The rising sales of crossover utility vehicles often come at the expense of sedan sales, which are slowing. That makes sense because crossover vehicles drive like a car yet have more space for hauling people and things.
If you’re an automotive enthusiast that needs room for four, however, few vehicles are more appealing than an agile, athletic midsize sedan. That’s why a car such as the Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 sedan is so engaging. With a twin-turbocharged V-6 engine, 362 horsepower and a performance suspension, it can pack the punch of a sports car while still having room for four people. The 4.3-liter engine delivers 384 pound-feet of torque so throttle response is almost immediate. The car is capable of reaching 60 miles per hour in 4.6 seconds and has a top track speed electronically limited to 130 mph.
The C-Class is the top-selling Mercedes-Benz model series and it is a direct competitor to cars such as the BMW 3-series and Audi A4. It comes in coupe, convertible and sedan configurations. The sedan is offered in five variations, starting with the C300 at $39,500; the C300 4Matic at $41,500; the AMG C43 sedan at $52,000; the AMG C63 at $65,200; and the AMG C63S at $72,800. The test car was an AMG C43 with a sticker price of $63,070.
The C-Class was redesigned in 2015. The wheelbase was extended three inches, to 111.8. The extra length means there is slightly more room for backseat passengers although that space is still on the cozy side. The new model is also 200 pounds lighter than before due to extensive use of aluminum.
Mercedes has given the C43 five selectable drive modes—Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual. Eco gives the best fuel economy but throttle response is softer and the transmission shifts into higher gears more quickly. Comfort is the default setting and it is a good everyday setting. When you select Sport the car gets livelier and Sport Plus is like a double-shot espresso: The exhaust gets louder, the engine sparkles with energy and the nine-speed automatic transmission changes gears like a racer. The Individual mode lets the driver mix and match settings according to personal taste, such as choosing the comfort suspension with the Sport Plus engine tuning.
The C43 is a balanced package of performance, comfort and technology. The suspension delivers a firm ride and the optional 19-inch wheels with summer performance tires let it carve through turns with precision. The steering is light but direct and the big brakes scrub off speed with ease. The 4Matic all-wheel drive system is beneficial in all conditions but especially useful when the roads are wet, icy or covered with snow.
Inside, the C43 has nicely contoured sports seats in front and they provide excellent lateral and lumbar support. The test car was silver so the dark red seats added a nice bit of spice. An 8.4-inch color LCD screen sits in the center of the dash like a tablet computer. It is not a touch screen because Mercedes-Benz feels operating a touch-screen can be distracting. The console has a mouse-like touch pad and a rotary knob for operating audio and navigation, but the system can also be managed with voice commands. The steering wheel has fingertip controls as well. The navigation system has five years of traffic and weather services provided by SiriusXM.
Technology is increasingly important in today’s vehicles and the C43 has several features to make driving safer. Items such as lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and collision prevention assist that applies the brakes when needed are all valuable. Attention assist learns a driver’s habits and sends an alert if it thinks the driver is not paying attention or is drowsy.
2017 Mercedes-Benz AMG C43
Engine: 3.0-liter, 362-horsepower biturbo V-6
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
4MATIC all-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 111.8 inches
Curb weight: 3,759 pounds
Base price: $52,000
As driven: $63,070
MPG rating: 20 in the city, 28 on the highway