile round trip and the shunting got worse. I took to using the paddles to try to smooth out the changes, which helped a bit, but then I got stuck in traffic and the stop-start went haywire, revving crazily and then stopping dead, requiring a full manual ignition restart.

The upshifts then joined the party. It would refuse to change, select neutral, the revs would hit the redline, before dropping and shifting into the next gear. Oddly, you would then get 30 shifts in a row that were absolutely fine. And being a car with nine gears, it shifts a lot. When you’re expecting carmageddon on every change, that’s a pretty stressful existence.

By good grace, when it went really terminal I was off the A1 and driving the country lanes near my home. I was determined to get it back to the safety of my drive, which meant seventh gear no matter what corner or T-junction presented itself. The biturbo engine is wonderfully elastic and even in seventh it could pull at 25mph, and with some empty roads and some fortunately unpopulated junctions I managed it.

Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe instruments

It went straight back to Mercedes HQ and not through a dealer. I scoured the internet and everywhere else I could think of, but it seems there are very few reported issues of any type with this gearbox, especially on such a low-mileage car. After a week or so I got a call saying that it was a faulty internal pressure valve – the first time they had seen this problem, they reckoned – and that due to its newness the whole box and torque converter was going to be replaced, just to be on the safe side. Blimey.

So three weeks later, the C43 is back with me and working like clockwork. Being English and so predisposed to guilt, I’m just so glad I drove it gently to start with: if I’d done the usual thing and thrashed it from the off I probably would have blamed myself and been racked with remorse. Main thing is, (rather large) problem solved. Now it’s time to find out what this car can really do…

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe

Engine 2996cc 24v twin-turbo V6, 360bhp @ 5500rpm, 378lb ft @ 2000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Specs 4.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 183g/km CO2
Price £47, 650
As tested £56,780
Miles this month 486
Total 1035
Our mpg 28.6
Official mpg 35.3
Fuel this month £98.20
Extra costs None

Month 2 running a Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe: is it lairy enough?

One question we want to answer with the C43 is whether it really is a true, bonkers AMG. So far, the jury is out on my car as I’ve been tootling along running it in, but those nice people at Mercedes-Benz invited me to Silverstone to compare it (well, a run-in one, not ours) to some other AMG trinkets. 

Driving the Coupe and Saloon back to back on track it’s clear the two-door car is much stiffer than the four, which means it is far less prone to body roll and regains its composure far more quickly, which is a nice distinction between the two.

See also  Mercedes A-class A200 CDI Sport (2013) long-term test review

Mercedes-AMG C43 sitting inside

The track was pretty greasy, and in these conditions the C43 didn’t give much up to a C63 Coupe either, because you could lay the four-wheel-delivered power down much more efficiently than in the rear-driven 63, and it tucked the nose in nicely with little understeer. Although if the 63 finds traction, it is spectacularly fast in comparison. 

This will be an interesting characteristic of this car: I think in everyday use it will be the match of the 63 (especially if you press the barky exhaust button) but it doesn’t have the top-end fireworks.

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe

Engine 2996cc 24v twin-turbo V6, 360bhp @ 5500rpm, 378lb ft @ 2000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Specs 4.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 183g/km CO2
Price £47, 650
As tested £56,780
Miles this month 304
Total 549
Our mpg 28.6
Official mpg 35.3
Fuel this month £60.40
Extra costs None

Month 1 running a Mercedes-AMG Coupe: the start of our long-term test review

AMG: when I think of those three little letters, I think of 50 years of noise and power, and a plenty of very un-Germanic daftness.

To me, AMG cars should be shamelessly extreme, the pinnacle of how a Mercedes-Benz can be brutalised, and I shudder at the dilution of the brand with some wobbly and garish SUVs, while recently there has been more bastardising of the badge with AMG-Line diesel mile-munchers pretending to sport 400bhp but delivering a steady 60mpg instead.

So when the opportunity came up to drive an AMG car for an extended period of time, we could have gone for some sort of 63, and the end result of the test would be that we went sideways a lot, got scared a lot, made a lot of noise and had a lot of fun, and spent a lot. I think we know how the story would flesh out.

Instead, I was intrigued by the 43 range. I’d driven an E43 AMG Estate to Le Mans this year and found it to be a marvellous everyday balance of power and practicality, but felt in the end it was ever so slightly clinical, and I longed for the 63, which I utterly adore.

So the C43 AMG Coupe became the subject of interest. For a start, while it might make nearly 40bhp less than the E43, it’s much lighter and more nimble, and the noisy bits are nowhere near as far away. My hope is that this will make it feel a less vanilla alternative to its bonkers brother, the C63, than the E43 does to the E63. 

It gives up more than 100bhp to the C63, but there are some crucial elements that I hope will make it a better long term bet. For a start it has four-wheel drive, and I’ve got this car over a winter in the countryside. I’ve driven the rear-drive C63 in heavy rain and you’ve more chance of teaching Shakespeare to a tantrumming toddler than making the 63 behave. Also, it has a claimed combined fuel consumption of 35mpg, and as my kids are on gruel rations for the foreseeable due to the debt I incurred running a Bentley, this feels like an eco special in comparison.

CAR magazine's Steve Moody and our Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe

With an on-the-road price of £47,650, the C43 AMG Coupe is not cheap, but it does sit in that middle ground that Audi has pretty successfully fenced off for itself in recent years with S cars. The question is: will it feel like an AMG at the end of it?

The issue may coalesce around the engine, which only sports six cylinders, and has a displacement of less than three litres! Once, not long ago, this would have seemed an utter abomination for an AMG, but such is the pace of downsizing that a twin-turbo six seems positively gluttonous these days, so let’s hope it delivers a suitably AMG-ish experience. So far, even while gently running it in, the bark of the sports exhaust is suitably fruity.

This car is also fitted with the Premium Package (£2995), which has a Burmester surround sound system, panoramic glass roof, memory seats and keyless entry, and well as a Driving Assistance package (£1695) which will employ radar, cameras and computers in a bid to stop me crashing, and a head-up display (£825).

There’s also privacy glass (£385), 19-inch bi-colour alloys (£595), cranberry red leather (£795) and the rather lovely and sparkly Selenite grey metallic paint (£685). They combine to make the C43 look a very attractive car. It’s nowhere near as muscular as the 63, lacking the width, aero flim-flammery and steroidal bonnet ducting, but it is handsome nevertheless.

But this will be the big thing: will I grow to love this car for itself, or will it prove to be mid-table mediocrity, not-a-63 – and thus not a real AMG?

By Steve Moody

More Mercedes-Benz reviews by CAR magazine

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About Tim Pollard

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A tech enthusiast and content writer, has a knack for simplifying complex technical information. He enjoys researching and writing about the latest gadgets and technology trends. He has a degree in computer science and is experienced in creating content for tech blogs and websites.

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