The new AMG 43 lineup includes variants built on the C-Class coupe, convertible, and sedan, as well as a pair of GLC crossovers, the GLE Coupe, the E-Class sedan, and the SLC roadster. The 43s replace the Mercedes-Benz 450 AMG Sport line, which was a mouthful from the outset. The new alpha-double-numeric name is more in tune with the names of the cars AMG engineers from top to bottom, and the smaller 43 number reflects the performance compared to AMG's 63 models.
The sleek two-door C43 is also more accessibly priced than a C63 Coupe, starting at $56,425, some $11K less. Stepping up from the entry-level C300 Coupe, it's not only the engine that's different, but the transmission too. While the C300 Coupe is powered by a 241-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four with a seven-speed automatic, the C43 Coupe employs a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 and delivers power via Benz's new 9G-Tronic nine-speed transmission. The added gears provide a fuel-economy benefit, and in this application AMG has also done some work to reduce shift times compared to the standard 9G-Tronic. The transmission, as well as the addition of coupe and convertible variants, is one of the main differences between the new C43 line and the C450 AMG Sport sedan that was offered prior.
Other upgrades include a rear-biased 4Matic all-wheel-drive system tuned by AMG and an AMG Ride Control sports suspension with automatic variable damping and an alignment with plenty of negative camber. A trio of suspension modes – Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus – offers distinct levels of damping. And true to anything bearing an AMG badge, the C43 Coupe builds on the standard coupe's aesthetics with unique front air intakes, a silver-chrome front splitter, a new diamond-mesh grill with chrome pins, black mirror housings, black beltline trim, chrome tailpipes, and all the AMG-specific badges.
- It's easy to find a comfortable driving position, and the bucket seats are comfy and supportive, though larger drivers will find them snug. While some coupes' rear seats are best suited for gerbils, you can fit actual humans – adult ones, even – in the back of the C43 Coupe. They probably wouldn't be enthused at the prospect of a long road trip, but you won't hear any complaints driving across town to dinner.
- AMG V8s and V12s are known for their sound, but this V6 manages to bring the noise. Click into Sport Plus, and you get all the burbles, pops, and shift-induced noises that make up a large part of why we love sports cars.
- At any point while driving in automatic mode, you can manually shift the gears with the paddles, but the transmission will quickly default back to auto, and probably a few gears higher than you actually want to be in if you're driving with purpose. The easy fix is found on the flowing center console, with a button that will keep the transmission in manual shift mode.
- Mercedes-AMG's claimed 0–60 mph time of 4.6 seconds seems very conservative. This is a very quick car.
- The 31:69-split rear-biased all-wheel-drive system provides exceptional traction – as you can see from the photos, we tested this one in the rain – but while in Sport Plus and under the right conditions the rear will still kick out a little before the car corrects.
- There is a noticeable difference between the suspension's Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus modes, but given the excellent state of the autobahn and well-maintained roads we drove on, we couldn't properly gauge how harsh Sport Plus was, or would be on less-perfect American roads.
- One thing Mercedes-AMG does particularly well is offer drivers a performance democracy: The suspension is not tied with the driving mode, meaning you can – as we preferred – get the faster acceleration, quicker shifts, and sound of Sport Plus while the suspension is in Comfort. The engine response, transmission, steering, and suspension settings can all be adjusted to your preference, and independent of each other.
- As far as we're concerned, though, you could get rid of the car's Sport mode entirely. Either you're on a good road and want to tap into the acceleration, dynamics, and gratifying sound that Sport Plus offers, or you may be on a monotonous commute or driving around town, in which case the Eco and Comfort modes are perfectly suitable.
- This entry AMG does a good job of taking the C300's good looks and adding some more visual interest. The interior is striking and looks modern, fresh, and sporty. Our only gripe is with the column shifter. Sure, it frees up space on the pretty flowing center console, but there's still some satisfaction in holding a shift knob, even if it's attached to an automatic.