2023 Mercedes-AMG C 43

Mercedes' refreshed C 43 is certainly quick and stylish, but it needs a bit more time in the oven
Mercedes' refreshed C 43 is certainly quick and stylish, but it needs a bit more time in the oven

by Jon Pangindian | December 14, 2023

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Downsizing is nothing new in the automotive industry. Performance swapping out their big, normally aspirated engines for smaller, turbocharged ones is common. The refreshed 2023 Mercedes-Benz C 43 takes it one step further, swapping its outgoing twin-turbo V6 for a turbocharged four-cylinder with a mild hybrid assist. Will this change satisfy or alienate enthusiasts that are spending close to six figures on this car?

That’s right, the C 43 really is that close to the $100,000 mark. It starts at $80,900 before any options or packages, and our tester topped out at $91,700 as-tested before fees and taxes. Compared to the BMW M340i — $71,255 to start, and the last one we drove topped out at $86,000 as-tested — that’s a sizable difference. The C 43’s new, handbuilt AMG engine probably has something to do with it.

In doing away with the previous twin-turbo V6, the refreshed C 43 is faster, more powerful, and more fuel-efficient, but there are a few issues that need to be ironed out. The turbocharged 2.0-litre turbo-four paired to a 48-volt mild hybrid assist pushes out an impressive 402 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, and all-wheel-drive is standard. Sadly, there is a fair bit of lag off the line, so don’t expect to beat an M340i off the line at a stoplight, but the C 43 is still quick. Look for a zero-to-100 km/h run in about 4.6 seconds.

The nine-speed automatic transmission could also benefit from some fine-tuning. It operates sluggishly at low speeds; in traffic, letting off the throttle and allowing the car to coast resulted in it bucking, to the point where my passengers even asked if the car was broken. There was nothing luxurious about the C 43’s transmission operating in stop and go traffic, but at speed, it smooths out and delivers snappy shifts.

Despite the downsied powertrain, the fuel economy numbers we averaged were hardly impressive. Mercedes-Benz rates the C 43 at 12.1 L/100 km city, 9.0 highway, and 10.7 combined, yet we averaged 13.3 L/100 km during our week of mixed commuting. As expected, premium fuel is required.

Ride comfort leans towards the stiff side, but this is hardly surprising for an AMG. In Sport and Sport+ modes, the ride stiffens up considerably and you’ll definitely feel potholes, bumps, and other imperfections. The flip side is the C 43’s handling capabilities; push the car into a corner and there’s very little body roll. Mercedes-Benz has also added rear-wheel steering, which enables the C 43 to dance like never before.

Mercedes’ smaller vehicles tend to look like smaller copies of the S-Class, and the C 43 is no exception, bearing a strong familial resemblance to its larger siblings. The overall design is clean, elegant, and modern, and has presence anywhere it goes. One part of the car that kept receiving compliments were the 19-inch mesh wheels; they look fantastic and are part of the $4,600 AMG Driver’s Package.

Inside, the C 43 offers an array of screens, some physical switchgear, and plenty of ambient lighting. Some might consider it sensory overload; it does take some time to get acquainted to Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment and interface, and the haptic-feedback buttons on the steering wheel can get frustrating at times, but MBUX’s voice controls make the learning curve a little easier.

The overall layout and design feels modern and eye-catching, but you can tell Mercedes cut some corners with the C 43’s build quality. Various buttons and panels flex to the touch, lacking the solidity from previous Mercedes-Benz products. A few other features were missing or optional, such as ventilated seats, satellite radio, and even wireless phone charging. Most of those features are standard on many non-luxury vehicles. Sigh.

But there are some great touches inside, such as the mixed leather and Alcantara seating, the metallic speaker grilles, the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and of course, the ambient lighting. The C 43 is competitively roomy for the segment, too. There is more than enough room for four adults all around, and the trunk can hold up to 455 litres of cargo.

While the 2023 Mercedes-Benz C 43 can finally brag it has a handbuilt AMG engine under the hood, it could use some more time in the oven to get things right. The sport sedan segment is highly competitive; with benchmarks like the BMW M340i and even the highly engaging Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, there are better options for less money.

See Also

2023 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing

2023 Lexus IS 500 F-Sport Performance

2023 BMW M340i xDrive

Vehicle Specs
Segment
Compact sports sedan
Engine Size
2.0L turbo-four w/ 48-volt mild hybrid
Horsepower (at RPM)
402 hp @ 6,750 rpm
Torque (lb-ft.)
369 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
12.1/9.0/10.7
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
13.3
Cargo Capacity (in L)
455
Base Price (CAD)
$80,900
As-Tested Price (CAD)
$91,700
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About Jon Pangindian

Staff Writer

An experienced detailer and diehard car guy, Jon brings a creative eye to his new vehicle road tests. Aside from writing, Jon spends most of his time tinkering with new detailing products and experimenting with ceramic coatings.

Current Toy: ’13 650i Gran Coupé

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