From the July 1998 concern of Automobile and Driver.
For Mercedes-Benz’s C43 AMG intro, downpours in Phoenix and snows up in Arizona’s Tonto Nationwide Forest slicken the roads as if on Devil’s command. No luck, Lucifer—the C43 is slicker than you might be. This tidy V-8-powered, AMG-altered four-door is Mercedes’s smallest sedan, nevertheless it’s second solely to the S600 in quickness.
AMG is the preeminent modifier of Mercedes-Benzes. Keep in mind the AMG Hammer examined in our December 1986 concern? The Hammer was the world’s biggest sports activities sedan—a Mercedes E-class bod stoked by a 5.5-liter V-8 sporting AMG twin-cam 32-valve heads. It put out 355 horsepower, did the zero-to-60 rush in 5.0 seconds, and ran 178 mph flat out. After all, it price—Hammers offered for as a lot as $160,000 in america, whereas inventory Mercedes 300Es went for round $40,000.
Extra-recent AMG tasks have been much less wild, extra reasonably priced, and out there on the market at Mercedes-Benz dealerships with the blessing of a full manufacturing facility guarantee. The Mercedes-Benz C36 obtained the ball rolling in 1995. This fat-tired and bespoilered C-class mini-hammer had a closely breathed-on straight-six that made 268 horsepower—74 greater than in a inventory C280. In 1997, the value paid for that efficiency premium was $17,847 ($53,842 whole).
This yr AMG has pounded the C-class engine room filled with V-8 vroom. The “donor” engine on this case is Benz’s newly launched SOHC 24-valve 4.3-liter twin-spark V-8, a modular cousin of the two.8-liter V-6 that now powers the inventory C280. Some specifics: pressure-cast aluminum block; aluminum oil pan and pistons; hole solid-steel rods; and dual-resonance, power-broadening consumption runners. As fitted to the inventory E430, this engine makes 275 horsepower at 5750 rpm, and 295 pound-toes from 3000 to 4000 rpm. (The 4.3 may even seem in an ML430 sport-ute and a CLK430 supercoupe.)
AMG slapped on the next strain oil pump and oil jets to chill the bottoms of the pistons, a brand new twin-tube air-cleaner meeting to cut back restriction, and a modified magnesium consumption manifold that’s ported to enhance airflow. Stiffer valve springs have been fitted, and the forged camshafts are changed with modular ones that present a bit extra overlap. These modest tweaks enhance high-rpm output, elevating the height numbers to 302 horsepower at 5850 rpm and 302 pound-feet from 3250 to 5000 revs. The V-8 even boasts squeaky-clean exhaust emissions. To wit: M-B claims the engine performs at Extremely Low Emission Car ranges. The value premium is $18,564 greater than an ordinary C280, or $54,559.
As with the C36 and each car Mercedes sells within the U.S., a five-speed computerized is the one transmission. This unit, borrowed from the SL500, “learns” a driver’s type and adapts the C43’s shift traits.
Our type consisted primarily of sledging this hammer round, foot to floorboard. The C43 AMG rewards this kind of habits with a mellifluous but malevolent V-8 burble and right-respectable accelerative g-force. Our devices measured 6.1 seconds to 60 mph and 14.7 seconds via the quarter-mile at 98 mph. Terminal velocity: 151 mph, drag restricted. The C36, which had a poorer power-to-weight ratio and taller gearing, managed to hit 60 mph in 6.0 seconds, and ran the quarter in 14.6 at 97 mph. It additionally hit its governor at 152 mph. Our take a look at automotive fell shy of Mercedes’ personal (usually conservative) 5.9-second zero-to-60 time and 155-mph ruled high pace, which means that our mini-hammer won’t have been wielding its full wallop. Even making full energy, the C43 will lose drag races to its Bavarian rivals as a result of they arrive armed with guide gearboxes. They’re the equally sized however $14,000-cheaper BMW M3, or the bigger however equally priced 540i (both of which may rip to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and blast via the quarter in 14.0 and 14.1 seconds, respectively).
Nonetheless, some say there’s extra to life than drag-stripping. For the C43, Mercedes modifies the C280 Sport suspension by including higher-rate springs entrance and rear, and stiffer Bilstein gas-pressure “degressive-action” shocks (stiffest at first, then softer) with two-part piston and integral stress springs. Mercedes says they management physique motions higher than atypical progressive-action (ever-increasing stiffness) layouts. Certainly, the C43 delivers exact trip management and dealing with with out kidney-crushing harshness. The aluminum V-8 is extra compact and 44 kilos lighter than the C36’s iron-block inline six and people attributes enhance dealing with.
