Knowing Mercedes-Benz, it could have been deliberate. Or it might have been just the way things shook out. But between the regular C300 with its perfectly nice turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engines and the awe-inspiring C63 and C63 S models (469 and 503 hp, respectively, from twin-turbo 4.0L V-8s), there's a lot of dead air and huge differences in price. The answer to this conundrum is 43.
That's the designation for a new engine, a 3.0L V-6 enhanced by twin turbochargers to generate 362 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. One of AMG's hallmarks is its "one man, one engine" philosophy where the sole technician who assembled each unit attaches a personalized plaque. That's not the case with the 43. In non-AMG guise, it's a regular Mercedes-Benz engine. In AMG form, it means the factory-built regular turbo V-6 receives bigger blowers with specific boost pressure, modified engine management, and low-friction cylinder liners made from the same proprietary material used in Mercedes-AMG's Formula One engines.
The 43 version also brings some AMG performance and styling into a more affordable bracket. In theory, this might seem like a dilution of the AMG brand. In practice, it's too much fun to be quite so dismissive.
In a car with compact dimensions like the C-Class, this amount of power really wakes up the chassis and is probably as much muscle as any reasonable human being driving on public roads ever needs. A C43 is the perfect mix of suspension, dimensions, and combustion.
The sedan is, naturally, the most practical of the three body styles, but still looks cool. Trunk space (if you're really serious about this model) is a fair-to-middling 12.6 cubic feet. The convertible (or cabriolet) can seat four, power-folds the fabric roof into its happy place in 20 seconds and at speeds of up to 31 mph, then does a fine job of not sand-blasting its occupants, despite the lack of wind deflector. That's smart design right there.
The real star of the trio, though, is the coupe. And here's a conundrum that doesn't have such a cut and dried answer. It's heavier than the sedan, although lighter than the cabriolet (3,935, 3,759, and 4,145 pounds, respectively). The ride height is lower by 0.95 of an inch (which, admittedly, is pretty significant). But the track is only wider than the sedan by 0.2 of an inch up front and 0.1 of an inch out back. Also, the wheel/tire combination is the same. Likewise, the steering system.
Yet there's a poise and fluidity to the coupe that makes a driver want to stay in that seat and head for the restaurant at the end of the universe. The degrees of difference among the three are not huge. They're all absolute pleasures to drive. But the coupe has some extra-subtle seduction coming from somewhere.
Just like its siblings, the C43 coupe enjoys an all-wheel-drive system that sends 31 percent of torque to the front axle and 69 percent to the rear-under normal driving circumstances. Naturally, the software involved will direct power to those wheels with the most traction when circumstances become a little hotter. To power this thing out of a corner is one of the best parts of anybody's day.
The nine-speed dual-clutch transmission has also been fortified by AMG to deal with the peak torque that comes in at an agreeably low 2,000 rpm. Left to its own devices, the shifts are so fast and adept that they're more perceptible by listening to engine speed than feeling through a pants seat. Pre-programed throttle blips on the downshifts are always cool, especially when the exhaust sounds as good as this one. There doesn't seem to be any pipe music fakery coming through the Burmester stereo, so that's gratifying, too. Alternatively, engage the paddle shifters mounted to the backside of the flat-bottomed, Alcantara/leather-wrapped steering wheel for a greater degree of involvement.
Dynamic Select is the Mercedes-Benz moniker given to the selectable driving modes function. They are: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual. The last mode allows a user to combine, for example, the steering weight of Sport with the suspension settings of Comfort. It doesn't take long to become acclimatized. Clicking among the three middle modes on an interesting yet sometimes busy route helps with engine braking, gear selection, and generally keeping interested.
One digit away from the answer to life, the universe and everything, then. But there's still plenty to like about this replacement to the C450 AMG. We could even go into some of the optional semi-autonomous stuff like adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking, but that's not fully driving the car ourselves, is it? And what's the point of having an AMG machine and delegating various bits to some silicon valet?