I once drove a car called the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. The experience of it is still imprinted in my memory, albeit in a blurry fashion as if the actual drive itself happened in a blur – which it did. The C63 was one of the most visceral machines I’ve ever had a go at – under its veneer of Mercedes sophistication was a raw, almost rabid monster, itching to grab you by the throat. It was performance car motoring at its best — no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners, primal — and it had a soundtrack like a war zone. I remember thinking that a 4-door luxury sedan acting like this was utter insanity – much as it was thrilling – because even in the right hands, that car was close to terrifying.
Naturally, it had many takers, because one of the perverse joys of owning a manic car is the knife-edge that separates successfully taking a corner at full tilt — and finding yourself wrapped around a lamp post. However, not everyone wants a life-and-death experience every time they take a spin in a powerful car (and I understand this sentiment – sort of), so Mercedes decided to dial things down a bit and served up the C43 AMG, which got a V6 engine instead of the C63’s V8. This car came to India too — in fact, I reviewed it in these pages — and did what it said on the cover, which was to provide a balance of thrills and comfort that didn’t leave you gasping for air.
What Mercedes has now done is taken that car, thrown away the rear doors, resculpted it a little and upped the engine’s capabilities, resulting in the C43 Coupe, which replaces the 4-door model here. Why would they do that in a market like India, where two-door cars are about as common as civic sense? I’m not entirely certain, but I’m not about to complain either, because the minor round of plastic surgery has done wonders for the car’s looks. The front end is still very much a C-Class, but the sex of the matter is in the car’s profile and rear three-quarter view – its lowered stance, meaty 19-inch wheels, swooping roofline, wraparound tail lamps, boot-lip spoiler and quad exhaust tips give it the kind of oomph that the C43 sedan didn’t really have.
The car’s cabin is, well, it’s a Mercedes-Benz, so there’s not much room for complaint. Except there is. In this price stratosphere, a car should come loaded with standard features, some of which can be found in vehicles that are about a tenth of the cost – for the C43 to offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto only as paid options is incomprehensible, especially since a standard C-Class sedan gets them.
Other than that niggle, the interior is top class, with the sports seats and sexy AMG steering wheel being highlights; you can select from various cabin options, among which the sporty carbon fibre and dull silver trims are the best. These days, all-digital dials are in vogue, but I rather like the fact that this car has an analogue speedometer and tachometer. Space-wise, those in the front will determine how annoyed the rear passengers get vis-a-vis leg room – the bucket seats at the back are otherwise reasonably comfortable, but let’s face it, you wouldn’t buy a car like this to ferry people around.
What you would do (or should, at any rate) is to line the car up on an empty road, bury the throttle and let it rip. The car’s all-wheel-drive system and other electronic whizzbangs ensure that the C43 shoots off the line with a minimum of fuss — no spinning wheels, no clouds of tyre smoke, no raucous laughter — and gets to 100 kph from standstill in under 5 seconds. It does this with a rather civilised, booming exhaust note that is a galaxy away from the C63’s chainsaw-massacre madness; it’s still music to the ears, but it’s hard rock, not death metal. The 3-litre V6 puts out 390 hp (an increase of 23 hp over the C43 sedan) and 520 Nm of torque, the lot sent to all four wheels via a smooth, 9-speed automatic gearbox that works well; it can, however, feel somewhat unsure in crawling traffic, and also when you’re blasting through a series of quick corners. The chassis offers up ride quality that is on the firm side (not surprising), but it also makes the car a fluid, composed handler and thus a lot of fun to drive; I’d have liked more sharpness from the steering wheel, however.
At Rs 75 lakh (ex-showroom), this is a car that doesn’t really have like-for-like competitors in the real sense; it’s thus one of those heart-based decisions (as indeed are almost cars at this level), and if you’re an enthusiastic driver, want a high level of luxury and the kind of performance that will not scare you out of a year’s growth, it could well make a case for itself for a place in your garage.
AT A GLANCE
Rs 75 lakh (ex-showroom)
10.5-inch touchscreen, sports seats, sports steering with touch controls, climate control, Audio 20 music system