2023 Mercedes-AMG C 43: Drive it like Hamilton

Strong points
  • Little to no turbo lag
  • Digital centre stack is stunning and easy to use
  • AMG exhaust note
Weak points
  • Jerky 9-speed transmission
  • You will likely get speeding tickets - often
  • Premium gas required
Full report

Ah, the Germans. Stoic, organized, slightly strict, and oh-so talented when it comes to engineering their automobiles. And as the Mercedes-Benz engineers explained the all-new technology featured in the 2023 Mercedes-AMG C 43, that was never more apparent.

The C-Class, now in its fifth generation, was initially introduced as a compact version of the executive sedans in the lineup. However, the smaller stature meant nothing in terms of performance and power which remain large. Especially in this latest AMG version. Not only does this 2023 AMG C 43 feature the “one man, one engine” handcrafted engine, as standard, but they’ve also brought down honest-to-goodness F1 technology under the hood.

You’ll Feel Like a Podium Finisher

Normally, when we’re told that F1 technology has “trickled down” into a production model, we take a moment to listen to what it is and then sigh and shrug because while the concept and idea is cool, it’s really just a red button or a spoiler or some sort and isn’t really enhancing the performance in an F1 way at all. Which is, let’s be honest, what we all really want.

Photo: Miranda Lightstone

Well, Mercedes-Benz has actually taken legitimate technology from their Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 vehicle and injected it into the AMG engine of the 2023 C 43. For real. Now, of course, it’s not exactly identical, because the Mercedes F1 engineers can’t even tell the Mercedes production car engineers what REALLY goes into their engine designs, but the concept and result is the same.

What is it exactly?

Well, the 2023 Mercedes-AMG C 43 is the very first production vehicle to feature an electric exhaust gas turbocharger. This same technology will also be seen in the upcoming AMG SL 43.

Bye-bye Turbo Lag

What is this new turbocharger exactly? We were given an extremely in-depth explanation of exactly how the system, works - with a proper 3D version with a cut-out to see it all in real life - but it’s easier to explain it this way: Mercedes added an electric motor inside the turbocharger to help suck in and push the air out through the turbines more efficiently and quickly, therefore, essentially eliminating the dreaded turbo lag.

Photo: Miranda Lightstone

This new technology also allowed Mercedes to keep the turbocharger smaller, despite adding horsepower to this year’s C 43 bringing it up 408 horsepower. The entire system runs off a 48-volt electrical system, which also helps to feed the belt-driven starter-generator (RSG). With this RSG system, an extra 14 ponies can be felt at times, as well. The turbo is part of an AMG 2.0L 4-cylinder engine that is oh-so responsive and, of course, signed off by one of their highly qualified employees straight out of Affalterbach. And that 0-100km/hr time? Just 4.6 seconds.

The engine is paired with their 9-speed automatic transmission, and that might be the only downside to the entire setup. While the turbo lag has all but gone, the pause seems to happen more because of the 9-speed trying to figure itself out, especially in city driving situations.

Enjoying European Roads With High Performance

Driving the 2023 AMG C 43 4MATIC in and around the Alsace area in France was nothing short of stunning. Not only in scenery but in performance as well. Our frozen grey C 43 sedan looked good no matter the backdrop and it absolutely ate up the twisty, twisty French roads with ease and eagerness.

That’s in no small part to the all-new and standard rear-axle steering. This means the rear wheels have up to a 2.5-degree steering angle in the opposite direction of the front wheels up to 100 km/hr. This makes turning so very precise during spirited driving, and gives the C 43 an even more surefooted and stable feel, no matter how you throw it around corners. And turning radius? Well, of course it helps there, too making the C 43 uber maneuverable, even in tighter situations (like tight European streets and parking lots).

Photo: Miranda Lightstone

Steering response and feel in the AMG C 43 is phenomenal. It was as if the car knew what we wanted to do before we did it. The chunky AMG steering wheel is the ideal size and shape for both comfort and precision driving. And the addition of two little knobs on the bottom of the wheel means easy access for the driver to scroll between different drive modes: Individual, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Each of these driving modes allow for complete customization that includes suspension, steering feel and throttle response. Of course, there is the all-important exhaust note button as well that will either open up those quad exhaust pipes in all their glory, or mute them a little bit for a bit if a quieter journey.

But why would you want that?

The AMG-engineered exhaust note is one of the most recognizable and pleasant to hear on the road today. So, our opinion? Exhaust button engaged: ALWAYS.

Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Technology in the Cabin Too

Sure, the engine has the fancy F1 tech, but the cabin is nothing to scoff at. The all-new full digital display centre console is absolutely beautiful and such a breeze to use. Whereas the old system required fiddling with a knob down by the armrest, this new onboard infotainment is entirely touchscreen and so very easy to navigate. The digital gauge cluster is also customizable and the head-up display shows almost too much information all at once, but again is customizable and can be turned off entirely if need be.

Of course, in the AMG C 43 there are AMG-specific displays you will not find in other C-Class models such as the g-metre, lap timer, etc.

Carbon fibre abounds throughout the cabin, as does leather with contrast stitching available in a multitude of colours, which can also match the colour of the seat belts. When we first saw the bright red and bright yellow seat belts, it was a bit shocking at first. This is not something Mercedes-Benz has been known to do (this is more reminiscent of Porsche and BMW to be flashy like that), but it proves how Mercedes is changing its focus and revamping its overall style and feel - and also how it wants to appeal to a different kind of buyer.

That AMG Flare

From the outside, the Mercedes-AMG C 43 4MATIC looks athletic, slightly angry, but absolutely sexy. From nose to tail, the AMG C 43 has all the right curves and angles in all the right places. Starting up front with the signature linear AMG grille housing the massive TriStar logo, the digital headlights hug the grille perfectly. The shoulder line is muscular, but not too much, and every AMG features specific side skirts and an AMG-specific rear apron and spoiler.

New for this AMG C43 is a Black Night aesthetic package that blacks out all the decals with black chrome (Mercedes was tired of people blacking out their decals with DIY methods at home), as well as other black accents and trims throughout.

Photo: Mercedes-Benz

These black details coupled with the frozen matte grey paint job and bright yellow stitching against Alcantara leather inside was just out of this world, and would be worth every extra penny to see and sit in every day.

The AMG race seats have also been updated to be slightly lighter, and more breathable, featuring little ventilation slits beside each bolster that mean you can actually see into the backseat through them.

Awaken your inner driver

No matter how many AMG vehicles I've driven over the years, I continue to be impressed and amazed at the level of detail and engineering that goes into each one. This latest iteration of the C 43 is absolutely no exception. Mercedes-Benz went above and beyond not only in the engineering and technology, but in the overall redesign, especially inside.

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