It looks like an AMG, goes like an AMG and sounds like an AMG. Must be an AMG, right? It is, only it's not the bonkers C 63, but that car's understudy, the new Mercedes-AMG C 43. It has less power, four-wheel drive and, whisper it, the C 43 is arguably the better all-round choice.
In the metal
You don't need to see the badges to recognise that this C-Class Coupe hails from Affalterbach, Mercedes-AMG's home. The visual identifiers are obvious, such as the flared wheelarches, the huge exhausts and the aerodynamic revisions that both improve high speed stability and aid cooling. Larger 18-inch alloy wheels are standard, but it's unlikely many will roll out of the showroom without the optional 19s, even if it bumps up the emissions output a touch. Either way the C 43 looks great, in that assertively menacing way that AMG is so good at.
The interior benefits from AMG's input, too. There's a flat-bottomed steering wheel, though the rest of the C-Class Coupe's interior is all similar to its saloon and cabriolet relations. That means it all looks great and works impeccably, and there's even enough space in the back to convince yourself that it's practical - for a coupe at least. AMG upgrades add buttons for the suspension, which now offers three different settings, as well as the exhaust (if you option it, and you must) and AMG-specific instrumentation and sports seats. It's a fine place to sit, feeling no less special than the C 63 Coupe that tops the line-up, despite being usefully cheaper to buy.
Naturally, the new C 43 cannot compete with the C 63 model for sheer drama, but given the V8-engined car feels very much at the limits of what's possible, that's arguably no bad thing. There are just six cylinders here, still with twin turbos, which is enough for a 367hp output and means the C 43 can reach 100km/h in 4.8 seconds from standstill. That's a bit behind the C 63 admittedly, but in anything less than perfect conditions the C 43 will have a distinct advantage as it's a 4Matic, which is Mercedes-AMG speak for four-wheel drive. It pushes as much power to the rear as possible, diverting drive to the front axle when it detects slip. That allows you to enjoy it more often, and the traction advantage it brings are immediate - the C 63 is an edgy handful if you're not careful in the wet. The C 43 shrugs off such conditions, allowing you to use its ample power (more than enough a decade or so to have the full billing as flagship model in the AMG line-up) all the time; at no point when we drove it did it feel like it needed more performance.
Given it's riding on suspension that's all but identical to the C 63's there's no loss in the dynamic ability either. AMG has a knack of transforming the steering of Mercedes-Benz's standard cars for a set-up that's sharper and offering more feel, and that's true here too. It's not loaded with feedback, but there's enough information to let you know what's going on at the front axle, to the benefit of turn-in speeds. The C 43 is fast then, not just because of the V6 biturbo's eager response (and scintillating soundtrack when pushed), but because it handles so neatly. There's no real corruption of the purity of the drive thanks to that four-wheel drive system, just the confidence that it's not going to bite like the C 63 might. That makes it a quicker car almost everywhere in real-world conditions, and no less entertaining, as it still feels predominantly rear-wheel drive in its make up.
The suspension rides with decent civility given its intent: taut enough to feel the road without it ever being intrusive. The nine-speed automatic shifts decently, too, though you can be a bit busy with all those ratios and the paddle-shifters if you're determined to take control. There's a fair bit of bulk being hauled around by the biturbo V6, but the C 43 hides its mass well, feeling more agile than you'd expect given its 1,735kg kerb weight. In summary, the C 43 is a rounded, capable car, with more than enough performance on offer to justify that AMG billing.
What you get for your money
We're not entirely sure yet what the new car will cost. For reference, the Mercedes-AMG C 63 starts at €118,860 so it'll be a useful chunk less than that. Being among the top models in the range should mean that the C 43 comes with plentiful standard equipment included. You'll need to pay for those bigger alloy wheels, and perhaps the sports exhaust, but we'd suggest you do - though check if those alloys up your tax liability.
The Mercedes-AMG may be seen as an understudy to the C 63, but it adds real-world capability to the mix, while not pulling back too much on the drama, either. It'll be cheaper too, so it's the AMG model in the C-Class line-up we'd have. Yes, it really is that good.