2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 coupe first drive review: seeing what sticks

Its impossible not to notice that the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 has too much tire. The 225- and 245-millimeter, 19-inch Pirelli P Zero rubber sticks to the road like hot Doublemint, and the standard traction control setting has a short leash anyway. 

Back and forth in the C43 along coastal roads, we find investing too much into the throttle pays only small dividends.

Every motion up and down the canyons of Southern California is quick and without drama, too. Nose in to a corner with too much gusto, and the front tires feel like they cut slip angle down to the Fed’s fund rate. Too quick with throttle on the way out? Nanny systems take care of that faster than saying the word “oversteer.”

Breaking traction feels less natural and requires more persuasion than a Skittles-covered campaign speech. When it happens, the front wheels either drag the wayward rears forward, or the throttle cuts quick enough to bring it back into shape.

Did you say you want drama? I’m starting to think that comes with a V-8 after each successive turn at the wheel. The Mercedes-AMG C43 feels quick, but also feels like it’s getting in its own way—or more accurately, I’m getting in its way.

So let’s move.

“Baby AMG”

The Mercedes-AMG brand now nearly reaches across the entire portfolio, and now nine models serve as jumping off points into the deepening abyss coming out of Affalterbach. These are the 43s. The baby AMGs.

The AMG 43 starting nine share common traits: a twin-turbo V-6 up front (not made in Affalterbach), a 9-speed automatic in the middle, and all-wheel drive and sport suspension for all four corners—except for the SLC43, which is rear-drive only. Those substantial upgrades may get lost on a bulky GLE SUV, but in a nimble C-Class coupe they take shape once the initial sticker shock wears off; the C43 starts at $ 10,850 more than a C300 with all-wheel drive. 

CHECK OUT: 2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 first drive review: The deep-knee Benz

That’s not an insubstantial amount of money, but AMG boss Tobias Moers’ eyes light up when he talks about the finer details his company throws into the C43 for that ten grand.

He dotes over the C43 coupe’s new steering knuckles like he forged them himself. The C43 coupe’s insanely quick steering ratio over a base coupe isn’t an accident; every motion should be deliberate and effective immediately. Months were spent bringing a C43 up to AMG’s standards, which are admittedly more civilian now with the AMG 43 line as opposed to the more serious, more raucous, more raw C63.

But the C43 is a trackable car, Moers insists. Every AMG—even the ones without signed plaques on the engine cover, which are notably absent from the Mercedes-AMG 43 lineup—should enter and exit corners quicker than they do dealer lots. Whether you’re likely to find a $ 50,000 luxury coupe at a track is debatable, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an AMG badge gathering dust at Benz stores.

Drive after drive, it becomes clear that the leap from -Benz to -AMG doesn’t happen by just raiding parts bins. It happens once I stop looking at the details and start looking at the C43 as a whole car. 

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