Mercedes-AMG C 43 drops the twin-turbo V6 engine in favor of a four-cylinder with a single turbo. That turbo includes F1-inspired hybrid technology that delivers 402 horsepower, but does this recipe deliver more fun than the outgoing model?
Mercedes-AMG C43 Test Drive Review: Four-Cylinder Strangeness
When Mercedes announced it would eventually kill off the V8 engine in its AMG models, a few enthusiasts’ heads exploded. The downsizing isn’t just happening at the top either, as evidenced by the 2024 Mercedes-AMG C43 Sedan. Whereas the outgoing C43 utilized a twin-turbo V6 engine under the hood, this new model uses a four-cylinder with an electric exhaust-gas turbocharger inspired by F1 technology.
Power has increased to 402 horsepower (up from 385 hp in the old V6), with an additional 13 horses available for a brief boost from the 48-volt mild-hybrid system, but torque drops from 384 lb-ft to 369 lb-ft. This makes the C43 the most powerful car in its segment, which includes mid-range performance sedans like the Audi S4 and BMW M340i. Can Mercedes-AMG prove that fewer cylinders don’t mean diluted performance? We drove the 2024 C43 for a week to find out.
Exterior: Stealthy Styling
The latest C-Class is a visually pleasant car, but we wouldn’t say it stands out. It looks a bit like a baby S-Class, which is not an insult by any stretch of the imagination. The picture gets bland given that this car’s color palette includes Black, Obsidian Black, Polar White, Moonlight White, Graphite Grey, Selenite Grey, Selenite Grey Magno (matte), Mojave Silver, Cirrus Silver, and Starling Blue. Aside from the bluer, that’s a monotone rainbow if we’ve ever seen one.
AMG-specific touches include a signature Panamericana grille, sportier rear diffuser, and AMG badging. 18-inch wheels come standard, but 19- and 20-inch wheels are optional and boost the top speed from 155 to 165 mph. Our car rode on the most expensive 20s, which add $1,650 to the price tag. Buyers can choose between four AMG exterior packages for a sportier look, with the AMG Carbon Fiber Package and the AMG Performance Studio Package adding various bits and pieces for between $750 and $2,250 extra.
Interior: Luxury Meets Rac
For how understated the exterior looks, this interior is anything but. Mercedes equipped our test car with the $1,620 optional Power Red/Black interior, which looks as if it was pulled straight from the pages of a comic book. This interior combination might have appealed to us in our Boy Racer phase (red seats work much better in a Honda Civic Type R, in our opinion), but as this car is aimed at more mature enthusiasts, it feels out of place. Buyers looking for more subtlety can opt for a black or brown interior instead.
Color aside, the cabin looks premium, but there are one or two cheap spots where Mercedes could have used less plastic. Our tester came with the base seats, which are heated, but AMG Performance Seats are available for $2,500 or $3,250 for an advanced option with more lumbar adjustment. Ventilated front seats are a $450 standalone option that was not equipped on our tester.
Every C-Class comes with a large 11.9-inch touchscreen with MBUX software that’s easy to use. A 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster offers vast customization, including a Race theme with a built-in drag race or lap timer. The steering wheel can control the gauge cluster and the infotainment screen with touch-capacitive zones, and it contains two screens to adjust the various drive modes.
Engine: Missing Cylinders
The C43’s main talking point lies under the hood, where the old V6 engine has been swapped out in favor of a four-cylinder. It may have fewer cylinders and one fewer turbo, but this new engine shells out some impressive numbers: 402 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. That stellar output comes courtesy of technology derived from that used by the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team in the form of an electric exhaust-gas turbocharger. It spools quickly with aid from the 48-volt mild-hybrid system, which has a belt-driven starter generator that also makes an additional 13 hp available for brief stints. This translates to less turbo lag and better efficiency.
Despite having more power, the new C43 is fractionally slower than the model it replaces. Mercedes quotes a 4.6-second 0-60 mph time, which is a tenth of a second behind the figures claimed of the old V6-powered car. We recorded a 4.23-second sprint in the 2024 model, which bests the manufacturer’s estimate, but several independent drag races have shown the new C43 finishing behind the previous one. This could be explained by the C43’s 4,092-pound curb weight, which is 267 lbs heavier than the outgoing, six-cylinder version.
Fuel economy is improved for the city and combined cycles, although it’s only by one mpg, thanks to the smaller engine (19/26/22 mpg city/highway/combined according to the EPA). The old V6 was one mile per gallon more efficient on the highway. A nine-speed wet clutch MCT sends power out to an AMG-tuned 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.
Driving Impressions: Too Much F1 DNA
Mercedes clearly wanted the C43 to have a racing feel, as evidenced by the copious mentions of “Formula 1” and “race tracks” in the press release. Unfortunately, this focus on performance leaves the car feeling compromised. The standard AMG Ride Control adaptive dampers are actually pretty compliant, but those massive wheels cause the car to bounce around violently on cobblestone city roads. This is a nice highway cruiser, but the transmission feels completely befuddled at slow speeds. Shifts are clunky and ill-timed with the engine’s power band, meaning the power isn’t available when you demand it, or it’s too readily available, and it snaps the heads of your passengers back. It’s near-impossible to drive smoothly in this car.
We’ve driven Mercedes mild-hybrids in the past and commended them for their buttery smooth stop-start; the C43 is the exact opposite. It attempts to shut the engine off constantly, even before the car has reached a full stop, and then it frantically fires back to life before the transmission seems ready for it. When the engine does fire back up, it takes a full second or two before it feels back at full strength. The experience was so jarring we had to turn off stop-start.
As a daily driver, we’d prefer a base C 300, but the C43 does make a strong case for itself when the road gets twisty. Despite being heavier and technically not as rapid as its predecessor, the turbo four-pot is an absolute monster when the boost hits – and boost it has in spades.
Using Race Start, Mercedes’ terminology for launch control, the car rockets off the line with violence as if it were shot out of a cannon. Mercedes adds some drama to the launch with additional sound effects of an engine bouncing off a rev limiter, and the car will tighten the seatbelts to make the acceleration feel more dramatic. So long as you utilize the paddle shifters to control the transmission, the engine pulls hard.
The steering is surprisingly sharp with good feedback, and the rear-axle steering makes the car feel smaller than it actually is. Of course, its sedan proportions make it larger – but also easier to live with than the AMG CLA 45 Coupe. Despite the flaws mentioned, it’s softer and more cushy than the CLA 45, so the AMG C43 might be the perfect upgrade if that’s what you’re looking for.
Verdict: Better Options
In the compact mid-level performance category, there may be better options than the C43. The Audi S4 is a more comfortable daily driver, and the BMW M340i is a more natural sports sedan; both competitors are quicker and less expensive than the C43 as well. The C43 starts at $59,900 for the Premium trim, while the Pinnacle trim adds built-in navigation, Burmester audio, and a head-up display for $62,700, though most of those options can be added to the Premium. Our Premium tester rang in at $70,020 with $1,150 included for destination and delivery.
The C43 offers a premium interior, great technology, and decent practicality, but the four-cylinder powertrain could use some refining. Mercedes’ switch to a four-cylinder sounds like a good move in theory, but it produced a car that isn’t significantly more efficient. If you really want a C-Class, save some money on the C 300; if you want a race-focused Mercedes with a four-cylinder engine, get the CLA 45 Coupe. Otherwise, we still prefer the Audi S4 and BMW M340i.