The Mercedes-AMG C 43 4MATIC is a compact C-class wth an outsized presence

When you are behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG C 43 4MATIC, the control of power is a given, and the projection of power is so effortless it can at times become unintentional.

As I gently crested the gentle slope of an elevated road, I found myself at least 20m behind a rival premium make. Within two seconds of my appearing in his rear-view mirror, he signalled left and shifted accordingly.

Without even depressing the pedal further, I overtook within moments. Less than 10 seconds later, I started bearing down gently on one of the ubiquitous Comfort Hyundai i40 taxis. For a moment, he did not seem too quick to get out of my way. Yet, just as I was about to signal left, with the full intention of overtaking, he caved and slid left to make way.

I was not trying to be intimidating. There are many premium makes plying Singapore’s roads — including 6,444 new Mercedes-Benz of all models registered locally last year, up by more than 1,000 units from 2015. The iconic tri-star logo of this C 43, however, is set against a “diamond-mesh” front grill that is clearly different from that of the typical Mercedes. The sight of this sporty AMG in your rear-view mirror is enough to send the message: Get out of the way, please.

The C 43 is power in a compact and dynamic package. Relative to the land battle cruisers that can stretch up to one metre longer, the C 43 — just like the other members of the Mercedes C, with the AMG badge or otherwise — is a relatively trim 1,810mm wide and 4,702mm long. This means if there are second and third passengers, it can be a rather tight fit for someone just a few centimetres above the Singapore adult male median height of 171cm.

Clearly, the C 43 is not meant for weekend grocery runs with the entire brood in tow. It is for the discerning individual who can project that intangible yet very visible thing called “power”. Indeed, for all its compactness, there is serious power under the hood befitting the AMG premium branding: a 270kW (367hp), 3li twin-turbo V6 engine.

This was obvious when I took the car for a test drive. As I approached the corner turning into a four-lane road, the instinct was to brake and look right to check for clearance before moving in. As I was waiting for the wave of vehicles on the main road to move past, something in the engine’s purr told me I was being too cautious.

At the second such turn, another line of vehicles across the four lanes on the main road started moving off. I had by then slowed for the turn. I depressed the pedal just a tad and, within a second or two, I had slipped into the main road, leaving the mass of cars, taxis and lorries farther and farther behind.

Throughout the drive, the AMGspecific seat upholstery, with its pronounced lateral support, was very comfortable. Those with wider hips might find the fit a bit tight when centrifugal forces act during cornering, but that is just a matter of getting used to.

The ARTICO man-made leather used in the seats is also used to trim the instrument panel, door centre panels and centre console, which also features black open pore ash wood trim. The red topstitching across the black dashboard is a bold, yet understated, style. A central panel clock dial lends a “classical” touch in contrast to the digital touchpad.

The convenient paddle shifters aside, the C 43 is tamed with the help of a threespoke nappa leather multifunction sports steering wheel. In short, it is nice, fat and compact — just the right form factor to keep the front wheels pointing where I want them.

For overall control, the four modes — Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus — give variations of three aspects: suspension, powertrain and steering. Each mode is easy to choose using the AMG DYNAMIC SELECT switch just to the left of the touchpad.

Between the Comfort and Sport mode, the pickup in the latter mode had a greater sense of urgency. One might ask: What is the difference between the Sport and Sport Plus modes? According to Mercedes- Benz, there is “partial cylinder suppression during gear changes by means of a momentary and precisely defined retardation of ignition, and injection under full throttle speeds up the gear changes”.

Mercedes-Benz adds that driving in the Sport Plus mode “can also be acoustically experienced by the driver” — something I did not quite catch the first time around, as the radio was playing Sweet Child O’ Mine via the Burmester sound system, a favoured audio partner of Mercedes-Benz.

Unfortunately, given Singapore’s limited bitumen surface (and omnipresent speed cameras), it was impossible for me to stretch the C 43 fully. I would also imagine that, more often than not, C 43 owners use the Comfort mode instead of, say, Sport Plus for a typical city commute.

Yet, that should not undermine the fact that this sweet piece of German engineering is capable of a lot. A person at the wheel of the C 43 controls plenty of power; but it is beyond brute force: It is the freedom to choose when to project this power.

MERCEDES-AMG C 43 4MATIC
Engine: 2996cc twin-turbo V6
Power/torque: 367hp/ 520 Nm
Fuel consumption: 8L/100km
0 to 100kph: 4.7 seconds
Top speed: 250kph

This article appeared in Issue 779 (May 15) of The Edge Singapore.