Monday, 11 December 2017
News Tech

DRIVEN: 2017 Mercedes C43 AMG cabrio


Convertibles appeal to the senses. You see and you move through it. With the Mercedes AMG C43 cabriolet, you experience more sounds — from the surroundings, and the optional sport exhaust system.

The addition of this fourth sense is particularly appealing to those who enjoy driving, compared to being driven. Those three letters — A-M-G — refer to the company that has been massaging Mercedes vehicles for half a century.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF AMG

It started in 1967 when two Mercedes engineers, Hans Aufrecht (A), and Erhard Melcher (M) tweaked a Mercedes engine in an old mill in GrosBaspach (G) Germany. The pair left the company and set up their own shop, building race engines for Mercedes customers. They also upgraded suspension systems for road cars.

But the recognition peaked when they entered a modified Mercedes four-door 300SEL sedan with a 6.3-litre V8 in the prestigious 24-hours of Spa race. Competitors and spectators alike laughed at the ‘Red Pig’ as it became known — until the race got underway. Twenty-four hours later the big sedan finished first in its class and second overall.

Four factors had become evident: 1. It had prodigious power; 2. It handled like no other sedan; 3. The brakes were awesome hauling all that weight down from ridiculous speed around the clock; and 4. The two engineers knew their stuff.

AMG AND DAIMLER-BENZ

By 1990, AMG was offering a range of engine, wheel and styling packages to Mercedes owners. An agreement was reached between AMG and Daimler-Benz at that time, resulting in jointly-developed vehicles and access to AMG models throughout the global Mercedes dealer network.

The first fruit of this union was the 1993 C63 AMG. The car was so successful Mercedes acquired majority ownership of AMG in 1999 and by 2005 had acquired 100 per cent of the company.

Until last year, the letters AMG on a Mercedes told you the engine had been hand-assembled by a single technician in Affalterbach. His or her signature appearing on a plaque atop the intake manifold.

AMG ACROSS THE LINE

But AMG had grown to such an important role in sales and marketing that the inevitable happened.

It started appearing as appearance packages and with engines that rolled off the usual automated assembly line.

There is now an AMG version of almost everything in the extensive Mercedes line.

But all has not been lost. That badge still promises a tremendous amount of additional engineering and content. AMG engineers have reset, remapped, re-designed and generally tweaked all the important stuff related to driving – engine, transmission, brakes, suspension and steering.

C43 AMG CABRIOLET

This week’s test car is an example. It is the drop-top version of the expensive convertible body styles.

But instead of the 241 horsepower, four-cylinder engine, the AMG C43 comes with a 362-horsepower, twin-turbo V6. A C63 version, with a 503-horsepower, hand-built, twin-turbo V8 remains available.

The V6, with specific tuning by AMG, is paired with a nine-speed automatic and 4Matic all-wheel drive. Both the transmission and 4Matic systems have been tutored by AMG engineers.

The transmission snaps off lightning quick upshifts and rev-matching downshifts in Sport or Sports+ modes and the all-wheel-drive system is rear biased with 61 per cent of the power sent to the rear wheels.

The steering is quick and there is plenty of feedback. The ride is on the stiff side, with most of that due to the low-profile, run flat performance tires.

Yet, thanks to adaptive shocks, it remains quite supple in Comfort mode over all but the worst surfaces.

That dual personality is what is most attractive about this drop-top. On the one hand, it can be hustled down a twisty road with verve — the dynamic setting on Sport+.

The engine, transmission, steering, brakes and suspension are all in ‘maximum’ mode. So too is the exhaust (everyone within two time zones will hear you coming or going).

Throttle response is knife-sharp, the steering ultra-communicative, the big ventilated and drilled brakes erase speed with ease and the adjustable suspension keeps things on an even keel with minimal lean.

The next moment you can be in comfort or eco modes dawdling along with the transmission blurring shifts and the Burmester audio system providing the audible treats, instead of the exhaust.

You can raise or lower the top in 20 seconds at speeds up to 50 km/h. With it down, you remain comfy, even with a slight chill in the air, thanks to the AirScarf system blowing heated air at your neck and the ‘AirCap’ system deflecting air over the top of the passenger compartment.

This is a Mercedes, so regardless of your driving style or purpose, the safety bases have all been covered — both preventative and protective. Luxury features are also a given, although it is pretty easy to run up the price tag when you start checking off options to personalize your Benz.

There is plenty of room up front and a couple of decent-sized adults or little people in their car seats can camp out in the second row. There is a surprising amount of trunk space, considering it has to accommodate a fully-retracted top.

The C43 AMG may be somewhat watered down compared to previous AMG efforts . . . and the crazy-fast C63. But all things are relative. This is still an entertaining way to go topless.

The specs

  • Model: 2017 Mercedes C43 AMG 4Matic cabriolet
  • Engine: twin-turbo, 3.0-litre V6, 362 horsepower, 384 lb.-ft. of torque, premium fuel
  • Transmission: nine-speed automatic
  • NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 12.2/ 9.0
  • Length: 4,686 mm
  • Width: 2,016 mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,840 mm
  • Weight: 1,630 kg
  • Price: $68,800 base, $85,380 as tested, plus freight
  • Options on test vehicle: selenite grey paint, $2,500; cranberry red leather interior, $1,990; AMG driver’s package, $1,850 (performance steering wheel, 19-in alloy wheels, summer performance tires, performance exhaust); intelligent drive package, $2,700 (blind spot, lane keep and cross traffic assist, distronic cruise control, pre-safe brake system); premium package, $4,900 (garage door opener, active park assist, navigation, Burmester audio system, keyless ignition); climate comfort front seat, $1,200; 360-degree rear view camera, $590; adaptive high beam assist, $250; ‘intelligent’ LED headlights, $350; dark ash wood trim, $250 



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