New Car/Review


By Tom Hagin


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 53,000
Price As Tested                                    $ 55,190
Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 4.3 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 260 cid/4266 cc
Horsepower                                   302 @ 5850 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               302 @ 3250 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  105.9"/67.7"/177.4"
Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3469 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  16.4 gallons
Tires  (F/R)           (Front) 225/45ZR17 (rear) 245/40ZR17
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average                            18/23/21          
0-60 MPH                                        6.0 seconds
1/4 (E.T.)                          15.0 seconds @ 97.5 mph
Top-speed                  (electronically limited) 155 mph

* Sequential multi-port fuel injection                              

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedans are the best-selling models in company history. Its C43 represents a small percentage of those sales, since only 1500 of them will be shipped here over the next three years.

It's a C-Class that's been heavily modified by long-time Mercedes performance partner AMG, the same company that produced the similar C36 in 1995, along with the awesome E55 of this year.

OUTSIDE -The C-Class was restyled last year, but the redesign was conservative. It's traditionally shaped and subtly trimmed, with modest spoilers and side cladding, offset by a classic chrome grille and square headlights. Everything else is body-color, save for the black door handles and black trim around the windows. Muscular "monoblock" 17-inch alloy wheels and ultra high-performance, low profile tires come as part of the C43 package. And although our test machine didn't have them, special high-intensity xenon gas-discharge headlights and a heated headlight washing system are optional. Also optional is a rain sensor system that measures the amount of light refracted from raindrops on the windshield, then activates the single, wide-sweeping wiper.

INSIDE -The C-Class' sensible interior has been fitted with racing-inspired, highly bolstered bucket seats. They're covered in two-tone leather upholstery (unless a single tone is ordered), and feature multiple contours and pneumatic lumbar, side and thigh supports. Both the driver and passenger seat are powered, and can be tailored to fit virtually any size body. The fat, leather-wrapped steering wheel echoes this two-tone theme, while burled walnut is found on the center console, just below the windshield and on the door panels. The dashboard gets special ivory-colored AMG instruments, but the rest of the interior is identical to the regular C-Class. Standard C43 equipment includes climate control, a Bose-brand high-power stereo, telescoping steering column, cruise control, power windows, outside mirrors and door locks, electronic key-less ignition and a power glass sunroof.

ON THE ROAD -The C43 is powered by a double-cam 4.3 liter V8 that produces 302 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque, enough to propel the small sedan to 60 mph in just six seconds. This engine is all-aluminum, with twin spark plugs and three valves per cylinder, hollow forged steel connecting rods, lightweight camshafts, a high- pressure lubrication system and variable-length intake runners. In years past, this hot-rod technology meant a rough idle and a power band that didn't begin until high engine speeds were attained. With the C43, power delivery is smooth and linear all the way up to its 155-mph top speed. Gear changing is handled by a "smart" five-speed automatic transmission, a gearbox that "learns" the driving patterns of its operator and adjusts its shift points accordingly. An electronic traction control system keeps wheelspin under control on slippery pavement.

BEHIND THE WHEEL -The C-Class four-wheel independent suspension systems starts with a double wishbone front setup, along with a five-link design in back. AMG installs 24 percent stiffer coil springs up front and 12 percent stiffer units in back when compared to those used on older AMG-modified sedans. The Bilstein shocks are special too, with AMG-specific damping that is stiff over small bumps but soft over larger bumps, so the ride is smooth, yet firm. The system provides precise ride control and handling, without bone-jarring stiffness. The C43 uses recirculating ball power steering that is quick, responsive and ready to tackle twisting highway roads. Braking duties are handled by massive, race-bred ventilated power disc brakes with what Mercedes calls Brake Assist, a system that senses if a panic stop situation is occurring and automatically applies maximum braking force. Also, an Electronic Stability Control (ESP) program works with the C43's standard anti-lock braking system (ABS) to help keep the car from sliding sideways or plowing forward. It's very complex, but it works great.

SAFETY -Dual dashboard airbags, side-impact airbags and door beams, ABS, Brake Assist, traction control and ESP are standard.

OPTIONS - Six-disc CD changer: $1,595; Destination: $595.

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