Like the fourth-generation C-Class on which it is based, the C43 is 3.7 inches longer and 1.5-inches wider than the outgoing model, modifications that Mercedes explains are necessary because the average height of passengers is growing each year.
The C43 gets only one powertrain configuration. It's powered by a 362-horsepower, twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 that also makes 384lb-ft of torque. Power goes to the wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Those wanting V8 power will have to upgrade to the Mercedes-AMG C63.
Fuel economy figures are modest, but not unexpectedly poor. The EPA rates it at 20 mpg city, 28 highway and 23 combined.
Mercedes has moved the C up a notch in both luxury and performance, and the C43 takes that formula a step further. Various AMG-specific options are available to spice up the interior, including aggressive sport bucket seats.
An innovative smartphone-like touch pad located on the center console lets the passengers control the optional COMAND Online infotainment system with simple finger gestures. Occupants can also use the touchpad to enter an address in the navigation system (if equipped) or to add a contact to the phone book. Alternatively, COMAND Online can be navigated via a controller knob located under the touch pad, voice commands or buttons on the center stack. All are borrowed from the base C-Class.
The added length provides more space for both the front and the rear passengers, and trunk space checks in at 16.9 cubic feet. An electric parking brake, an electromechanical power steering system and Bluetooth connectivity come standard on all models.
Standard and Optional Equipment
In addition to a more muscular look, the C43 adds a sport exhaust, AMG-specific wheels, black accents all around, red seat belts, a sport steering wheel, aluminum trim on the dash, brushed aluminum pedals, keyless entry, a universal garage door opener, a brake hold function and SiriusXM satellite radio with a six-month trial.
A C43 comes equipped roughly the same as a C300 with the Premium I equipment group, making it somewhat generously equipped for a "base" model.
Highlights from the long list of options include a GPS-sensitive climate control unit can detect tunnels and switch to an air recirculation mode in order to prevent fumes from entering the cabin, an AIR-BALANCE system that discreetly dispenses perfume to dispel unwanted odors, navigation, a heads-up display, an in-car WiFi hotspot, a heated steering wheel and a panoramic sunroof.
Buyers can also choose from numerous electronic driving aids including Distronic Plus with Steer Assist, a semi-autonomous system that takes control of the car in a traffic jam, starting with the Premium II package.
The C-Class benefits from Mercedes' vast expertise in the field of safety. In addition to expected features like ABS and ESP, the C boasts front and side airbags, a kneebag for the driver, pelvisbags for the front passengers, a newly-developed windowbag and available side airbags for the rear passengers.
Also standard is an "ATTENTION ASSIST" system that can alert the driver to the first signs of drowsiness, a factor that causes more than 100,000 accidents a year in the U.S. A steering sensor is coupled to smart software that uses 70 parameters to establish a unique driver profile during the first 20 minutes of driving. Between 50 and 112 mph, the system identifies the erratic steering corrections drivers make as they begin to get drowsy and triggers an audible warning and a "Time for a Rest?" message with a coffee cup icon in the TFT screen that is integrated into the instrument cluster.
Optional safety equipment includes the Lane Keeping Assist system, which alerts the driver by simulating a rumble strip vibration in the steering wheel if the car drifts from its lane without the turn signals on. Part of Driver Assistance package, it operates at speeds above 37 mph via a system that recognizes lane markings, thanks to a small camera in the windshield and a computer that analyzes the video images.
The Driver Assistance package also includes Blind Spot Assist, which monitors both blind spots behind and to the side of the vehicle. Whenever a turn signal is activated with a vehicle in the blind spot, the driver gets visual and audible warnings.
The Mercedes-AMG C43 competes directly with the BMW 340i, the Audi S4 and the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400. The Lexus IS350 F-Sport would be the nearest equivalent from Toyota's luxury subsidiary.