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Mercedes-AMG C43 long-termer: when running in goes wrong

Published: 08 March 2018

► Living with a Mercedes-AMG C43
► We test the new two-door coupe
► Regular daily driver diary updates 

So the C43 AMG comes with the ubiquitous 9G-tronic gearbox that can be found in Mercs of all shapes and sizes the world over. Unfortunately, though, after less than 800 miles of gentle running in, ours had devoured itself and for the last three miles before it was unceremoniously carted away on the back of a truck, it was operating as a 1G-tronic, with seventh gear its only operating cog.

The car came pretty much straight off the boat to me, with barely 100 miles on it, and I resisted the urge to thrash it from the off, figuring that a few weeks of old fashioned self-control would be paid back in spades over the next eight months. Everything was fine for the first couple of hundred miles and then, every now and again, particularly on downshifts, and even with only 2000 revs or so, the odd change would bang home like a runaway steam train in a shunting yard. Odd, and a bit disconcerting.

Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe instruments

I had a chat with some technical people at Mercedes and they said that sometimes it can take up to 1000 miles for the gearbox to bed in and fully smooth out. Then one day I had to go on a 300-mile round trip and the shunting got worse. I took to using the paddles to try to smooth out the changes, which helped a bit, but then I got stuck in traffic and the stop-start went haywire, revving crazily and then stopping dead, requiring a full manual ignition restart. The upshifts then joined the party. It would refuse to change, select neutral, the revs would hit the redline, before dropping and shifting into the next gear. Oddly, you would then get 30 shifts in a row that were absolutely fine. And being a car with nine gears, it shifts a lot. When you're expecting carmageddon on every change, that's a pretty stressful existence.

By good grace, when it went really terminal I was off the A1 and driving the country lanes near my home. I was determined to get it back to the safety of my drive, which meant seventh gear no matter what corner or T-junction presented itself. The biturbo engine is wonderfully elastic and even in seventh it could pull at 25mph, and with some empty roads and some fortunately unpopulated junctions I managed it.

It went straight back to Mercedes HQ and not through a dealer. I scoured the internet and everywhere else I could think of, but it seems there are very few reported issues of any type with this gearbox, especially on such a low-mileage car. After a week or so I got a call saying that it was a faulty internal pressure valve – the first time they had seen this problem, they reckoned – and that due to its newness the whole box and torque converter was going to be replaced, just to be on the safe side. Blimey.

So three weeks later, the C43 is back with me and working like clockwork. Being English and so predisposed to guilt, I'm just so glad I drove it gently to start with: if I'd done the usual thing and thrashed it from the off I probably would have blamed myself and been racked with remorse. Main thing is, (rather large) problem solved. Now it's time to find out what this car can really do...

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe

Engine 2996cc 24v twin-turbo V6, 360bhp @ 5500rpm, 378lb ft @ 2000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Specs 4.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 183g/km CO2
Price £47, 650
As tested £56,780
Miles this month 486
Total 1035
Our mpg 28.6
Official mpg 35.3
Fuel this month £98.20
Extra costs None

Month 2 running a Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe: is it lairy enough?

One question we want to answer with the C43 is whether it really is a true, bonkers AMG. So far, the jury is out on my car as I’ve been tootling along running it in, but those nice people at Mercedes-Benz invited me to Silverstone to compare it (well, a run-in one, not ours) to some other AMG trinkets. 

Driving the Coupe and Saloon back to back on track it’s clear the two-door car is much stiffer than the four, which means it is far less prone to body roll and regains its composure far more quickly, which is a nice distinction between the two.

Mercedes-AMG C43 sitting inside

The track was pretty greasy, and in these conditions the C43 didn’t give much up to a C63 Coupe either, because you could lay the four-wheel-delivered power down much more efficiently than in the rear-driven 63, and it tucked the nose in nicely with little understeer. Although if the 63 finds traction, it is spectacularly fast in comparison. 

