Bi-turbo V6 powering AMG’s ‘entry-level’ 43-Series produces a scintillating soundtrack. Does this render the C63 redundant?
Downsizing has been a universal theme adopted by the car industry for the past decade. In theory, the goal is to simply reduce the size of engines and the emissions that come with them while increasing performance and efficiency – a dark art of turning dirt into gold in the eyes of technological heathens.
Forced induction, direct injection and space-age materials have helped realise this objective to such a degree that downsizing is now commonplace in high performance vehicles. But old habits die hard, even for the biggest revolutionaries amongst us.
Mercedes-AMG, we’re looking at you. The AMG 45 series range of track-ready compact cars proves that your turbocharging game is absolutely on point. Seriously, who else can extract over 190bhp per litre from a four-pot engine?
43 is less than 45, which is true in the case of the horsepower and torque in this lovely scarlet example of a C43 AMG Coupe. However, be prepared to be blown away once you pop the hood open. You’ll find a three-litre V6 with twice the number of turbochargers as the A45’s two-litre four-cylinder screamer of an engine. And the C43’s bi-turbo V6 only makes a ‘modest’ 367bhp in contrast to the A45’s 381.
The puzzle continues from the engine bay into the driver’s seat, where the absence of electronic seat adjustment doesn’t feel quite right in a Mercedes, let alone one priced at half-a-million Ringgit. It’s a curious feature to have gone missing given that the steering rack moves at the touch of a button while the beautifully milled speaker covers of an expensive Burmester audio system are fitted an inch away from where we expected to find the seat controls. But all of the confusion stayed in the parking lot we were about to vacate after what we heard next. No, it wasn’t the radio.
The throttle was the play button here – it moonlighted as the volume knob as well. Even though the C43’s three-litre V6 is the only powerplant in AMG’s roster that isn’t manufactured in Affalterbach, it’s more than qualified for AMG duty, acoustically at least. Unlike the ‘forced’ wail and burble you get in the 45-series, this engine croons the forgotten song of a good old V6. Against the sheer amplitude of the brawnier C63, the C43’s softer chorus is equally guttural but better measured. Comparing the two is like pitting the late Chris Cornell against Megadeth. And it’s obvious which we like more.
There is more to the C43 Coupe’s quality as a purist’s sportscar than its ability to play some chords without unfriending the neighbours. Its soundtrack is accompanied by genuine talent on the straights. And while its 4.7-second century sprint isn’t quite as explosive as the smaller A45’s 4.2, there is a sublime naturally aspirated sensation to the way the M276 mill channels its power to all four wheels – yes, the C43 is equipped with 4Matic, but more on that later. The two turbos certainly help generate extra torque when you need it, but you get the impression the throaty V6 is perfectly capable of mobilising the 1.8-tonne Merc on its own.
If Mercedes-AMG deems AWD necessary for its 45-series models, employing the same architecture for its 43-series cars is a no brainer given that the latter has more twist with 520Nm on tap. Sure, it adds a few pounds and retards the coupe’s ability to turn tyres into smoke, but the 4Matic system strikes a harmonious pact with the powertrain to deliver composed performance and dynamism that can be appreciated by Sunday drivers and track enthusiasts alike.
At this point, it may seem like we’re saying the AMG C-Class Coupe, which for all its likeable traits, is still ultimately a lesser C63. This is true where brute force as well as visual and aural theatrics are concerned. But there are areas where the C43 comes into its own and excels as a separate product, areas of excellence which make this entry-level AMG a thoroughly better vehicle for the daily grind.
Reduced vocal hostility aside, the C43 AMG is a generally comfier car all around. It rides on AMG Ride Control adaptive dampers like the C63, but the C43’s ride just feels a touch less rigid than its big brother’s. This is a good thing because the rear seats of the C-Class Coupe are perfectly habitable for the average Malaysian adult.
Comfort can also be expressed in how easy the car is to operate, which is true in the C43’s case thanks to its 9G-Tronic automatic which has shorter and more efficient ratios than the 7-speed MCT (dual-clutch transmission) that regulates the C63’s rearward-bound 510bhp. In case you’re thinking the 9-speeder is too ‘pedestrian’ for an AMG, it’s worth noting the transmission is capable of multiple downshifts and double de-clutching in Sport and Sport Plus driving modes.
And then there is the width of the car which correlates to how it looks and how easy it is to manoeuvre in and out of narrow spaces. Because the C43 does without the C63’s wide fenders, it can be harder to tell it apart from a regular C Coupe. However, this slimmer profile (1,811mm vs the C63’s 1,877mm) also makes parking and weaving between tight traffic less of a chore. So if you like subtlety and dislike tipping the jockey, that’s two points in the favour of the C43.
Furthermore, because we drive on public roads strewn with potholes and reckless drivers more often than on an FIA-graded circuit, the C43 makes a more compelling case than the C63 as the AMG-fettled C-Class Coupe to own, if you’re thinking practically. You’ll also be saving RM225k in the process, but even that isn’t the real music to your calculating ears. We’ll leave that to the glorious-sounding bi-turbo V6. And that’s all pure emotion.
OR TRY THIS
Porsche 911 Carrera
Also powered by a bi-turbo six-cylinder mill, but this rear-engine coupe costs over RM300k more
Engine: 2,996cc, V6 bi-turbo, 367bhp, 520Nm, AWD
Economy: 8.0L/100km, 183g/km CO2
Performance: 0-100kph in 4.7secs, 250kph
Entry-level only in terms of straight-line performance. Everything else is a textbook description of what a proper sports coupe should be, making it one of AMG’s more mature offerings to date.