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2023 Mercedes-AMG C43 first drive review

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Do you care how your microwave works, or do you just need it to heat things up?

Mercedes-AMG hopes customers appreciate tech inside the new C43 sports sedan, including an electric turbocharger with ties to Formula 1.

But the result does not match the Grand Prix team’s enormous success.

This new machine ditches the twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 found in the outgoing model in favour of a turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit with mild hybrid power. It makes 300kW and 500Nm, a little more power but less torque than the outgoing car.

A clever turbo is the key to doing more with less. Helped by a small electric motor that spins the turbo to minimise lag, the four-cylinder engine works hard to deliver a 4.6 second sprint to 100km/h, besting the previous model by one tenth of a second.

High-voltage electrical architecture and a belt-driven integrated starter generator combine to produce an extra 10kW when required, and to reduce fuel use.

The mild hybrid motor is the C43’s central selling point. It also brings 20-inch wheels, bigger brakes, multi-mode sports suspension and other additions that help justify a significant price premium over lesser models.

Passengers are spoiled with the best safety and assistance systems you’ll find in a car at this price, along with an impressive digital dashboard and head-up display.

The cabin is the class of the field, with an 11.9-inch central screen similar to what you’ll find in the latest S-Class. It works beautifully, with cleverly integrated features such as “augmented reality” navigation that overlays graphics on a live video feed of the road ahead so that you know exactly where to turn.

A pumping stereo, multi-coloured mood lighting and superb ergonomics win points for Mercedes. But you can get all those features in a lesser C-Class. Priced from a stout $134,900 plus on-road costs (about $145,000 drive-away), the C43 is about $50,000 more than a standard C-Class sedan. It’s also about $30,000 more than capable rivals in the Audi S4 and BMW M340i.

The latter could prove to be a problem for Benz dealers, as it’s cheaper, faster, uses less fuel, and has a soaring six-cylinder soundtrack the C-Class can’t match.

Historically, the main reason for buying an AMG lies under the bonnet. When every model in the C-Class range has a four-cylinder engine – even the performance cars – those famous letters don’t have their regular appeal.

Most AMG models sound great, but the flat, digitally augmented tune from the C43 is not musical or even vociferous.

The motor feels uninspiring, and frankly, not even that quick, unless you’re absolutely up it. Even then, peak torque does not arrive until 5000rpm shows on the rev counter. It’s willing enough when you press on, but less inspiring in regular driving. That 2.0-litre motor lacks the effortless punch of its predecessor – or rivals that still have six-cylinder engines.

It’s also surprisingly thirsty, with Mercedes claiming 9.1L/100km fuel economy that creeps into double digits in the real world.

A nine-speed AMG multi-clutch transmission snaps through full-throttle gear changes with gusto, but feels surprisingly jerky at low speed, particularly in stop-start traffic.

Engine aside, the C43’s ride can be overly floaty in comfort mode and busy in sports settings, lacking the supple movement of less expensive models with softer suspension.

It steers accurately and has plenty of braking power, feeling planted and predictable on a particularly trying test route. An hour on the highway played to its strengths, particularly when a snarl outside Sydney slowed traffic to walking pace.

In those sort of circumstances, the C43 stacks up as a capable and polished luxury sedan. But as a performance car with “technology derived directly from F1”?

Like non-ionising radiation from the magnetron in your microwave, the tech is undoubtedly impressive.

But this result leaves us cold.


A peerless cabin and strong tech impress, but the C43 falls short of AMG’s finest work.

Three stars


PRICE About $145,000 drive-away

ENGINE 2.0L 4-cyl turbo, 300kW and 500Nm

SAFETY 10 airbags, front and rear auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert

THIRST 9.1L/100km

CARGO 455 litres

SPARE Space saver

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