With a 385-hp twin-turbo V-6 under its hood, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG C43 one-ups its Benz-branded C300 counterpart and borrows styling and chassis components from the even racier AMG C63 models. The C43 is offered as a four-door sedan and as a two-door coupe or convertible, the last of which allows open-air enjoyment of the blown V-6’s dulcet exhaust tones. All models wear stylish exterior styling and provide a cozy cabin with all the amenities expected of a Mercedes, although two-door models are less practical and offer less space for rear-seat passengers. While its performance isn’t as impressive as the more powerful C63, the well-balanced C43’s price tag is far more accessible and it retains the fun-to-drive nature and upscale environs of the other C-class models. That’s why it earned a spot on our Editor’s Choice list.
What’s New for 2021?
Mercedes-AMG is leaving well enough alone with the C43 for 2021, making the previously optional 12.3-inch digital gauge display standard and making no other changes.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Carried over from 2016’s C450 sedan, the C43’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 is a gem. Powerful and torque-rich, the 385-hp engine pairs with a new nine-speed automatic transmission that swaps cogs with both speed and precision. The boosted six has deep wells of power and never feels overwhelmed or overworked when you call upon it. Despite the boost in power from 362 to 385 horses, the 2019 C43 sedan delivered the same 4.1-second zero-to-60-mph time at our test track as the 2017 model we last tested. While Mercedes-AMG equips the C43 with a pair of steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, we found the nine-speed gearbox a competent enough companion when left to its own devices. Befitting its AMG badging, the dynamically adept C43 is a joy to pilot through twisty two-lanes. Credit its quick steering that’s both direct and precise, as well as its rear-biased all-wheel-drive system that allows a dollop of chassis rotation before requesting additional assistance from the front wheels. The suspension can be adjusted between Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ settings. All three modes are needlessly stiff, however, and make driving over rough pavement a bone-jarring experience.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The C43’s fuel economy won’t put you in the good graces of your local Sierra Club. Still, the twin-turbocharged engine is quite thrifty given its heady performance. Any car that can leap to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and also deliver 29 mpg in long-distance highway cruising is an impressive player. The C43 sedan we tested did just that; the coupe managed the same result, but the convertible fell slightly behind in our real-world testing at 28 mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The C43’s interior is finely detailed and crafted of rich materials that meet the expectations set by the model’s lofty price. As in other C-class models, the C43 features a contemporary dashboard design with a flowing center stack that hides deep storage well with a pair of cupholders. Largely devoid of buttons, the C43’s center stack is anchored by a row of expensive-looking knurled rocker switches for operating the standard dual-zone automatic climate control. While ergonomically arranged, the climate-control panel sports small graphics that can be hard to read on the fly. The C43’s trunk space is average; we fit four carry-on suitcases inside the trunk with the rear seats in use and 15 with the rear seats lowered. Wide door pockets and a pair of generously sized console bins provide the C43 with adequate interior storage. Still, the C-class is short on interior stowage compared with mainstream sedans such as the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry.