First Test Drive Of Mercedes-AMG C43 2023: An Electric Turbo That Looks Magical

The most impressive part of the Mercedes-AMG C43 2023 isn’t the mild-hybrid assist system, rear-wheel steering or the F1-inspired electric exhaust turbocharger. The most impressive part is that you can’t really feel all the tools running behind you behind the driver’s seat. Although technically very heavy, the C43 is very analog on the highway.

With the launch of the fifth-generation C-Class chassis, the C43 abandons the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 from the previous generation in favor of the 2.0-liter I4 mono-turbo engine. This may sound like an older version, but it’s not just 4 small parts. AMG-specific high power block shared with the current A-Class AMG variant pool (A45, CLA45, and GLA45). In the C43, the engine is powered by a new 48-volt mild hybrid system and Mercedes’ new plug-in turbocharger, promising turbo deceleration to be a thing of the past.

Overall, we see 402 horsepower and 369 lb-ft (22 horsepower and 9 lb-ft) of torque over the 2019 Mercedes-AMG C43 sedan at 1/3-displacement. And that’s before considering the 48-volt system’s ability to provide an additional electrical boost for short randomization.

A nine-speed automatic transmission mated to a flywheel uses a wet start clutch for increased launch and reduced weight compared to traditional torque converter arrangements. While most powertrains are getting more sophisticated, the standard AMG Performance 4Matic all-wheel drive system is streamlined with fixed torque sharing and a 31:69 rear bias.

Active suspension, rear steering

Mercedes ‘AMG Ride Control suspension comes standard on sports sedans so the C43 shines when testing the world’s best driving routes in France. This setup has adaptive damping with three settings (Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus), all pretty stable. Rear axle steering is also standard, a feature more commonly used on vehicles with a larger or longer wheelbase. At speeds below 37 mph, the system can add up to 2.5 degrees of counter-steering to the front wheels to increase agility and reduce the sedan’s turning radius. At higher speeds, stability is improved by driving with the front and limiting the joint to 0.7 degrees.

18″ wheels are standard equipment, upgradeable to 19″ and 20″ packages. Interestingly, both wheel upgrade options increase the top speed from 155 mph to an electronically limited 165 mph. My example is the rolling dub with 245/35ZR20 tires Michelin Pilot Sport 4S. Large 14.6-inch discs are secured by 12.6-inch rotors and four-piston brake calipers on the front axle with rear-mounted single-port calipers. Of course, behind the scenes, the C43 gets some chassis upgrades over the C- Standard class, includes additional struts, stronger suspension components, bushings and anti-roll bars.

It was indistinguishable from magic.

In the city and in comfortable or efficient driving modes, the C43 compact I4’s engine is easy to set up, unobtrusive and fairly quiet. The stop-and-go system is seamlessly smooth on start, and with a few tweaks you can even activate Glide mode, which shuts down the engine while in gear for maximum efficiency. Comfort Ride settings remain consistent on speed bumps and city roads, but overall the C43 feels comfortable and easy to use for the everyday driver.

The dark rings, which form concentric circles between the spokes of these 20-inch wheels, are said to increase aerodynamic efficiency.

When you switch the AMG drivetrain selector to Sport or Sport Plus mode (or just turn off the throttle), the electric motor connected to the engine and turbocharger comes to life. But no satellite. The line where the hybrid assist starts or ends, or when the turbo gets an electric boost, is barely detectable. From the driver’s seat, the transitions are so smooth, it’s as if the engine just increased displacement and magically put out a second turbo when it needed it. It feels very analogous and satisfying. The resulting performance is an exciting ride.

The C43 accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, but I was more impressed by how responsive the engine was to speed. The turbocharger can spin up and down with incredible speed and accuracy, resulting in powerful instant acceleration from throttle angles, followed by upshifts with little lag or dropout on propulsion.

Maneuverability feels almost identical to that of a high-performance engine, providing ample stability at all four corners. The C43’s adaptive suspension, variable steering and rear wheels operate as transparently as the electric transmission. For example, you may not notice that the steering ratio keeps changing depending on the driving mode and speed, or that the AMG Dynamics Stability Control helps increase agility in sporty mode. But you’ll definitely notice the stability of your feet and the steering wheel always seems to have the right weight and feel as you plunge into corners.

With a thick steering wheel and reinforced sports seats, the C43’s cockpit is well designed for active driving.

Room technology, bells and whistles

The dashboard is the only place the AMG C43 doesn’t hide its tech. In front of the steering wheel is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster aligned with an 11.9-inch LCD touchscreen powered by the company’s MBUX software. My example also features the MBUX navigation system with turn-by-turn augmented reality video orientation and a large (optional) heads-up display, a great addition for the average driver.

This MBUX version features custom AMG themes for both displays and the AMG Track Pace Data Logging App which records speed, lap and sector times, pedal and steering inputs, and over 80 other parameters when cornering on a race track. (optional) can be used with Gear Other technical and safety aspects of the C43 are no stranger to the rest of the fifth-generation C-Class. Apple CarPlay 3D surround sound with wireless connectivity for Android Auto and standard Burmester, plus adaptive cruise control that works in uneven traffic with options for lane-keeping assistance and more.

Available at the end of 2022

No EPA pricing or economic forecasts have been released for the C43 2023. Expect both to be finalized before the sedan hits dealers later this year. The previous generation starts at $57,550 including destinations, and AMG says the new sedan will continue to compete directly with the BMW M340i xDrive and Audi S4, so expect the 2023 C43 to stay in the same arena as well. Of course, once you start adding options, we’re talking vehicles that easily expand into the $70,000 range, so there’s plenty of room for a slight price increase.

The electrification technology of the Mercedes-AMG C43 2023 is certainly impressive. There’s a lot to learn inside. But I really enjoyed the way the AMG engineers chose to emphasize the driving experience over tools and gadgets, matching and mixing. Its luxury in a high-tech way for a natural analog feel and performance is almost indistinguishable from its charm.

Editor’s Note: Travel costs associated with this story are borne by the manufacturer, which is common in the automotive industry. The judgments and opinions of Cnet executives and employees are ours, and we do not accept paid editorial content.

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