Sunday, August 9, 2020

2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 4MATIC Wagon Review


I have been lucky enough to test drive some excellent vehicles Mercedes-Benz brings across the pond recently. Mercedes-Benz seems to recognize Canadians' healthy appetite for the hatchback/wagon form factor. As a reward, we are blessed to have some unique offerings like the brand new entry level A250 hatchback and the performance orientated AMG C43 Wagon that is the subject of this article.

Wagons are cool in my book. It is every bit as practical as a crossover, but lighter, more fuel efficient, and in the case of the AMG C43, more fun to drive. Thanks to Mercedes-Benz Canada, I was loaned the 2019 AMG C43 4MATIC for one week to test drive. Below is my unbiased review

If a wagon can look sexy, the AMG C43 is the living proof.  For 2019, Mercedes-Benz has redesigned the C43 to be considerably more aggressive looking. In the front, the segmented LED headlights have been reworked to look more futuristic, and the twin louvre center grille looks bold and confident in matte iridium silver. Large side air curtains in the front apron are further enhanced by black claw-shaped fins to guide the front airstream around the front wheels. They also look exceedingly cool.

From the side, the long silhouette of a wagon looks better than the sedan version in my opinion. Sweeping character lines gently raise the attention to the side profile higher toward the rear, giving the C43 a lighter side profile. I love the 18" tremolite grey AMG light-ally wheels on the C43. The spokes are shaped like turbine blades, and their shapes are optimized to increase aerodynamic efficiency, and to facilitate brake cooling.

The rear of the wagon looks just as sporty with a large air diffuser, quad round exhaust tips, side air curtains, and an integrated roof spoiler lip . The LED taillights has also been redesigned to look more modern, and the tailgate is now automatic with hands free operations.

I absolutely love the look of the C43 Wagon. The engineers at Mercedes-Benz found a perfect balance between composure and excitement for its exterior. Judging from the compliments I get at the gas stations and in  parking lots, I would say many people agree.

The sporty theme continues inside the AMG C43. Mercedes-Benz has always been good at marking its customers feel special through artful interior design, but our C43 tester with the Carbon Fiber Trim package looks and feels sportier than the other three point motors I have test driven.

High quality materials are appointed throughout the cabin. They include leather with red accent stitching, microfiber inserts, and sculpted aluminum trims. The optional performance front seats are comfortable and supportive. It comes with adjustable side bolsters that has built in air cushions, and integrated head restraints for a race car like experience. The seats are heated. And like all Mercedes, the seat adjustment buttons are located on the side door panels, floating on-top of the brushed aluminum trim, which also encircles the metal speaker grilles.

The ambient lighting system is not as fancy or customizable as the one in the new A class, but they still light up the interior of the car beautifully at night.

Being a wagon, the rear cabin is roomy. There is more headroom, and more legroom compare to the A250. The rear passengers also enjoys side window sunshades, and dedicated air vents. The beautifully crafted aluminum front seats inserts are best appreciated by the rear passengers. The hollow design also allows the rear passengers to poke whoever sitting in front of them to get their attention.

The updated infotainment system in the C43, while not as fancy as the newly developed MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) in the new A class, still offers a great user experience. There is a 10.25 inch tablet style display in the center console and an optional fully digital  12.3 inch information display in the instrument cluster. Mercedes-Benz gives the driver multiple ways to interaction with the infotainment system. The center display can be controlled via the touchpad, the rotary dial, the touch button on the right side of the steering wheel, and hands-free voice commends. While the abundance of options can be overwhelming, in practice, they are intuitive and easy to learn.

The infotainment system is not as snappy as the new MBUX system, but not slow by any means. Both Apple Carplay and Android Auto comes with the Premium Package. What sets the infotainment system of the AMG C43 apart is the AMG specific menu. The driver can pull up performance based information like engine/transmission oil temperature, engine data, G-Force acceleration, and Race Timer on screen at any moment.

The 12.3" digital instrument cluster is highly customizable and can display anything the driver wants really. It is controlled via the blackberry style touchpad on the left side of the steering wheel. The display itself is sharp and vivid, befitting of a luxury vehicle.

Safety and Driver Assistance
The 2019 AMG C43 comes with the following standard safety features:
  • Active Brake Assist
  • In-vehicle, one-touch calling features
  • Blind Spot Assist
  • Adaptive braking technology
  • Brake Assist (BAS)
  • Advanced Tire Pressure Monitoring System
With the $2700 Intelligent Drive Package, you also get:
  • Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC
  • Active Steering Assist
  • Evasive Steering Assist
  • Active MULTIBEAM LED Lighting System
  • Adaptive Highbeam Assist
  • Active Blind Spot Assist
  • Active Lane Keeping Assist
  • Active Lane Change Assist
  • Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function
  • Active Emergency Stop Assist
  • Enhanced Stop-and-Go
  • Active Speed Limit Assist
  • Traffic Sign Assist
  • Active Parking Assist
  • 360 camera
The Mercedes-Benz C class earns 5 star safety rating from NHTSA and Top Safety Pick+ from IIHS.

Before I begin to talking about how the AMG C43 drives, I want to address what many would point out. Yes, the C43 doesn't come with a hand-crafted V8 or square exhaust pipes like a TRUE AMG. Does that make the C43 less of a performance vehicle? In one word, no!

The mass produced twin-turbocharged 3.0-L V6 produces a healthy 385hp of horsepower and 384lb.ft. of torque. All that power is couple to the wheels through a 9 speed automatic transmission. It is not a dual-clutch, but the engineers at Mercedes-AMG have tuned the transmission to behave like one. The shifts are short and eager, providing a engaging drive when the car is pushed hard. The drivetrain propels the C43 wagon from 0-100km in only 4.8 seconds. This is not your grandfather's station wagon. The only time the transmission gets confused is in slow stop and go traffics. It is as if the C43 is wondering why the car is going so slow and can't decided which gear to be in.

The AMG C43 comes in four drive modes,: "Comfort", "Sport", "Sport+" and "Individual". I find the Sport+ mode to be the most satisfying. The optional Performance Exhaust System, when activated, spits out satisfying burps whenever up the car up-shifts full throttle. The adaptive damping of the transmission system is naturally tuned for performance. Unfortunately even when set to "comfort" mode, you can still feel every bump and hole on the road.

On the plus side, the car handles like a dream. The C43 feels light and balance on the road. It comes with a rear biased 4MATIC all-wheel drive system that can send up to 69% of the torque to the rear.
The individually controlled damping system provides additional lateral control of the car. The C43 has a ton of grip, and minimal body roll in tight corners.

The speed-sensitive power steering feels precise and provides excellent feedback. It is one of the best servo-driven feedback system that I have felt. Overall,the AMG C43 is just such a fun car to drive, even in its wagon form.

The twin-turbo 3.0L engine is surprisingly fuel efficient as well. It is rated 12.4L/100km city 8.9 highway. My heavy footed city ride returns a 13.5L/100km fuel economy rating at the end of the test drive.

Cargo Space & Storage
The C43 wagon proofs to be a practical alternative to the crossovers in this department. There is 460L of cargo space behind the rear seats. With the rear seats folded, the cargo space is increased to 1480L. That is almost the same as many of the crossovers I have reviewed. One cool thing the car does is that the rear seats automatically move backward to allow the seatbacks to fold flat. No more removing the headrests to make full use of the cargo space. There is a shallow hidden compartment below the trunk floor. Mercedes-Benz thoughtfully include a collapsible storage bin with the car.

In cabin storage options include a large storage compartment under the center console armrest, deep side door pockets, a wireless phone charting station, an integrated storage tray in the rear fold-down armrest, and a slightly smaller glove compartment.

Of all the cars I have test driven recently, the AMG C43 Wagon really strikes a cord with me. It is gorgeous looking, fun to drive, practical, and luxurious. While the base price is surprisingly affordable at 59k, by the time you have selected all the options you want, it will be closer to 76k. It is not a small chunk of money by any means, but also not totally out of reach for most people. For a car enthusiast who also appreciates the practicality and form factor of a wagon, it is hard not to love this car.

Test Vehicle
2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 4MATIC Wagon
$55900 CAD Base, $76,380 CAD as tested

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