WHAT IS 23 HORSEPOWER? This is not a metaphysical question, because as some people know, no two horses have the same amount of power. The best thoroughbreds are estimated to have four to five horsepower, so one horse is equal to five. There is no exact measure of horsepower, either, so much so that the Germans prefer to use the term pferdestärke, literally horse-strength in German (and PS to you or me) — and horsepower is hp. Carmakers love PS, since one PS is 98.6 per cent of a hp, so a car can have 99hp but 100PS, and carmakers can easily claim that their cars have 100 metric horsepower.
That is not exactly accurate since, in proper metric terms, a car’s power is actually measured in kilowatts. But you know the thing with integers — unless they signify a price, usually we like them as high as possible, and marketers love promoting larger numbers. A 100PS makes for better copy than 73.5kW. So, back to the question at the start of the article: 23hp is 17.15kW. And that really is not all that much power, though it does give a nice kick on a KTM Duke 200 motorcycle. But even a Tata Nano has around 37 horsepower, so in car terms, it isn’t all that much. Or is it?
This brings us neatly to the Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG. These have been the ‘baby’ AMGs in Mercedes Benz’s line-up. Lacking the brutality of the 63 AMGs, which have near-asmakes-no- difference 600 horsepower, the smaller AMG engines had just enough power to keep you happy, but you could never help but want a teensy weensy bit more power, for those moments when 362 hp doesn’t really add up to much. Mercedes-Benz’s mad scientists, whom they keep in a small workshop in a village called Affalterbach, listened to the plaintive cries of automobile writers worldwide and, as the current C-Class was given its midlife botox job, they gave the AMG engine 23 more horsepower, boosting that engine to 385 hp (or 390PS).
A little bit more power can sometimes be a dangerous thing, but here it makes the experience altogether more enjoyable. While I was driving the cabriolet version of the C43 down a German autobahn on a delightfully sunny day, I saw a sign on the instrument panel which was a white circle, with three thin black lines across it. Motorheads know this sign as the one that allows you to lose the plot legally — it means ‘unrestricted’, because in Germany, they don’t ask ‘Kitna deta hai?’.They ask about geschindekeit, which is speed, absolute speed. And now, the C43 goes very quickly — just about five seconds to hit a 100 kph with the roof down, and a top speed in excess of 250 clicks.
The best part of AMG cars has never been the fact that they are speed demons; it is usually when you introduce them to a switchback. And once I got off the Autobahn and onto the B-roads in the Moselle Valley, one of the prettiest parts of the Fatherland I have ever been to, I gave the vineyards where they grow the Riesling grapes a performance to behold. You power this car into corners at speed and turn in with huge amounts of confidence in the sheer grip it offers. Put on some music and through the rolling hills, you have an absolute blast running around in this car. The new C43 AMG comes with Mercedes-Benz’ allwheel drive system, the ‘4Matic’, as standard. On dry roads, therefore, you have to put in one heck of a steering input to get the car offline, which you simply shouldn’t do on public roads. That is not a bad thing, as it makes the car idiot-proof. Secondly, while the C43 has a twinturbocharged 3-litre V6 engine, it does not have the corresponding soundtrack – I guess that is the price you pay for the turbocharging era, though.
But would I consider this car if I lived in a city in India? Nope, unless my commute involved some nice, twisty road. What I would like is a variant of the refreshed C-Class, which has some new engines and a slightly updated interior with bigger screens that is unlikely to come to India — the C300. Why? Well, I have always considered 250 horsepower to be the sweet spot in a country like India, where not only are there few roads to enjoy power, it is usually downright dangerous to do so with fellow road users having no road sense whatsoever. Sure, the baby petrol C200 that India will get (with around 180-odd horses) will be enough for most folks, but 250-ish has always been my thing. When I need 390 or 385 hp however, give or take a couple, I know what I’ll be driving.