► We test new Mercedes-AMG C43
► Driven here in estate bodystyle
► Twin-turbo V6, all-wheel drive
Here’s a blast from the past: the revived C43 badge, earmarked to a new generation of halfway-house high-performance models from Mercedes-Benz’s performance wing, AMG.
And as the numbers suggest, the new model is a nearly-but-not-quite C63 for the masses. With horsepower, torque and price all standing at around two-thirds of the headline act, the Mercedes-AMG C43 Estate could be something of a hidden sweet spot in the range.
Is this a proper Q wagon on the prowl then?
Sort of. Out goes the double-barrelled 4.0-litre V8 from the C63, replaced by a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 petrol motor, but here driving all four wheels via Merc’s 4Matic system as standard.
Think of it as a rival to the Audi S4, where the C63 targets the RS4. Mercedes is rolling out the ’43’ moniker across all its mid-sized cars, so you can spec this more affordable AMG in the C-class in all its myriad bodystyles, the GLC crossover and the E-class too.
How fast is the Merc C43 AMG?
Electrifyingly. A fulsome 362bhp is on tap and those twin blowers spool up with impressive gusto, ramming fuel and air into the V6 at such a rate that the 384lb ft torque wave lands at just 2000rpm and plateaus for far beyond that. Result? Punchy performance everywhere.
Okay, so it’s not quite as powerful a punch as the full-fat C63 (that would upset the family apple cart), but this is a properly rapid estate car, make no mistake. Overtaking is only ever a toe-twitch away and 4Matic means you can deploy most of the thrust, most of the time.
The one thing you may miss is the V8’s cackle and burble, although Merc has done a decent job of tuning this six-pot for a throaty roar.
Doff of the hat to the engineers for fitting the uprated nine-speed auto box, too, which juggles well the twin demands of cruising and back-road blasting. We love the tactile, metallic gearshift paddles too (take note Jaguar Land Rover with your flimsy, plasticky winglets for changing gear).
There’s no escaping the one chink in the Mercedes-AMG C43 Estate’s armour: the ride is bone-shakingly firm. We were pretty baffled by the suspension, truth be told; it’s unlike Daimler to muck up the all-important comfort setting in a flagship model like this.
It doesn’t even ride on especially OTT rims, the 18in AMG wheels being relatively modest in diameter. But we bounced and juddered over back roads and A-roads alike, even with the adjustable chassis set in Comfort mode.
But the lively ride is disappointing. Primary body control is fine and the steering is nicely weighted too (you can adjust the damping separately from the engine mapping and steering).
What’s it like as an estate?
The C43 retains all the qualities of the regular C-class Estate range. Which is to say this is one of the smartest cabins in the sector, deftly combining comfort, chic design and ergonomic clarity in a combination that for us beats the interiors of the rival Audi A4, BMW 3-series and Jaguar XE into a cocked hat.
It’s a reasonably practical estate, too, once you recalibrate your expectation. These lifestyle compact exec wagons are not outright load-luggers – its 490-litre boot majors on clever accessories and load covers more than outright appetite for luggage.
Many families with anything other than young children may prefer to step up to the more echoing E-class Estate. Still, flop the C43’s rear pews forwards and you’ll store 1510 litres of clobber.
There’s much to like here; the C43 is exquisitely engineered, has a lovely cabin, generous standard spec and sizzling performance. But we can’t deny we were disappointed by the ride quality. Several of our testers commented on it – it rather undid a lot of the good work done elsewhere.