When you see the AMG name applied to a Mercedes model, you know it will go about its business with more zeal than the same vehicle lacking that three-letter logo. This has been going on for a long time. AMG—for Aufrecht Melcher Großapach, the names of the founders and the town where they first set up shop—is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and its 18th year as a Mercedes-Benz subsidiary. Throughout that half-century, AMG’s primary mission, and now its only mission, has been to elevate the performance of Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
Now there’s an AMG version of pretty much everything in the entire Benz inventory, including the new C-class cabriolet. Two versions, in fact. You could characterize them as wild (the C63) and mild (the C43, our test subject here).
Mild is a relative term. Compared with the C63, which is booted down the road by a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 making up to 503 horsepower, the C43 may indeed seem a little tame. Its 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 is rated for 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. Yet that’s a pretty fair leap over the standard C-class cabrio’s turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four making 241 horses and 273 lb-ft.
Tenths at the Track
Like essentially all convertibles, the C43 is heavier than its fixed-roof counterpart, mass that’s amplified by the standard all-wheel-drive system found in all C43 models. Our test car weighed a portly 4165 pounds, or 250-odd pounds more than the C43 coupe.
Nevertheless, robust torque plus the gearing in the nine-speed automatic combine to propel this ragtop to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, less than a half-second behind the sprint we recorded with the much more powerful C63 S. This raises questions about the cost of acceleration and the value one places on tenths of a second.
Considered on its own, away from the performance shadow of the C63, the C43 is far from demure. In addition to the drivetrain, the AMG treatment includes an upgraded suspension with adaptive dampers, larger brake discs, and steering that’s surgically precise and sports-car quick (2.1 turns lock-to-lock).
Grip, delivered by an $850 set of optional 19-inch wheels with Pirelli P Zero Run Flats—225/40R-19 front, 255/45R-19 rear—is a substantial 0.93 g. And the responses of the conventional automatic transmission favorably compare with those of a first-rate dual-clutch unit, including rev-matched downshifts whether the driver is operating in full auto or manual mode.
Although hefty, the C43 changes direction promptly and without much drama, particularly in Sport mode, which also raises shift points and adjusts engine mapping, producing enthusiastic throttle response. There’s progressive understeer, but the limits are high. And for all its mass, the C43’s braking performance is powerful, consistent, and devoid of fade.
If there’s any complaint, it’s ride quality that can be somewhat stiff regardless of suspension mode, something accentuated by the run-flat tires and their reinforced sidewalls. At a glance, these might be taken as sports-car attributes, but the C43 belongs in the broad and loosely defined realm of the grand-touring car, arguably toward the upper end. It’s fast and capable enough to be entertaining when its owner feels frisky, comfortable enough for extended travel, and luxurious enough to stoke the envy glands of onlookers.
What more could one ask?
The Inside Story
The interior of our test car was lined with handsome, premium saddle-brown leather, spread on the seats and the door panels. It would be easier to appreciate if it were a standard feature rather than a $1620 option, but it is beautiful nonetheless.
The seats are supportive but not overly snug; there’s a wide range of adjustability, plus heating and ventilation (a $450 option) and enough room to squirm around as the miles slide by. There’s also plenty of legroom plus moderate headroom under the droptop. Roomy doesn’t apply to the rear seat, though. Mercedes rates the C43 as a four-passenger car, but making two adult people happy back there requires bribing those up front to slide forward. On the other hand, the hard tonneau makes a great perch for parades when the top is down.
The multilayer top is a lovely piece of work, operating up or down at one touch of the switch, stowing under the tonneau when dropped, and automatically latching when raised. It also does a respectable job of keeping interior noise levels down—unpredictably, the cabrio was one decibel quieter at 70 mph than the C43 coupe.
The only demerit we dealt the interior is a minor ergonomic kvetch having to do with the shift paddles. When the driver is gripping the steering wheel, the tops of the small paddles aren’t always easily reached. Hardly a deal breaker, but annoying.
As you’d expect, there’s a comprehensive array of technology and connectivity, as well as a respectable Burmester surround-sound system. That stereo is bundled into the $3100 Premium 2 package, along with Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND infotainment system, navigation, voice command, power-folding mirrors, ambient lighting, and illuminated doorsills.
The options list on this test car also included a $1090 Parking Assist package, $325 Linden Wood trim, and a $1515 Diamond White Metallic paint job, which we admit looks great with the brown leather.
Money and Muscle Metrics
Which brings us to the performance value. Or, from another perspective, monetizing your need for speed.