The general public has had a seemingly love-hate relationship with the traditional wagon automobile architecture and aesthetics. Like James Bond once said while drinking a mojito: you learn to like it. Yet it still reminds us of a family car, almost like the unfortunate association between minivans and moms. (There’s definitely a stigma—sorry, moms.) It seems that lately, many brands such as Audi, Porsche, Volvo, and Mercedes have vowed to shatter this perception. In automotive design there is a saying that goes, “Where you break the roofline, and at what angle, defines the spirit of the automobile.” Mercedes has smashed through this proverbial breaking point, adding their finesse and adored design to the C43, transforming it effortlessly from a frumpy station wagon reminiscent of weekends with tents and bug spray to a sporty and stylish outing on the town.
You get the best of all worlds, with ample passenger and cargo space as well as impressive performance and handling. The beauty with this C-Class is options, from a modest and economical 2.0L turbo inline 4 that delivers 255 horses to a strapping AMG-enhanced 3.0L biturbo V6 that pushes 385 horses. Both sit atop a 9 speed auto transmission, and just as the gears go up, so does your heartbeat from the glorious notes that are synonymous with AMG wailing out of the twin dual exhaust tips. The updated fascia and front spoiler are bold, stylish, and sport a very in-vogue multi-beam LED headlight design. The body lines are stout yet sleek, and they minimize the wagon exterior, ultimately complementing the elongated roofline and screaming to those it swiftly passes that this is not your dad’s station wagon.
The tail is just right with side vent spoilers, and a central diffuser adds to the brazen look of this automobile. Often, it is the tail of wagons and how they are fashioned that ruins their shape. With this C43, this is not the case. The tail, in fact, pulls the car together and adds to its stout and audacious demeanour, meaning that it looks solid in the best possible way. The C-class has gotten a refresh on some of the interior features as well. The instrument cluster is orderly yet sporty, with a dual analog cluster and a centre info screen that conveys all pertinent information to the driver. If you have an attachment problem with your large-screen TV at home, you can get an upgraded 12.3-inch screen in place of the analog cluster. This option offers customizable analog-style and digital display that dispenses readouts in numerous configurations. The standard 7” media display (upgradable to 10.25”) sits atop the central air vents, a setup we’re not extremely fond of. Nevertheless, it offers in-depth control of this C-class with access to all menus.
Our tester was equipped with the AMG performance flat bottom steering wheel, a no brainer if you want to feel like a race car driver. It is built to perfection and packed with dials, buttons, and mini touchpads that provide access to vital functions and also control the instrument cluster and infotainment screen. The centre console has a graceful design and houses the command knob and touch pad, performance menu and selection buttons, auto start toggle switch, volume dial, and a few others. The trim surround carries up to the infotainment screen with an HVAC control panel, a stylish analog clock, and a few other control buttons along the way, creating a graceful separation between the driver and passenger.
The entertainment system is robust and can be upgraded to a 590-watt, 13 speaker Burmester surround sound system that produces an impressive virtual surround experience and accommodates both Android Auto and Apple Car Play, making your sync straightforward and effortless.
The interior design of the C-Class is nothing short of what one would expect from Mercedes Benz. Meticulously crafted upscale materials, designed with grace and innovation, adorn the interior. Mercedes has taken all measures to pay close attention to detail; this car pays homage to creature comforts and ingenuity. The power heated and cooled seats are decked with detailed top stitching, AMG brandishings, and the elevated performance aesthetic of its beloved fleet. There is plenty of space throughout the cabin and ample storage in the cargo area—perfect for the furry members of your family. The cargo cover also has a net that deploys vertically to keep him or her in the cargo area without feeling isolated. An added touch of intelligence is the collapsible crate under the cargo floor lid to keep those small items from rolling around in the back. The interior features in the C43 include: brilliant 64-colour ambient lighting, panoramic roof, AMG illuminated door sills, 360 degree cameras, intuitive voice control (which is impressively responsive), wireless phone charger, a very well-designed heads-up display, and the feature you never knew you needed until you got it, the foot activated trunk.
The performance and safety features, to put it simply, are futuristic. They include Active Brake Assist, Distance and Steering Assist, Lane Keep and Blind Spot Assist, Attention and Crosswind Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking, and Map Based Speed Adaptation, the latter automatically adjusting the vehicle’s speed ahead of bends, roundabouts, and exit ramps. Finally, leave it to the engineers at Mercedes-Benz to design a system called Pre-Safe Sound wherein the vehicle’s sound system emits a rushing noise when an impending impact is detected. This rushing noise activates a natural contraction of the stapedius muscle in the inner ear (and no, it isn’t pronounced “stop-a-dis,” even though in this case it should be!), dampening the sound of the collision and reducing potential for damage to one’s ears, truly showing the brilliance of these fine cars’ creators.
The C43 has a reasonably good centre of gravity and handles beautifully. It is light, nimble, and fast, especially with the added performance of the AMG package. For a vehicle that is marginally larger than a standard sedan, the length feels comfortable and the car can perform spotless turns on less than a dime. The engine makes sensational noises, almost symphonic, boasting an outstanding power band with very little to no turbo lag. The shifting with the 9 speed gearbox is quick and solid, although a little latent in manual mode with the paddle shifters. All in all, with multiple performance, traction, and suspension settings, the C43 can deliver everything from an exhilarating white-knuckle ride to a safe, relaxing, four-season commute.
Our AMG tester, with all of its options, costs out at a list price of $76,380.00 CAD—a bargain in our mind for an AWD performance wagon packed with all kinds of Mercedes goodness and innovation. (Especially when compared to some of the price tags we see in the SUV category.) Available only to the Canadian market of North America, it is a sports car in disguise; it is the perfect all-year, all-around vehicle, and the apex in modern luxury engineering.