/ 22 October 2022

Riding shotgun in the new Mercedes-AMG C43

21c0736 010
Aggressive: The Merc-AMG C43’s Panamericana grille, large side air vents and bonnet bulges make for a mean front end. Photo: Mercedes Benz AG

It always amazes me how enthusiasts will walk around with all the latest gadgets but won’t accept the fast-approaching future of electric vehicles (EVs), hybrids, and whatever time is left in the lifespan of internal combustion engines. Most premium brands are fully committed and even have set deadlines for when they’ll go full EV.

We recently drove to East London (from Gqeberha) to take a look at Merc’s new C43. After a three-year hiatus from most local travel thanks to the pandemic; it’s been a much-needed exercise. I hold the Mercedes Benz SA plant in the same high regard as the Volkswagen plant as they both build world-class cars in my home province, while creating much-needed jobs.

At first glance, one can’t be blamed for thinking it’s a C63. The styling cues are quite similar, however, in the previous generation it lacked a sporty boot spoiler — in fact, the entire look was laid back. The new AMG C43 looks aggressive with that Panamericana grille, massive side air vents and lower intake valance, and four muscular bonnet bulges that round off a mean-looking front end. The side-view silhouette is smoother, with just the new 20″ alloys and performance designation logos jumping out at you. The rear benefits from the standard two-a-side exhaust outlets, a boot spoiler, model designation and Affalterbach assurance badge on either side of the boot.

The interior isn’t really that far off the standard C-class, except for Sports seats in a mix of Alcantara and leather with detailed stitching, a sportier steering wheel with aluminium paddle shifters, and drilled sports pedals. The W206 has never really disappointed me in the looks department, but this C43 looks much better than its predecessor.

Under the skin is where it gets interesting and disappointing in equal measure. A 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo (plus battery assist) fettled to 300kW (310kW on overboost) of power and 500Nm of torque mated to a nine-speed automatic gearbox that sends power to all fours via Merc’s 4-Matic system. Sitting on the right-hand side as a passenger felt strange but how it all unravels is interesting; the car is pretty fast, thanks to Merc-AMG’s expertise in making small engines blisteringly quick. F1, anyone? Equally impressive is the takeoff with launch control, and the sound from the synthesisers makes up, to some extent, for the noise and personality that’s lost. Handling and on-road manners are excellent! The exterior soundtrack is what I was pretty much expecting, muted. I do hope that some aftermarket tuners will get their hands on it and make it pop. Overall, the C43 is impressive by today’s standards, and we’re sure the way it drives will win hearts rather than the way it sings.

And the Mercedes-AMG C63?

The words AMG C63 command serious respect and applause. We were afforded an up-close-and-personal sneak peek of what lies ahead for Merc-AMG’s super sedan. Enthusiasts are livid with the idea of a 2.0-litre motor strapped into the C63. It’s not ideal, sure, but what Mercedes-AMG has been able to extract from this engine is nothing short of phenomenal. There’s 500kW of power and a whopping 1 020Nm of torque, thanks to the engine working in tandem with the electric motor. 

Seeing the car in action erases all doubts about the engine size, and it does sound, shall we say, okay… 

At this stage, the vehicle is being built at the company’s East London plant for both domestic and export markets. However, the model is earmarked for launch locally in the fourth quarter of 2023, which is quite some way off still. Nonetheless, we hope that the long lead time will be worthwhile.