MERCEDES-AMG CABRIOLET: FIRST DRIVE

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Last week Mercedes Australia launched C-Class Cabriolets, with both standard and AMG variants being announced. The C 200 and C 300 convertibles are on the road now, as is the C 43 AMG version. The C 63 won’t be here till early 2017.

However, Mercedes did bring in a couple of early examples of the AMGs and we were able to drive a C 43 following the drive program for the standard models. Our ride in a C 63 S will have to wait till later.

Cleverly, the Mercedes-Benz PR people set out an even longer, more challenging, route for the AMGs than for the others. One with plenty of hilly, twisty bits in the delightful areas of the Yarra Valley outside Melbourne.

The new Mercedes-AMG C 43 Cabriolet, priced at $119,900, has a 3.0-litre V6 engine to deliver 270 kW of power and torque of 520 Nm. It uses a nine-speed automatic transmission and drives through all four wheels. Sports suspension is standard. Acceleration time is quoted at 4.8 seconds from zero to100km/h.

The $179,900 range topping Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Cabriolet is fitted with a stunning 4.0-litre V8 bi-turbo engine to put you in control of up to 375 kW and a great 700Nm of torque. It covers 0–100 km/h in just 4.1 seconds. It has AMG active dynamic engine mounts, electronic rear axle locking differential, high-performance composite braking system and the AMG performance exhaust system.

Sitting behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG C 43 is a sheer delight for those who like driving, though the ever-changing Victorian weather didn’t make life easy on the day. Thankfully the soft-top can be opened and closed in 20 seconds at speeds up to 50 km/h.

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The AMG 43 engine has little turbo lag, answers brilliantly to the throttle once the lag has passed and provides real push-in-the-back motoring. Something that’s really useful when driving on quiet backroads with slower vehicles in front. It also sounds just right when running in sports mode.

Transmission response is fast and accurate. Though we do like playing with paddle shifters when driving in conditions like these we have to admit that the guys and gals who programmed the automatic really have taught it well.

Road grip is as high as you demand in any AMG and the Cabriolet felt safe and sure at speeds a long way above that suggested by signs.

In our previous drives of the C 200 and 300 Cabriolets we reported that ride comfort was generally good, though some poor surfaces caused an upset at times. The C 43 was slightly better than the other models when we ran it over the same stretches or road. That’s probably due to tyre and suspension design. You may pay a lot more for the AMGs but you get even more engineering expertise.

Though these Cabriolets are two-plus-twos they are close to being full four-seaters, with enough room in the back for four adults without too much compromise on kneeroom with those in the front.

The Cabriolet’s Aircap air deflection system runs a stream of air over the windscreen that pushes the onrushing air higher to minimise wind intrusion to the cabin. In the previous Cabriolet the air deflecter popped up and reduced the visual appeal of the car’s front when the roof was open. Now the Aircap is all but invisible, indeed you have to feel for it, rather than look for it. That’s clever.

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There were times when we felt as though there was less buffeting from the airstream than you get in a closed car with the windows down. A panel behind the rear seats reduces air intrusion for those travelling back there.

If the Cabriolet senses a roll-over is imminent, cartridges behind the cabin are pyrotechnically fired and shoot up to provide a survival space. Strengthened A-pillars play their part in maximising protection.

For those who don’t really want, of can’t afford, AMG power you can still settle for one of the lower cost models as there’s quite a few Mercedes-AMG components in every Cabriolet coming here.

The lowest cost model, the $85,900 Mercedes-Benz C 200 Cabriolet has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with 135 kW of power and 300 Nm of torque. It has the sporting looks of 18-inch AMG wheels, and suspension and body styling.

The $99,900 C 300 Cabriolet also uses the 2.0-litre turbo engine, but it’s revised to produce 180 kW and 370 Nm. The C 300 has with 19-inch AMG alloys, a Burmeister surround sound system, Mercedes’ Comand online navigation, heated front seats and an Airscarf neck-level heating system

Australia is the number one market globally for AMG models as a percentage of overall Mercedes sales and there seems sure to be a rush on the AMG C 43 Cabriolet. A waiting list may build for the forthcoming C 63 so it might be an idea to ring your favourite dealer sooner than later.

The complete Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-AMG C-Class Cabriolet range is:
C 200: $85,900
C 300: $99,900
AMG C 43: $119,900
AMG C 63 C: $179,900
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mercedes-Benz dealer for drive-away prices.

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