GLENDORA, California — Woe is the enthusiast who has between $50,000 and $70,000 to spend on a sports coupe, for he or she will have more trouble making a decision than a single man in the bread aisle of a supermarket. One decidedly non-whitebread option is the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe, which offers most of the C63’s smile-inducing AMG hardware without the more-massive price tag and insurance bill.
Beneath the hood of the stylish two-door Benz is an AMG-worked version of the brand’s 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 good for 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. Sure, the 60-degree M276 six is not the match of the C63’s 469-hp hand-built twin-turbo V-8, but it’s hardly a slouch and can send the 4,000-lb coupe to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds. A rapidly firing nine-speed automatic handles gear-shifting duty, while power is sent to all four wheels via an AMG-tuned 4Matic system that shifts 69 percent of torque to the back during normal operation.
On the aural side of things, the V-8’s savage growl is replaced by a more subdued one accented by the “oooooo” drone typical of the layout as well as the occasional crackle, pop, and burble. When joined by the optional performance exhaust system, it’s one of the best sounding V-6 engines out there this side of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio’s Ferrari-designed 90-degree 2.9-liter unit. With windows down and the “make it loud” button pressed it’s quite the aural sensation; doubly so if you happen to be inside a canyon at the time. Just don’t expect to set off any alarms in the local parking garage.
The inside is typical of a modern Mercedes — well-built, quiet, and comfortable. AMG spruces things up a bit with a sporty touch of red courtesy of the colored seat belts, intelligent use of gloss black and aluminum trim, and well-bolstered sport seats with an extendable seat pad. Our test car was also fitted with AMG’s optional DINAMICA fake-suede-trimmed flat-bottom steering wheel. A standard Burmester system provides additional aural pleasure by pumping 590 watts of premium-quality sound through 13 speakers. The only important feature absent from the standard interior kit is ventilated seats, which would have been handy to have with the black leather upholstery.
Speaking of canyons, with the drive mode set to Sport+ and the transmission in gear-holding manual mode via the gear button on the console, you’ll find yourself wanting to crank out runs up and down the road until the fuel tank runs dry. The C43 handled the many tight off-camber and decreasing radius corners of Glendora Mountain Road smoothly and eagerly, never becoming unsettled and always happy to rotate through. The broad power curve kept the need to downshift for more juice to a minimum, and when it came time to pull a paddle, changes were lightning quick. Steering feel is lacking, a reality that won’t be going away, but weight and resistance are properly dialed in for smooth and controlled inputs; you just have to rely on the physical resistance of the car as a whole (particularly that of the rear) to get a feel for whether you need to give it more or less angle rather than the front wheels themselves. Fortunately, the Pirelli PZero tires provide plenty of grip and the C43’s various safety intervention systems never had to be tested.
Even when set up for freeway cruising, aka when set into comfort mode with the exhaust set to “quiet, please” so that you can fully enjoy the Burmester sound, the C43 still feels like an AMG. The suspension remains comparably stiff, but softens just enough to eat the worst of the bumps. Despite multiple runs across vast swathes of Southern California, discomfort or fatigue never entered the picture.
Sure, you could get the same package in more practical sedan form and get more than 10.7 cubic space of trunk space for those all-important Costco runs as well as more than 32.0 inches of rear seat leg room. Or you could get a more-powerful alternative like a Ford Shelby GT350 or a Chevrolet Corvette. But then you wouldn’t have that beautiful rounded rear, stylish swoopy C-pillar, and striking overall form that looks more upscale than the humble-for-a-Benz C-Class implies and is perfectly matched by the optional 19-inch wheels. Few, if any, other offerings on the market in the same price range have the combination of the C43 Coupe’s style and ability as a driver’s car. That combination makes the middle child C-Class worthy of serious consideration the next time you swing by the automotive bread aisle.
2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe Specifications
|PRICE||$56,425/$67,340 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/362 hp @ 5,500-6,000 rpm, 384 lb-ft @ 2,000-4,200 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, AWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||20/28 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||184.9 x 71.3 x 55.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.6 sec|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph|