2024 Mercedes-AMG C43 Review: A Blisteringly Quick Sedan, For Better or Worse

This AMG model offers huge performance gains over the base C300, with some compromises

Satisfyingly quick acceleration 9-speed multi-clutch transmission is frustratingly jerky at slow speeds
Great handling capability Always a firm ride, even in Comfort mode
Attractive exterior and interior styling Expensive compared to other mid-range performance sedans
Decent fuel economy, driving range

I said the Mercedes-Benz C300 is a great option, but what about the AMG C43?

The W206-generation C-Class has been around for a couple years now, and after the remarkably good C300 made the rounds not once, but twice at TFL Studios HQ, I’ve been looking forward to driving the hotter versions. Finally, the new Mercedes-AMG C43 arrived at our base, so I seized the opportunity to try it out over a week to see if you should, in fact, spring for the spicier C-Class over its admittedly subdued entry-level counterpart.

In creating these mid-range rivals against the likes of the BMW M340i, the Audi S4 and the Acura TLX Type S, the folks within AMG aim to beat out all those options by offering the most power for your money. And on that front, the C43 delivers: You get 402 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque from the automaker’s remarkably powerful M139 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. Yes, not only does it pack the most punch, but it does it with two fewer cylinders than the competition.

That’s all great, but the Mercedes-AMG C43 — and its powerhouse plug-in hybrid C63 sibling, for that matter — also need to make their case as a svelte executive sedan just as much as the smooth-riding C300 does. And…well, let’s just say I have my reservations that I’ll get into below.

At $61,850 to start, the 2024 model isn’t a cheap proposition, either. Step up to the feature-rich Pinnacle trim and tack on Mercedes’ wide array of cosmetic packages and standalone options, and you’re easily staring down a $78,000 for a compact sports sedan. Sure, that’s not quite AMG GT territory…but you aren’t far off at that point. As tested, our particular C43 bears a sticker price of $72,630.

2024 Mercedes-AMG C43

Yes, the Mercedes-AMG C43 is quick, but numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Right out the gate, the latest Mercedes-AMG C43 comes out swinging. Despite having one of the smaller engines among its peers, engineers have managed to extract a whopping 402 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque from the M139 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. It’s an exceptionally power-dense engine that beats out the BMW’s 382 horsepower, the Acura’s 355 horsepower and the Audi’s 349 horsepower by increasingly substantial margins.

It’s not all just about the numbers, though, and the folks at AMG know that. That’s why the C43 packs a 48-volt hybrid system with an electric motor-assisted turbocharger — both of which ensure you get maximum power the instant you stamp on the accelerator. So, when you do want to move flat out, the new Mercedes-AMG C43 is a class act, snapping off shifts in an impressive 0-60 run of around 4.6 seconds.

Here’s the rub, though: While I praise the C300 for its smoothness and just how comfortable it feels in everyday driving, it’s a completely different story here. Instead of your standard 9-speed “9G-Tronic” torque converter automatic, the C43 utilizes AMG’s “Speedshift” multi-clutch 9-speed automatic instead. Like most multi-clutch setups, it feels fantastic…when you’re going flat out. Anything short of that, like your morning commute, and the transmission feels clunky and slow to respond during normal driving to the point where I genuinely wondered if our car was broken.

2024 Mercedes-AMG C43

The suspension, likewise, is obviously about performance over comfort.

When you’re in a spirited mood, the Mercedes-AMG C43 corners flat with its handling prowess proving nothing short of exceptional. The 2.5 degrees of rear-wheel steering and adaptive shocks make this car scythe through canyons like it’s on rails, but overall the ride is notably firm, even in comfort mode. (Again, the C300 is plush, but obviously nowhere near as fast).

Considering the even more hardcore C63 costs as much as $25,000 more than this model, which aims to split the difference between the C300’s luxury and absolute berserk performance, the C43 feels (and sounds) satisfyingly feral and is a solid performance buy for the money. Fuel economy isn’t even that bad, either — Mercedes pegs this four-pot at 20 City / 28 Highway mpg, and I landed around 27 mpg in mixed driving conditions.

18-inch wheels come standard on the C43, though you can get 20-inch split 10-spoke wheels like our test car with high-performance summer tires for an extra $1,450. Bearing in mind the firm ride I just mentioned, I’d probably stick with the smaller wheels, but it depends on whether you’re looking at this car as an occasional track machine or an undeniably quick daily driver.

Looking inside the new C43

While you can, of course, go for a racier theme with optional carbon fiber trim, Mercedes specced our particular C43 with Glossy Brown Ash wood trim (at no extra cost). That along with the $1,620 Sienna Brown and black leather trim does create a classier sort of atmosphere, though the flat-bottom AMG steering wheel, aluminum pedals and steering wheel-mounted drive mode and dynamics switches bring this firmly back into sports sedan territory again.

All new Mercedes-AMG C43 models come with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster as well as a vertically situated 11.9-inch infotainment display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard and connect wirelessly, while you also get a wireless smartphone charging pad in the center console, in front of the cupholders.

As is the way with virtually every Mercedes, you can choose from a range of standalone options. A panoramic roof is an extra $1,000, while ventilated seats are $450; a heated steering wheel is an extra $250; built-in navigation is $650; an advanced USB package bringing the total USB-C ports up to six is $300; and an acoustic glass windshield and front side windows are an extra $150. For your money, the $3,950 Pinnacle Trim is likely the best upgrade, as it adds navigation as well as augmented video, car-to-X (infrastructure) communication, a head-up display, “enhanced” ambient lighting, a Burmester 3D surround sound system and other personalization options.

Rear-seat passengers, for their part, still get up to 36 inches of legroom, which does make it the most accommodating car in its class on that front. They also get rear HVAC vents as well as actual controls (which you don’t get on the base C300), as well as two USB-C ports and an extra 12-volt power outlet if you opt for the advanced USB package.

Both front and rear, you do get a fair bit of hard plastic, especially on the lower-level IP, along the transmission tunnel and parts you don’t normally touch like the storage pockets on each of the doors. It’s not an absolute dealbreaker, but at more than $70,000 there are options on the market that are more pleasing to the eyes and fingertips.

Mercedes-AMG C43 Verdict: A definite yes for enthusiasts

In my week with the car, the new Mercedes-AMG C43 cut both ways. It’s a fantastically quick sports sedan and a contender for the best driver’s car in its class. On the other hand, the Speedshift transmission as it currently ships almost kills the deal for me, if I were to buy this as my sole car and daily commuter. Mercedes could make improvements in future model years to alleviate that issue, but it’s definitely something to feel out for yourself if the C43 is on your shopping list. When you do get the opportunity to cut loose, this mid-range model makes a strong case for itself as a dyed in the wool AMG machine.

As tends to happen whenever we review a new Mercedes, however, you’ll want to keep an eye on the options list. While the 2024 Mercedes-AMG C43’s $61,850 price tag is hugely tempting, stacking options will quickly hike the price over $70,000. Options like the $1,950 Driver Assistance Package also lock commonly standard driver assistance features behind a paywall, while the $2,000 AMG Dynamic Plus package adds active engine mounts and red brake calipers to the mix, which may not be worth the extra cash unless you’re just going for all the bells and whistles.

For what it’s worth, the C43 does bring the basics including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. This car also packs an IIHS Top Safety Pick rating for 2024 (more rigorous tests knocked it off the Top Safety Pick+ list from 2023), and you get a 4-year/50,000-mile limited bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranty. Unlike some rivals, Mercedes-Benz does not include complimentary maintenance in the purchase price.