For a few years now, if you wanted an AMG-fettled Mercedes C-Class, you ended up with a thumping great V8 engine up front. While that offered more than enough power, it could prove a little scary to drive, especially in the wet, and as for fuel consumption, well, it’s best not to ask. Now AMG offers a slightly less unhinged version: the Mercedes-AMG C 43.
The C43 gets a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine and Mercedes' so-called 4Matic four-wheel drive system, all of which forms a similar recipe to the forthcoming Audi S4 Avant. It slots into the C-Class Estate AMG range below the full-blooded V8 models – the C 63 and C 63 S.
At over £45,000 it isn’t cheap, but you do get plenty of equipment to go with all the go-faster bits underneath. Furthermore, it’s just as practical as any other Mercedes C-Class Estate. Should you not need to carry lots of stuff, then the saloon, coupé and convertible C-Classes are all available in C 43 guise too.
What’s the 2016 Mercedes-AMG C-Class C 43 4Matic Estate like to drive?
As soon as you start the engine, you’re reminded there’s something pretty potent under the bonnet. The V6 fires with a noisy flourish before settling into a burbling idle, but select drive on the standard nine-speed automatic gearbox and the C 43 shows it has a refined side, too.
Left in Comfort mode, the gearbox shifts up as early as it can, often leaving the engine spinning quietly at less than 2000rpm. Come to a halt, and the stop-start system works quickly and smoothly.
With this car's impressive low-end shove, you don’t need to press the throttle very hard at all to keep up with everyday traffic, but push it to the floor and the C 43 becomes a very different animal. The gearbox will change down a few ratios before the car fires off at great speed, letting off a subdued howl in the process.
Thanks to the surefootedness offered by the four-wheel drive system, it's not challenging to drive; even on slippery roads when pulling out of tight corners or side roads, the C 43 just grips and goes. When you do feel the rear wheels struggling to get all that power down smoothly, drive is quickly directed to the front wheels to avoid any alarming slides.
Sadly, the suspension isn’t up to dealing with rough roads, especially at speed. With the standard adaptive dampers set to Comfort mode, the car feels a bit too soft, with excessive body float over dips and crests. Even at lower speeds you notice this effect over speed bumps, which cause the rear of the C 43 to bounce noticeably.
Selecting Sport mode for the suspension brings much tighter body control, with the car pitching and wallowing far less. Unfortunately, it stiffens things too much, leading to a bumpy ride over a typical lumpy country road. Ramping things up further to their stiffest Sport Plus setting makes C 43 way too harsh-riding on anything but the smoothest of roads.
As for the steering, it’s at least precise, so you can easily place the front of the car, but there isn't a great deal of feedback through the rim to tell you what the front tyres are doing. It doesn’t get unnecessarily heavy though, as some cars do in their more extreme drive mode settings.
What’s the 2016 Mercedes-AMG C-Class C 43 4Matic Estate like inside?
Inside, it’s the typically plush and familiar affair you get with other C-Classes, but with some flashy tweaks to remind you that you’re sat in an AMG. As standard, you get a 7.0in infotainment system that comes packed with features, but navigating through the menus is a bit fiddly compared to BMW’s more intuitive iDrive system.
It’s fairly spacious and comfortable, with plenty of room for the driver and front passenger, along with lots of movement from the electrically adjustable steering wheel and seats. Passengers in the rear are fairly well catered for, too, with decent head and leg room. Two can sit comfortably in the back, although three abreast is a bit of a squeeze.
The boot will be what counts for a lot of buyers opting for this model over the saloon. At 490 litres it’s a decent size and roughly in line with a BMW 3 Series Touring or Audi A4 Avant , plus the rear seats can be folded easily at the touch of a couple of buttons in the boot. This increases the load-lugging capacity up to a useful 1510 litres, but if you want to remove the load cover it's a pretty heavy and awkward thing to carry. There are some useful cubbyholes dotted around the cabin as well, although, oddly, the glovebox lid doesn’t open very wide, making it tricky if you wish to store bulkier items inside.
Should I buy one?
The C 43 Estate has plenty going for it, being both quick and practical. And even though it doesn’t match the performance thrills of the supercar-quick C 63 version, it costs a considerable £16,000 less. Our only gripe is the ride, which is either too floaty, or too hard, depending on which of the various suspension modes you choose.
If you are in the market for a quick estate then certainly try the C 43, but have a look at the alternatives, such as the rear-wheel-drive BMW 340i M Sport Touring. It's marginally slower than the C 43, but offers better fuel economy, a slightly better ride and similar practicality, and all for £4000 less. Don't forget, too, that there's a new Audi S4 Avant due to arrive in the UK soon. As yet we don't know how much it will cost, but if you're not in a rush to buy, it could well be worth hanging on for.
Alan Taylor-Jones and Doug Revolta
What Car? says…
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Audi S4 Avant
Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic Estate
Engine size 3.0-litre petrol
Price from £45,660
Torque 384lb ft
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 35.8mpg
CO2/BIK tax band 185g/km, 34%