Cabriolets, soft tops, dropheads, open tops or convertibles, call them what you may, but for me, they always bring on a sense of fun, leisure and, when outside the confines of city walls, an all-important, fresh-air freedom. The simple process of removing a vehicle’s metal (or fabric) ceiling is like unlocking the shackles of life, I (both mentally and often even physically) emit a big sigh of relief and my place in this hectic, hustling, bustling world seems a little more at ease – n’aww. It would appear that Mercedes-AMG didn’t get the memo – well sort of.
I received the keys to the C 43 Cabriolet on a bright and sunny Monday morning, so the instant appeal of being out of the office at the start of the working week, combined with access to a fine and luxurious Mercedes-AMG, nigh-on brought about tears of joy – it was going to be a good week.
I took a moment to admire its shape and road stance. Resplendent in Iridium Metallic Silver and sporting a deep black fabric top (that was very soon going to disappear), at first pass it had a typically elegant Mercedes appearance, yet upon closer inspection, the large front air scoops, fat feet, boot spoiler lip and chrome exhaust tips give you a taste of its wild side.
Slipping inside, I was greeted by the lavish AMG leather luxury I’ve come to expect – does that a bit too sound self-satisfied? The AMG sports seats are firm and offer more support than Swindon Town FC fans (which in truth is not that difficult), a Burmester system takes the sound quality to another level and, luckily enough, this review model came equipped with the Performance Ergonomic Package (with bucket seats, Nappa leather steering wheel with Dinamica microfibre around the nine and three positions and a MUST-HAVE Performance Exhaust that I never got tired of hearing from (I’ll get to this really soon).
Before I left, Matt (the Mercedes-Benz PR/press guy) said to make sure I tried out Sports+ mode – hmmm… engaging a driving status that is best suited for a track? Pah, what did he know? As it turns out… quite a lot.
Yes, I was aware that since it sported the AMG badge (and the three-pointed star for that matter) it would be something special, but cabriolets, in general, are about fun in the sun; essentially, a lot of shine but seldom much substance – again, I don’t think the C 43 AMG had been cc’d.
I left the Mercedes head office in all my roof-down glory, fixed in Comfort mode but with the Sports exhaust baffle button depressed – the perfect way to get a slightly less firm ride while still adding a hint (well like a shout) of attention-getting growl – surely enough to satisfy my generally conservative attitude.
The C 43 Cab has a 3L V6 bi-turbo engine that fits perfectly with the 9G-Tronic gearbox. The power it delivers to the 4Matic all-wheel drive system tops 270kW, while the torque jumps over the 500 line to 520Nm. The result is a reported 0-100km/h time of 4.8 seconds and a (limited) top speed of 250km/h It also speaks of fuel efficiencies of 8.5L/100 kilometres, but this is a number that (as it turned out for me) you’ll have very little interest in.
You see, like many of the AMG range, the C 43 Cabriolet has a variety of driving modes; the ECO and Comfort are quite probably fine (ok, for the regular commuter, I assume – and of course the generally conservative me) and even the Sport mode has its time and place, HOWEVER, the Sports+ mode is where you will want to spend your time.
Taking Matt’s advice, I pushed the dial to the top and unleashed the Kraken. Revs go up considerably and the suspension goes down ready to play. Steering and throttle response take on a new perspective; most of all, the performance exhaust takes on a new voice – it wakes up from its dreamy slumber and doesn’t appear too happy about it. On the flip side, I was ecstatic.
The V6 starts to mimic a V8 in both sound and performance. Forget the need to call ahead; stamp down on the accelerator the moment you leave the office and dinner will be on the table waiting for you at home. I found myself leaving gaps in the commuter traffic just to get a rise out of the engine and hear that exhaust crackle and pop. Braking becomes a new experience too, the way it scoops up the revs as it downshifts is glorious, Then there was the tunnel that runs under the city, the amazing work of architectural genius there to assist with traffic flow ended up being the acoustic funnel I needed to trumpet the exhaust note like a fanfare. Yes, I did drive like an a***.
There is a lot of rubber underfoot (surrounding the 19-inch AMG alloys), which, when on the run and exploring the twists and turns that make up our rural roads, is a confidence booster. However, with its slow and tight lock manoeuvers (such as city or shopping mall car parks), the feedback from the steering is juddery and initially unnerving. So my recommendation is to keep to the open roads and let the sports suspension and 4Matic all-wheel drive run wild – who needs to shop anyway?
As satisfying a convertible ride is for those lucky enough to be in the front seats, the C 43 AMG has spared a thought for the normally windswept passengers not quick enough to call shotgun. The Aircap automatic draft stop is a small shiny button that sits beside the roof switch; this, in turn, is connected to an extendable lip at the top of the windscreen surround and a mesh panel behind the rear head rest – the combination of both results in hair (and hairpieces) not losing the plot (even when the driver does).
I do believe that my neighbours (despite them lining up for rides with smiles, reminiscent of a fun fair) will be pleased to see the back of the C 43 – and, in honesty, I’d have ended up losing their goodwill if I’d continued to arrive all guns ablazing – so for that reason, the Cabriolet can be tamed.
For instance, those (few) times that being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic meant Sport+ made no sense, I engaged the Distronic (adaptable cruise) and simply let the C 43 do all (most) of the mundane work, while I basked in the aforementioned cabriolet Zen – smugness prevailed.
Car reviewing is a funny old game, as I was researching this story I ended up on the New Zealand Crimes Act of 1961 website (don’t ask); anyway, under Breach of the Peace category, I scrolled down to section #43. The headline Suppression of a Riot, seemed perfectly apt for the Mercedes-AMG C 43 Cabriolet and, in particular, the driving modes. In Comfort, and with the exhaust baffles closed, it’s a gloriously prestigious open-air drive, but flick to Sports+ and it becomes an absolute riot!