The C43’s wheels are 17-inchers, 7.5 inches extensive in entrance, 8.5 extensive in again, mounted with Michelin Pilot SX tires, 225/45ZR-17s and 245/40ZR-17s—all stuffed inside subtly widened fenders. Enormous internally ventilated, four-wheel disc brakes—13.1-inch fronts, 11.8-inch rear, all with floating discs and two-piston floating calipers for cooling—come from an AMG racing setup. They ship such stopping energy and fade resistance that all-out braking levitates you ahead towards the shoulder harness.
Subtly trimmed with modest spoilers and facet skirts, the C43 efficiency flagship is a sizzling shot. It boasts an suave chassis—high-quality steering up entrance, plentiful energy exiting on the rear for sporting steadiness. A pip to drive, it levers the ability towards the tail’s stability—give some, take some. Moisture on the macadam allow you to really feel “computerized slip regulation” at work. ASR serves as traction management and as an digital limited-slip differential. An “digital stability program” works to maintain directional poise by selectively braking one wheel in case your path wavers. Desire much less techno interference? Simply cancel it by poking two sprint buttons.
Immediately we really feel sufficient “techspertise” in C43s to go scything alongside a writhing, weather-lashed Arizona byway so slithery it oughta squirt us off like watermelon seeds. The C43’s entrance buckets characteristic pneumatically adjustable lumbar and thigh helps, plus torso-bolstering “wings” to carry each the driving force and passenger in place throughout force-seven floggings. Wondrously adjustable artistic endeavors, they’re as supportive as you may discover.
The C43 does not appear to have any direct rivals. Over at BMW, $56,512 buys the exceptional 540i six-speed, the closest factor within the U.S. to an M5. (The true M5 is about to go on sale in Europe and can price extra, competing immediately with the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG.) An M3 gives nearer competitors by way of dimension, however prices $14,000 much less and proves equally involving to drive.
Given a $56,000 wad of money to blow on an unique sports activities sedan, our logical, rational facet would in all probability steer us into the BMW retailer for that 540i. It is sooner, roomier, and handles about in addition to the C43. However our illogical, romantic internal little one may pester us into snatching up one of many 1500 C43 AMGs Mercedes plans to import through the subsequent three years, simply to take heed to its pressing wail, to experience its fast reflexes, and to play in these multi-adjustable seats. This one is for enjoyable.
If Mercedes is attempting to one-up the efficiency boys at BMW, it had higher head to the elements bin for a guide gearbox. In zero to 60, zero to 100, and the quarter-mile, this C43 outruns the BMW M3 computerized, however will get creamed by the M3 guide. For $54,559, you need to get perfection—and it might be excellent with a stick. That is one time that it is not hyperbole to say that in arduous acceleration you’ll be able to really really feel your again being pressed into the seat. The engine’s sound is solely thrilling. Regardless of this arsenal of V-8 firepower, the automotive sticks arduous and handles like a dream. The one fear an proprietor will ever have is the prospect of a passenger’s staining the grey upholstery. —Steve Spence
In November 1994, the C/D editorial employees drew up an automotive want checklist. Any automotive, any worth, drive it every day for 5 years. My alternative: the Mercedes 500E, a stealthy, stoic sedan with supercar grunt. This C43 AMG is perhaps my choose right this moment, though I might hope for a livelier instance than our take a look at automotive. With 5 gear ratios as a substitute of 4, and a greater power-to-weight ratio than the lusty 500E has, the C43 ought to have been faster and sooner. Nonetheless, its wild-‘n’-woolly exhaust be aware, fast reflexes, and tight grip on the highway push all the identical buttons that the 500E did. After all, if I wait one other yr, I may have the E55 AMG—the true 500E successor. —Frank Markus
A limited-production sizzling rod like this one must be proper up my gasoline alley, however I am having hassle getting fired up concerning the C43. Issuing it with an computerized gearbox solely is difficult sufficient to swallow. Its slamming gearshifts and spasmodic throttle response, although, make easy, spirited driving nearly hopeless. Positive, the C43’s a lightning bolt in a straight line, however I can not think about that stoplight drags had been this automotive’s supposed mission. I do not need to discourage carmakers from climbing out on a limb to fulfill lovers, however at this worth, Mercedes ought to have finished a lot better. —Don Schroeder
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