2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet
3.0-liter V6, twin turbo, DOHC (362 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm; 384 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm)
Nine-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
22 city / 29 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
12.2 city / 9.0 highway / 10.8 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
20.8 mpg [11.3 L/100 km] (Observed)
Base Price: $61,395 (U.S) / $70,975 (Canada)
As Tested: $74,305 (U.S.) / $87,555 (Canada)
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $2,175 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
To be very honest with you, those of us who track traffic and take the odd look at analytics already know the TTAC audience for a review of the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet is small.
At first glance, it doesn’t make sense. Reviews are the most reliable source of traffic on The Truth About Cars.
The TTAC audience, the B&B, is a pragmatic bunch of car enthusiasts, however. A sensible group of auto industry intellects. $72,305 German convertibles? Not exactly right up the alley of the proverbial 2004 Honda Accord.
And with good reason. Sensible pragmatists don’t see the point in the incremental performance upgrade of a $162,850 Porsche 911 Turbo from an $80,490 Chevrolet Corvette Z06; the off-road credentials of a $52,275 Lexus GX460 over and above a $35,930 Toyota 4Runner; the scant luxurious advantages of a $58,050 BMW X5 in contrast to a $47,140 Kia Sorento SX Limited.
But what if the four-seat, twin-turbo, all-wheel-drive, German convertible was actually worth 83 percent more than the basic C-Class; 43 percent more than a basic C-Class Cabriolet?
Then, maybe, TTAC could actually find an audience for a review of an expensive car.
The Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet isn’t perfect. But as the car that visited us for the first week of my family’s life in Prince Edward Island, a week of constant sunshine, it was largely difficult to fault.
It was when the roads became more vacant, when the setting became more rural, when my expectations for $72,305 greatness grew, that the AMG C43 Cabriolet became more obviously exceptional.
Yet under light throttle, at lower speeds, in Mercedes-Benz Dynamic Select Eco and Comfort modes, the C43 is rather underwhelming. Not only does the 362-horsepower feel insubstantial, the nine-speed automatic is often flustered, unsure of when to upshift, unwilling to downshift, caught between decisions like an Islander who can’t decide which north shore beach to comb. Thunder Cove, Branders Pond, Cavendish, Thunder Cove, Cousins Shore, Thunder Cove, Cousins Shore. First, second, third, second, third, fourth, fifth, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, sixth, seventh, eighth, seventh, sixth.It’s not just the transmission that can become confused. This is an AMG car, but with the suspension in its softest settings there’s enough side-to-side float to discomfit drivers.
Fortunately, upping the ante — and asking the AMG C43 Cabrio to match your enthusiasm with its own enthusiastic settings — reaps true rewards. In Dynamic Select’s Sport mode with the AMG Suspension Setting in its middle option, the AMG C43 remains sufficiently supple but weights up the steering nicely, brings the transmission into its rightful theatre, opens up the taps on all 384 lb-ft of torque, eliminates secondary body movements, and turns the C43 into a car deserving of the AMG badge.
It’s a markedly different driving experience than you’ll find in a regular C-Class sedan — recalibration of the C-Class underpinnings for droptop duty creates unique behavior. But the attributes that make the fourth-gen C-Class a pleasing car are evident here, too. There’s a bit more feedback than you expect, a stiff structure that belies the loss of actual structure, and a pervasive sense of quality that wasn’t conspicuous in the two previous-generation C-Classes.Naturally, the AMG C43 convertible also differentiates its driving experience by stowing its top in the trunk. (Space is limited to just 8.8 cubic feet, and it’s not shaped for usability.) On a coolish summer evening, with AirScarf warming the neck, attractive vents blowing 77° heat, and horrifyingly unattractive wind deflectors erect at the windshield header and behind the rear seat, buffeting is minimal and wind noise isn’t enough to disrupt conversations.
A sports car? No. There’s a lot of weight, 4,145 pounds, to be chucked around. The Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet is a champ on high-speed sweepers; not sufficiently light on its toes when you want nimbleness more than grip.
There’s so much torque available just off idle that overtaking on secondary roads is immediate. As speeds rise to illicit levels, the AMG C43’s country of origin is palpable. This car wants to go fast. It’s better going fast. It’s best going faster.
Granted, you do need to spend $11,000 extra to make a 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet feel this special. Designo paint is $2,020. Lane Keeping Assist, blind spot monitoring, dynamic cruise, the 8.4 inch touchscreen perched awkwardly atop the dash, power-folding side mirrors, Burmester audio, and the AIRCAP deflectors are all part of a $6,550 Premium 3 package. (Some options can be purchased in less costly packages.) The $1,250 AMG Performance Exhaust System, which allows you to press a little button with exhaust pipe imagery for extra burble and evocative shifts under full throttle, is a must-have, particularly since it doesn’t bring with it the annoying highway drone of other performance exhausts.Even with all of that, the AMG C43 still isn’t the special C-Class convertible. Priced from $73,845, the C63 AMG Cabriolet is a rear-wheel-drive monster with 469 horsepower; 503 in $81,845 AMG C63 S guise.
Maybe the C63’s extra power isn’t worth it. But in a pleasant twist, I can understand the justification for a hugely expensive car; I don’t feel determined to steer C-Class Cabriolet buyers towards a base C300 4Matic.
It’s not that the AMG C43 Cabriolet is so luxurious. The performance isn’t so gobsmacking that you just must pay $72,305. All of the credit doesn’t belong to the exterior design of the car, fetching though it is. The impressive fuel economy, given the vigor with which I drove the C43, isn’t able to engender inordinate praise, either.
But blend all of this together, all of the C43’s luxury and all of its AMG performance and all of its handsomeness and even the relatively decent mileage and adulting rear seat, and you see that Mercedes-Benz has delivered an enticing concoction. As a performance car alone, this doesn’t feel worth $72,305. As a mere luxury convertible, $72,305 seems too dear. As a family’s daily driver, $72,305 doesn’t hold water.
Fortunately, the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet is not just one of those things. It’s all of those things. It’s also flawed just enough that Mercedes-Benz can still make it better.
[Images: ©2017 Timothy Cain/ The Truth About Cars]