This will be an interesting characteristic of this car: I think in everyday use it will be the match of the 63 (especially if you press the barky exhaust button) but it doesn’t have the top-end fireworks.

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe

Engine 2996cc 24v twin-turbo V6, 360bhp @ 5500rpm, 378lb ft @ 2000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Specs 4.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 183g/km CO2
Price £47, 650
As tested £56,780
Miles this month 304
Total 549
Our mpg 28.6
Official mpg 35.3
Fuel this month £60.40
Extra costs None

Month 1 running a Mercedes-AMG Coupe: the start of our long-term test review

AMG: when I think of those three little letters, I think of 50 years of noise and power, and a plenty of very un-Germanic daftness.

To me, AMG cars should be shamelessly extreme, the pinnacle of how a Mercedes-Benz can be brutalised, and I shudder at the dilution of the brand with some wobbly and garish SUVs, while recently there has been more bastardising of the badge with AMG-Line diesel mile-munchers pretending to sport 400bhp but delivering a steady 60mpg instead.

So when the opportunity came up to drive an AMG car for an extended period of time, we could have gone for some sort of 63, and the end result of the test would be that we went sideways a lot, got scared a lot, made a lot of noise and had a lot of fun, and spent a lot. I think we know how the story would flesh out.

Instead, I was intrigued by the 43 range. I’d driven an E43 AMG Estate to Le Mans this year and found it to be a marvellous everyday balance of power and practicality, but felt in the end it was ever so slightly clinical, and I longed for the 63, which I utterly adore.

So the C43 AMG Coupe became the subject of interest. For a start, while it might make nearly 40bhp less than the E43, it’s much lighter and more nimble, and the noisy bits are nowhere near as far away. My hope is that this will make it feel a less vanilla alternative to its bonkers brother, the C63, than the E43 does to the E63. 

It gives up more than 100bhp to the C63, but there are some crucial elements that I hope will make it a better long term bet. For a start it has four-wheel drive, and I’ve got this car over a winter in the countryside. I’ve driven the rear-drive C63 in heavy rain and you’ve more chance of teaching Shakespeare to a tantrumming toddler than making the 63 behave. Also, it has a claimed combined fuel consumption of 35mpg, and as my kids are on gruel rations for the foreseeable due to the debt I incurred running a Bentley, this feels like an eco special in comparison.

CAR magazine's Steve Moody and our Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe

With an on-the-road price of £47,650, the C43 AMG Coupe is not cheap, but it does sit in that middle ground that Audi has pretty successfully fenced off for itself in recent years with S cars. The question is: will it feel like an AMG at the end of it?

The issue may coalesce around the engine, which only sports six cylinders, and has a displacement of less than three litres! Once, not long ago, this would have seemed an utter abomination for an AMG, but such is the pace of downsizing that a twin-turbo six seems positively gluttonous these days, so let’s hope it delivers a suitably AMG-ish experience. So far, even while gently running it in, the bark of the sports exhaust is suitably fruity.

This car is also fitted with the Premium Package (£2995), which has a Burmester surround sound system, panoramic glass roof, memory seats and keyless entry, and well as a Driving Assistance package (£1695) which will employ radar, cameras and computers in a bid to stop me crashing, and a head-up display (£825).

There’s also privacy glass (£385), 19-inch bi-colour alloys (£595), cranberry red leather (£795) and the rather lovely and sparkly Selenite grey metallic paint (£685). They combine to make the C43 look a very attractive car. It’s nowhere near as muscular as the 63, lacking the width, aero flim-flammery and steroidal bonnet ducting, but it is handsome nevertheless.

But this will be the big thing: will I grow to love this car for itself, or will it prove to be mid-table mediocrity, not-a-63 – and thus not a real AMG?

By Steve Moody

More Mercedes-Benz reviews by CAR magazine

By Steve Moody

Contributing editor, adventurer, ideas pitcher, failed grower-upper