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HomeFeaturesDriving the new Mercedes-AMG C43 in South Africa – Best and worst parts

Driving the new Mercedes-AMG C43 in South Africa – Best and worst parts

The new Mercedes-AMG C43 has arrived in South Africa proving that you don’t need to go for the flagship model to get superior performance anymore.

With a sub-5-second sprint, a mean stance, and a growling exhaust, there’s not much else you could ask for in a high-performance sedan.

You will, however, have to part ways with R1.6 million to get the new AMG, a daunting sum no matter which way you spin it.

Mercedes organised a high-octane track experience with the C43 this past weekend at Zwartkops raceway in Gauteng, where I got to put the sporty four-door through its paces both around the circuit and on the skidpan.

While I can’t speak to its on-road manners, I can say the “baby” AMG C-Class is not that little anymore.

Best parts

Where do I begin? From first starting the quad-piped AMG to climbing out after four high-speed laps, the experience was marked by suspense, excitement, and satisfaction.

The six-pack of C43s standing at the gates of the racetrack all ignited in succession resulting in a symphony of snarling exhausts, offering a scintillating background noise while the driver briefing was taking place.

What felt like the longest five minutes ever was finally over, and I strapped into the firm AMG-specific driver seat partly covered in grippy microfibre, aimed the three-pointed star at the gates to the track, and off we were, the car and I getting to know one another through the first few bends.

The powertrain is the most controversial part of the shapely new Mercedes as it’s no longer a V6 turbocharged beast that relies purely on burning petrol to make its power, like it was before.

Now, the athletic C-Class sees a 2.0-litre petrol plant combined with an electric exhaust-gas turbocharger and 48V electric system.

This type of turbocharger is unique in the segment as it incorporates a 4cm-thin electric motor between the turbine and compressor wheels to drive the turbocharger shaft directly, thereby cutting down response time as the compressor wheel is already running before the exhaust gas flow takes over in the conventional way.

Honed with the Sport+ drive mode and Race Start function, the C43 is capable of sprinting to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds and after encountering it, I can confirm that it doesn’t lose its spirit when crossing the triple-digit threshold.

The shifts from the multi-clutch transmission are violent from the first to the ninth gear and each one is answered by an explosion of bass at the rear. Whether or not all the noise is organic or electronically enhanced is a debate for another time.

But, none of that matters when you’re barreling down a long straight tearing up tarmac at usually-illegal speeds in a state of euphoria thanks to the burbles and screams that seem to be in the back of your mind, slamming brakes at the last second, dipping the nose towards the apex, smoothly guiding it through, and slingshotting out the other side with the utmost confidence.

The C43 left me with one thought: This hybrid can go.

It’s not all brutality, either.

Unlike generations past, Mercedes has learned to put power to the ground and now builds track destroyers instead of German muscle cars.

The C43 is endowed with the AMG Ride Control suspension with adaptive damping and doesn’t step out of line even at its limits, not that these can be reached by the average driver.

On the skid pan is where the standard rear-wheel steering really came into its own, too, offering scalpel-sharp handling in soaking conditions.

Under 100km/h, the back tyres turn up to seven degrees in the opposite direction of the front virtually shortening the wheelbase in the process, allowing tighter lines and faster turns all while the grip remains resolute.

Before getting out for the last time, the instructor showed us one more clever ability in the Mercedes, this being the AMG-exclusive Track Pace programme which is a remarkable tool for analysing and improving your pedal manners both for road and race.

In handy graphs, the sizeable central display showcased all the brake and petrol inputs and I was able to determine where I did well, and where there was still room for improvement.

Worst parts

As you might have noticed when reading the above, there was little to complain about in the new C43, nevertheless, it’s not perfect.

The one thing you may not have expected, the hybridised AMG exhibits just the tiniest hint of powertrain lag if you suddenly demand a lot from it.

It’s not terrible, but it’s there and you notice it, particularly after exiting a corner at a relatively low speed to which you entered it and climbing on the throttle again. Fortunately, during normal driving conditions in which the C43 will undoubtedly spend most of its lifetime, I don’t see this ever being an issue or even all that tangible.

As such, I stand by my initial statement. You don’t need to shell out for the top-end model anymore if you want superior performance in an attractive shell, the C43 does it all.

That being said, I am both excited and a little frightened of what the halo C63 S E Performance will do when it lands on our roads towards the end of the year with nearly double the power.

Mercedes-AMG C43

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