The evolution of the automotive industry has taken an interesting turn as we introduce more electric vehicles (EVs) to the equation. However, before EVs take over, automotive manufacturers have a few tricks up their sleeves with a virtual downsize to gas engines, introducing small turbocharged and mild hybrid 4-cylinder engines to replace V6 and V8 engines. Mercedes-Benz is one manufacturer that’s poised to utilize smaller displacements that still bring the power for their AMG models, such as the new C43 that I had a chance to check out this week.
The new styling of the redesigned Mercedes C Class is subtle but easily noticeable to the Benz fan base and many enthusiasts. There’s welcomed classiness retained in the design of the new C Class that remains mostly unmistakable for being a Mercedes. There’s also a unique play on the wheel design for my C43 test vehicle’s staggered 20-inch wheels.
The new Mercedes-AMG C43 fits in the performance mix to be a happy medium between the C 300 and the powerful C63. With that, the new C43, as the first AMG model for the recent 2022 model year C Class redesign, brings us an interesting package that now utilizes a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with a mild hybrid system. The powertrain works just well enough that you don’t miss the outgoing turbocharged V6 much. You get a nice kick of 402 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, followed up with a surprising sound that Mercedes-AMG engineers packed into the new AMG. Such a sounds is a remarkable feat as is the powertrain utilizing a mix of Formula 1 technology, which in return sounds rather menacing and throaty at times for a turbocharged 4-cylinder. In all, you must respect what Mercedes-AMG has done with this turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which is full of power throughout the rev range, even down low with minimal turbo lag. The new engine gets mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission that may cause a bit of jerkiness when dealing with the start/stop technology of the mild hybrid setup when coming to a stop or shutting down the engine when coasting and restarting it at lower speeds.
What is most interesting about the new AMG C43 is that it feels more like a real AMG vehicle in the cohesive feeling of its handling and overall dynamics. The power is plentiful as you can make a 0-60 mph run in 4 seconds flat utilizing the launch control and benefits of the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system that always transmits 69% of the power to the rear wheels and the remaining 31% to the front. Also, the mild hybrid starter-generator motor adds about 13 extra horsepower when full throttle is demanded.
Completing the cohesive dynamics of the C43 is its handling, which proved to be remarkable for a vehicle that slots in below the C63. There’s even rear-wheel steering, which is a first for a C Class vehicle. The rear-wheel steering isn’t as aggressive as you find on larger Benz vehicles, which is a good thing considering the C43 has a shorter wheelbase than something like the S Class or large GLS SUV equipped with rear steering. The suspension system with its adaptive dampers is more on the firmer side, something buyers of the C43 will have to keep in mind because even in the default Comfort mode, the ride is still a bit firm, and even more in the Sport or Sport+ drive modes. However, with the firmer setup, the C43 handles better and feels more connected to the road than any previous generation.
The Mercedes-AMG C43’s fuel economy lands right where I expected it to, often getting slightly better numbers than the EPA estimates of 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined. Using the clever start/stop system with the C43 being a mild hybrid affords many times of shutting down the engine and coasting until the front radar recognizes an approaching vehicle and then fires up the engine to produce engine drag to slow you down ever so slightly. The system is rather ingenious and smart, but it can be a bit cumbersome and jerky when crawling in slow stop-and-go traffic.
Mercedes is no stranger to stepping up the technology game and introducing forward-thinking tech inside new vehicles. The latest MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment unit is now fed through a portrait-oriented 11.9-inch touchscreen that waterfalls down the center of the dashboard is inviting and has a decent voice activation that controls a plethora of vehicle functions. The latest system proves to have a slight learning curve and seldomly has times of being slow to respond to some controls. However, the system is mostly responsive once you give some time to initially load, and the integration of USB-connected or wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto play nicely with the system while displaying a fixed set of onscreen climate control functions and often-used features within easy reach.
The interior seating areas seem to be somewhat reworked for better use of the space of the compact luxury sedan. The front power and heated seats are mostly comfy, but it does take a while to find your optimal driving or seating position up front. Use of the touch-sensitive power seat controls also takes a while to get used to, just before you find out that there’s a lot of power adjustability in the front seats, which is a good thing.
Reminding you of being in an AMG vehicle are a few special touches throughout the interior, such as the darkened vents, carbon fiber trim, and the accenting colors of the stitched AMG performance seats.
In the rear, the seats are mostly accommodating for a compact sedan, allowing just enough space for someone who is 6 feet tall like myself. Cargo space accessed by a power trunk lid is average, and there’s the convivence of folding down the rear 60/40-split seat backs at the touch of a button.
Mercedes brings all the expected active safety features to the AMG C43, with the highlights being the ultra-wide angle 360-degree camera system and an adaptive cruise control with lane keeping assist system that proves to be very proactive about reading the road lines. You also have the typical blind-spot monitors with intervention, evasive steering assistance, forward collision warning with emergency braking, lane departure mitigation, and cross-traffic alert with emergency braking.
The beauty of the new Mercedes-AMG C43 is not just its positioning ahead of the normal C 300 and below the C63, but it finally feels like it is worth its merit in being the entry-level of AMG vehicles. With that, the price of my nicely loaded-up test vehicle coming in at $70,020, which includes the destination/delivery charge of $1,150, isn’t such a bad deal considering the collective of what you get in the full C43 package. Not to mention, the C43 starts at $59,900 before any fees or options.