New Mercedes-AMG C 43 Estate 2016 review
Biturbo V6 Mercedes-AMG C 43 Estate promises blend of pace and efficiency, but does it deliver?
The Mercedes-AMG C 43 represents a perfect halfway house between the punchy diesels and lairy V8 C 63. Its potent biturbo V6 offers plenty of performance, while the standard-fit 4MATIC all-wheel drive will make it a sure-fire favourite during the wetter winter months. Yes, a diesel will be cheaper to run, but few cars will get you from A to B faster. We can’t wait to put it up against the new Audi S4 Avant in the UK in a couple of months for what is shaping up to be the ultimate fast family car twin test.
For a long time, Mercedes’ flagship AMG cars topped the model range with screaming eight and 12-cylinder engines, and laughed in the face of fuel economy and emissions concerns.
The focus, until now, has been on brute force and outright driving dynamics. But in this day and age, surely all this can go hand-in-hand with manageable tax bills and low running costs? Mercedes thinks it has found a way for buyers to have their cake and eat it with the new AMG C 43.
We've already driven the C 43 Coupe on European roads earlier this year, but this is our first chance to try the more practical Estate on British tarmac. It sits in between the high-spec diesels and the full-fat AMG 63 versions, offering a halfway house in terms of performance and efficiency.
But don’t think for a second that this AMG 43 is short on straight-line pace. The Estate model is just as fast as the Coupe from 0-62mph (4.7 seconds) and will still hit an electronically limited 155mph flat out. That means it’s two-tenths faster than the new Audi S4 in the benchmark sprint, and only half a second behind the C 63.
Car group tests
- BMW 3 Series Touring vs Mercedes C-Class Estate vs Volvo V60
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However, unlike the seven-speed V8 flagship C-Class, this AMG C 43 features a biturbo V6 linked to a nine-speed automatic gearbox. It’s also available exclusively with rear-biased 4MATIC all-wheel drive, giving it the edge for all-weather traction.
Unfortunately, our time with the car came during an unseasonably dry week during the usually sopping British summer, so we weren’t able to push the Mercedes in damp conditions. But on pitted tarmac the C 43 proved utterly unflappable; it’s far easier to drive than the eight-cylinder car. It’s not as sharp or dynamically accomplished as the C 63, but few models come close for getting from A to B as quickly as possible. The steering is accurate, if a little light, while the ride strikes a great balance between comfort and agility.
Of course, as with its bigger brother, you can tweak the AMG’s settings to your liking, with the adaptive dampers offering owners a choice of Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings. It’ll cruise all day in Comfort mode, but switch it to Sport+ when the road gets twisty and things firm up nicely without feeling too taut. It’s immensely rewarding, and flattering, too, thanks to the security of the four-wheel drive.
The standard-fit sports exhaust sounds fruity, without ever getting intrusively loud. It complements the nine-speed gearbox, letting out a pleasing parp on full-throttle upshifts. At motorway speeds, however, it quietens down and fades into the background, with only a hint of wind whistle around the door mirrors.
This is very relevant in a car like this, because a great proportion of buyers will spend a lot of time behind the wheel racking up big miles on the motorway. Mercedes knows this is a C-Class strong point, and as a result the AMG C 43 lifts the standard car’s interior almost unchanged. The comfortable seats, beautifully crafted dashboard and easy-to-read dials make this a pleasing place to sit on longer journeys.
However, if the motorway is where you spend most of your time, the fact remains that a diesel will cost you less to run. While 35.8mpg is impressive for such a fast estate car, a C 250d with the same all-wheel-drive system will return more than 60mpg. You’ll save bags of cash on company car tax and annual VED as well.
But despite the performance on offer, this C-Class loses nothing in terms of space or practicality. Our car had the £2,995 Premium Plus Package, which brings a full-length panoramic roof, among other things. Yet even that doesn’t affect headroom too much, while the long wheelbase means decent legroom for taller adults. The 490-litre boot and 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats should suffice for most. If not, a larger E 43 Estate is on the way next year.
A near-£45,000 sticker price puts this car near the top of the compact exec tree, but it’s £17,240 less than the V8 AMG C 63. The standard equipment list is decent, with all models getting subtle AMG styling, full LED tail-lights, 18-inch wheels and that excellent sports exhaust. Inside you’ll find heated sports seats, racy red seatbelts and a seven-inch central screen with Garmin sat-nav.