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Expert Reviews 1 of 4
By George Moore
June 28, 1998
There is nothing quite like the magic of a name, and a name like Mercedes-Benz has that certain magic.Part of the magic of Mercedes is the image of quality and performance. Never one to be lacking in the latter of that duo, Mercedes is bringing on
line a new supercar, the Mercedes C43.As a new limited production V-8 powered version of Mercedes' C-Class sedan, it's represented by local dealer World Wide Motors and is a model not like any other C-Class.Not only is the C43 a super-swift set of
wheels, but it enjoys the distinction of being modified by Germany's top automotive performance company, AMG.AMG, whose name comes from founder Hans-Werner Aufrecht, his former partner Erhard Melcher, and the town of Gossapach, Germany, has been a
collaborator with Mercedes since 1967.So when MB decided to build a Autobahn-burner four-door based on its C-Class model, AMG was the natural choice to put the final touches on the sedan.The "touches" add up to items like 302-horsepower out of 260
cubic inches (4.2-liters), a race car like handling, 0-60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds, and a top speed that is electronically capped at 155 mph.If you took off the electronic controls, who knows how fast this thing would go.As is characteristic
of a Mercedes-Benz automobile, the C43 combines the sound and the fury with luxury and exclusivity. In other words, this is no hair-shirt motor car.Owners can whistle down the Interstate amidst the trappings of leather, walnut woods, and a plethora of
electronic genies that do everything for you but steer.The C43 is based on Mercedes' C-Class architecture, which dictates a wheelbase of 105.9 inches and overall length of 177.4 inches.The engine, suspension, wheels and tires, instrumentation, and
elements of the body work are specific to this particular model.The motor is Mercedes' new-generation V-8 that employs interesting three-valve and twin spark plug technology.In C43 form, it is 10 percent more powerful than the standard version of
the V-8 used in the full-sized Mercedes E430 luxury sedan.Rather than adopting dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, the C43's valve train utilizes a single overhead cam (per bank) that actuates two intakes and one exhaust valve.The
three-valve technology dramatically reduces emissions during the critical warmup stage by 40 percent. And Mercedes claims in general there is no trade-off in horsepower and torque.The two spark plugs per cylinder, which is a design parameter that was
a feature of Mercedes engines before Mercedes joined Benz, results in cleaner burning during the combustion process.To handle the torque, which numerically is the same as the horsepower, 302 foot-pounds, Mercedes pulled the heavy duty five-speed
automatic that is in its 6.0-liter V-12-powered models and dropped it into the C43.This is one of the so-called "smart" transmissions that automatically adapts its shifting strategy to an individual's driving style.A
s a five-speed that thinks, once it learns that style it responds like a manual transmission in the hands of a skilled driver.Mercedes automobiles have the comforting feeling of being as steady as a rock, even when rocketing along in triple
digits.But AMG takes this a step further with lessons learned from about 27 years of racing various MB products.Up front, AMG suspension geometry reduces front end dive during heavy braking. And when drivers gets on the binders in this sedan they
really throw out the anchor.The front disc brakes are an additional 2 inches in diameter over C-Class sedans, and almost a half-inch thicker.At the rear, they are almost 1.5 inches bigger and over a half an inch thicker.Add AMG specified
Bilstein shocks, higher spring rates, heavy duty control arms, and super wide 17-inch wheels with wider tires at the front than the rear, and you have the r ecipe for sweeping through turns like there is no tomorrow.The C43 retains the integrity of
basic C-Class chassis/body construction, it has been given a deeper front air dam, a lower rear apron, and door sill panels.So check your mirrors, pull the shifter into Drive, step on the throttle, and hang on.It's not, however a drive without a
price, as the suggested manufacturer's retail price is listed as $52,750, plus freight and a limited number of options.But it sure is motoring with panache.