Mountain Wheels: Just-right Mercedes AMG C43 provides ample turbocharged thrills (column)
2018 Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 Coupe
MSRP: $55,900; As tested: $72,855
Powertrain: 362-HP 3.0-liter biturbo V6 with nine-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures: 22 combined (20 city/27 highway)
In the ultimate Goldilocks automotive situation, when given an almost unlimited choice of engine and performance gradients, how much Mercedes-Benz is too much, not enough or just right?
While other companies have shrunk their non-truck offerings and limited their lineups to simple arrangements of automobiles, Mercedes goes the opposite way and gives its potential buyers the world.
Not only are there two- and four-door variants of most of their lines, there’s also the AMG performance option as a higher-end reboot of much of the entire lineup.
And just to confuse things even more, when it comes to the new C-Class — considered the entry point for Mercedes sedans in the U.S. market — even the AMG upsell gets a little crowded with intense, more intense and painfully intense renderings.
So I had to wonder, as I got to spend a few days in the AMG C43 Coupe — two doors, and the lighter of three available AMG engine/performance package upgrades — if I might be getting the short end of the stick, with all those other models peering over my shoulder.
Hardly. Here, torque more than makes up for raw output, and while a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 is certainly not quite the same as a 4.0-liter biturbo V8, I think a certain segment of buyers might dig the simpler setup (especially the $55,900 no-frills price tag, versus at least $10,000 more for that up-engined C63).
And while the gentler roar of the V6 may not set off neighborhood car alarms when you fire it up, you’ll find a highly efficient machine with a healthy 362 horsepower at your disposal — and an admirable 384 lb.-ft. of hill-climbing, passing and general earth-shaking torque.
What’s more, with a couple of flips of the dynamic mode select and the HOA-friendly exhaust pipe suppressor (off, of course), the gurgle gets downright nasty.
I got to very briefly drive the AMG 63 at a summertime track day (there are, of course, two versions of that — with 469 or 503 horsepower) and it gets into the uncomfortable realm of being far too much car for its own good, especially given the C-Class’s relatively austere size.
The C43, however, is a more user-friendly experience, and still not subtle. Keep it floored on a solid freeway entrance takeoff or a dry backcountry road and the noises become cantankerous and ghoulish, with loud clunks and blurts of exhaust like an AMG GT racer, as the very sophisticated nine-speed automatic works to optimize the thrust.
The C43 is equipped with the performance version of Mercedes’ 4Matic AWD system, as well, so winter driving, in a spirited fashion, is encouraged (my tester featured brand-new snow tires, just to underscore that point). It’s configured to send 69 percent of the torque to the rear wheels in non-snow circumstances, replicating a rear-wheel-drive feel.
That brand-new, ultra-grippy rubber was a welcome addition, as were 14.2-inch and 12.6-inch brake rotors, front and rear respectively, all conspiring to keep the C43 well under control.
You do get an odd big car/small car mix in aggressive cornering, with the vehicle’s 3,841 pounds showing itself at times, but back on the straights, that torque reappears and the car is unstoppable, especially uphill.
Steering is heavy — but speed-adjusted — and the oversized wheel fits the car’s more pushy purposes.
In less audacious applications, the car’s relatively gentle sport seating, its ample trunk space and quite commodious rear accommodations (for a two-door vehicle) give it a nice level of user-friendly utility. Front seats electrically zoom out of the way for not-awful passenger access.
Looks are flashy, but not as borderline garish as the C63: The long list of options added to my $72,855 test vehicle included a full exterior carbon fiber package and the largely blacked-out Performance Studio/Night bag of gloss and matte parts. That meant special lip, rocker panel, trunk lid and mirror housings, and an even more giant and menacing black emblem and grille.
The entire range of the C-Class features elegant and simple lines and the exceptionally low rear roof profile of the coupe is quite nice, as well.
All of that razzmatazz is accentuated inside, with a carbon fiber console stack, aluminum plates covering the Burmester speakers on the doors, and beautiful, jet engine-inspired air vents. The threesome of control stalks on the left-hand side of the wheel is a little confusing, as there are also giant shift paddles; to the right, you get the simple but not-especially intuitive, screwdriver-styled shift control.
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