Mercedes-Benz’s decisions over the last 3 years have generated quite the headlines, after announcing that both the C43 and C63 would drop the V6 and V8 engines for a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. This alone has raised many questions and has enthusiasts concerned about the future direction of this brand, as electric technology takes center stage. While sports sedans are being replaced by crossovers, it’s still a competitive market with rivals like the Audi S4, BMW M340i, and even the Genesis G70. But now, with the manufacturer from Stuttgart shaking up its successful formula for the C-Class, is the new C43 sports sedan worth considering? Well, here’s what you need to know about the 2023 Mercedes C43 before making a purchase.
Mercedes-Benz has taken technology very seriously in the 2020s. Their interiors are becoming increasingly advanced, especially with models like the EQS Sedan and SUV. These interiors give the impression of commuting to work in a spaceship. While BMW’s changes to the M340i have left some buyers disappointed, the Audi S4 stands out as the best candidate offering an ergonomically satisfying dashboard layout. This layout, even to this day, might be the best setup in the current market. From an interior technology perspective, this generation of the C-Class features a fighter jet-like cockpit. It also includes improvements to the screens you’ll be interacting with, including the fully customizable digital gauge cluster and the head-up display. The haptic feedback buttons mounted on the steering wheel allow you to scroll through multiple layouts that display relevant information. As we’ve mentioned before when discussing newer Mercedes-Benz products, the resolution and quality are on par with Audi’s virtual cockpit.
Moving on to the infotainment system, you’ll find a 12-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, along with onboard navigation and available augmented reality. As seen with the C300 and GLC, most of the buttons have been removed to centralize all functions on the head unit, including the dual-zone climate control, which now has its own dedicated menu. Unlike the previous generation, Mercedes has cleaned up the menu layout to make this touchscreen more user-friendly. While it might take some time to get used to, it eventually becomes second nature.
Distinct from the C300
Sports sedans like the BMW M340i and Audi S4 are often seen as sportier versions of the BMW 3 Series or Audi A4. Despite the larger powertrains and sport-tuned suspensions, a buyer willing to make the upgrade won’t be shocked by the difference in driving dynamics. However, with the 2023 Mercedes-Benz C43, we’d be a bit more hesitant to suggest a C300 owner to make the switch. This generation brings an aggression that may catch people off guard. Under the hood, the C43 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, producing 402 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a 9-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Setting aside the differences in performance statistics compared to the C300, the first thing to note is how vastly different this transmission is, with its violent gear shifts contrasting greatly with the ZF 8-speed found in the Audi S4 and BMW M340i.
Moreover, with the small electric motor on the turbocharger shaft and rear axle steering, the C43 possesses F1-inspired technology that improves overall performance, leading to exhilarating straight-line speed and sharp, direct handling that makes cornering effortless. In comparison to the more restrained C300, the C43 is not as luxurious as its predecessor. Whether Mercedes-Benz is compensating for the downsizing of their powertrains for the 2023 model year to appease enthusiasts, they’ve ended up engineering a hardcore sports sedan that borrows attributes from what the C63 will offer and puts the luxurious characteristics on the back burner.
It’s for this reason that we’ve had difficulty comparing the C43 to its closest rivals, which still utilize 6-cylinder engines. Mercedes-Benz seems to be making a statement by attempting to evolve this segment into the age of electrification. However, due to the advanced technology and mechanics of this sports sedan, buyers might hold out, especially now with rumors that Mercedes-Benz is returning to larger engines after the lukewarm reception of dropping the V8. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that the 2023 C43 is a bad car. In fact, it’s very enjoyable and engaging to drive, but it’s tuned specifically for enthusiasts rather than appealing to shoppers looking for a more powerful C300.
Everything about the new C43 signals that it’s a different beast compared to the tame and unassuming C300. However, most of the key differences are mechanical and technological. Drawing much of its styling cues from the C300, there’s both a sense of this sedan having a low profile at first glance and the appearance of a smaller AMG GT 4-door coupe. While you could list the minor cosmetic differences compared to the C300, the vertical bars on the grille and the small AMG badge let us know that this car means business. The Starling Blue Metallic paint on this model contrasts with Mercedes’ inconspicuous design elements, drawing attention as we experienced during our time with the C43. With LED headlights, this car makes quite the statement as it passes by. A common theme for 2023 is that it takes on the sportier personality of the C300 but shows its true colors once you hit the road.
As we move around to the back, since our C43 wasn’t equipped with the AMG Night Package, chrome accents provide a classy and upscale color contrast, especially for the rear diffuser that outlines the quad exhaust tips. Mercedes-Benz has also incorporated some gloss black trim for the final third of this sedan. Just like the front, you’ll find full LED taillights for a modern appearance. Not receiving enough attention are the smoother and streamlined body lines for this generation, which keep the C43 looking sophisticated despite its aggressive driving dynamics.
Will You Miss The V6?
The primary concern on everyone’s minds is whether this generation holds up to the V6 offered on the outgoing model. While 2023 does mark a departure from a mechanical aspect, this sports sedan offers a driving experience that’s unique and unlike anything we’ve seen so far in this market. Some of that can be attributed to the 48-volt mild-hybrid system and the small electric motor on the turbocharger shaft. Despite 0-60 times coming in at 4.6 seconds according to Mercedes-Benz, the on-road performance suggests otherwise, as it feels quicker under heavy accelerations. Sound-wise, the turbo 4 still provides the burbles of the exhaust, as Mercedes has done its best to replicate the roar of a 6-cylinder engine. However, your enjoyment of this sports sedan will ultimately come down to personal preference. What the 2023 C43 offers is a performance-focused driving experience that’s better suited for the track or winding backroads, rather than being the luxurious daily driver that this car was once known for.