Just over two months on from taking the keys to a Designo White Mercedes-AMG C43, I’m getting on swimmingly with the car. It’s been a mostly good experience thus far, and although there are a few niggles to report, they’re all fairly minor ones.
Here are the good and bad points to have stood out:
1. It’s not that economical
I wasn’t expecting the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 engine powering the C43 to be especially frugal, but it is a surprise that scraping over 30mpg is quite a struggle. Particularly when I’ve had 34 out of the V8-powered C63 before.
It’s only on much longer motorway journeys that it’s possible to hit a low-30s figure, and that’s if you’re careful. Even after the 100-mile point of a motorway run recently, a few seconds of wide-open throttle dropped the 31-and-a-bit number I’d managed by a good few tenths.
If you’re taking the car out for a proper blast, it’s safe to expect low teens. Overall the C43 has returned an average of 24mpg since we took delivery in March, even though the bulk of its mileage has been on motorways.
The payoff of the thirsty engine is the noise it makes. V6s are often a little dull, but there’s something nicely throaty and angry about the din from this one. The newer inline-six Mercedes has been using for its ‘half-fat’ ’43 and ’53 AMG models isn’t anything like as exciting in the sound department. The optional AMG Performance exhaust helps, but the base engine note is definitely a good one.
3. Shifting to drive or reverse requires a lot of brake pedal pressure
Quite often, I - rather embarrassingly - find myself accidentally revving the C43 in neutral, when all I’m trying to do is perform a three-point turn. That’s because you need to be putting your foot down hard on the brake pedal before switching from reverse to drive, or vice versa - otherwise it’ll just sit in neutral, with a little warning reminding you to apply the brake before making the selection. Even though you already are.
4. Manual gear changes above 6000rpm aren’t pleasant
Another quirk with the automatic gearbox comes if you’re taking manual control, something you can do with the press of a button which is - on right-hand drive cars - awkwardly obscured by the trackpad thing which surely no one uses.
That’s not the only problem, though - if you shift anything above 6000rpm, within the rather large ‘soft limiter’ zone, you get a weird, slow and slushy shift that makes this massively complicated nine-speed transmission feel like an old four-speeder from the early ‘90s.
5. There are loads of practical features in the boot
The virtue of having a sizeable boot isn’t the only thing that makes the C43 estate practical. Lift the tailgate (which is electric, obvs), and you’ll find all sorts of bits and pieces to make your life easier.
First off, there’s a cover that neatly rolls up as the boot lid rises. If you want to load the boot above the top of the rear seats, it’s easy to roll it away manually and lift a safety net up to stop your latest haul of Ikea goods becoming a bunch of tricky-to-pronounce Swedish projectiles.
There are hooks either side of the boot, which are handy if your journey home from the supermarket ends up becoming a little more dynamic than planned, and under the boot floor, there’s a fold-out basket plus a cargo net that can be attached to each corner of the boot. The latter feature is hardly ground-breaking, but as far as I’m concerned, every remotely fast car should - in an ideal world - have this. It’s surprising how many go without, leaving your luggage at the mercy of inertia.
6. Some of the sensors are over-zealous
‘Our’ C43 has the £1695 Driver Assistance pack fitted, which initially made me concerned I’d be constantly bothered by ‘false positives’ as we have been with the FK8 Honda Civic Type R we’re still running. Thankfully, Mercedes’ safety systems seem on the whole much more sophisticated than Honda’s.
That said, the parking sensors do chirp way more than they need to. I can’t get off my driveway without been confronted by many beeps and flashes about non-existent obstacles, and I’ve even had proximity warnings flash up for no apparent reason while sat in traffic.
Another problem concerns the speed limit recognition - if you have the adaptive cruise control switched on, the car will automatically reduce your speed if it detects a lower speed limit zone. Very clever, but the trouble is I’ve had several instances of the car braking surprisingly hard on motorways for 50mph or 40mph limits that simply aren’t there. It serves as an unnerving preview to what life might be like with the incoming mandatory speed limiters…
7. The navigation system constantly unmutes itself
This one’s a real pet peeve. I always turn navigation announcements off - I don’t find them helpful, and I don’t like having whatever music I have on either dipped in volume or muted entirely. The trouble is, you can’t - as far as I can work out - permanently mute the C43’s navigation. If you either navigate to a new destination or switch the car off and on again to resume your previous route, it’ll unmute itself.
8. The interior is one of the best things about it
Out of the German Big Three, it’s probably Mercedes that’s leading the way in the interior department. Audi cabins are slightly better built but comparatively dull, and over at BMW, even the more recently released models can feel oddly dated inside.
Most Mercs arejust right in this regard. The overall design of the C-Class’ interior is interesting, the materials - particularly the brushed aluminium of ‘our’ C43 - all feel nicely plush, and most importantly, the seats are amazingly comfortable.
A car with this kind of price tag needs to feel worth the money. Thankfully, the C43 does.
9. It's fast and capable without threatening the AMG hierarchy
With 384bhp on tap from its 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, giving a 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds, the C43 sounds pretty quick on paper. And IRL, the entry-level AMG C-Class really doesn’t leave you wanting for straight-line pace.
It’s a nice amount of power that’ll push you back in your seat, and yet you won’t find yourself lifting after a fleeting application of full throttle, fearful of an extremely awkward conversation with the local constabulary.
It also doesn’t threaten the standing of its V8-powered big brothers, either. When we tested the C43 against the C63 and C63 S, we found that the hierarchy works out quite nicely. The only trouble is the C43’s all-wheel drive system is a little too neutral - what you gain in all-weather ability you lose in engagement.
The conclusion? If you’re a proper petrolhead, it’s probably worth stretching to a ‘63. Even so, I’m excited about my remaining time with the C43, and all the stuff we have planned for it.
Watch this space…