Auto giant now assembles its AMG C43 4MATIC Coupe in Thailand, and it warranted a repeat test drive
You can easily sense that aura of pride and joy from the people at Mercedes-Benz (Thailand) (MBT) Co Ltd, the official distributor of Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the Kingdom.
It is, in fact, exciting times at MBT, as assembly of the first Mercedes-AMG model has taken place at the Thon Buri Automotive Assembly (TAAP) plant in Samut Prakan province. This is the first time that an AMG model is being put together outside of Germany, and even though assembly is mainly from SKD (semi knock down) kits, it shows the level of confidence the German automaker has in the Thai production facility and the Thai auto market.
The first Mercedes-AMG model to roll of the Thai assembly line is the C 43 4MATIC Coupe, which was previously offered as a CBU (completely built up) import at a price of Bt5.19 million since last year.
The exciting news is that with local assembly, the new pricing announced by MBT at the official launch last week in Pattaya is Bt4.14 million, meaning that as much as Bt1.05 million has been shaved off. A huge discount ,this is (imagine customers who has purchased the CBU version), and the C43 costs just several hundred thousand baht more than the 211-hp C250 Coup MG Dynamic (Bt3.59 million).
I usually don’t do repeat test drives, but with the Thai-spec C43 media launch and drive event being held at Bira International Circuit in Pattaya last weekend, I just couldn’t resist.
MBT had been staging customer drive events at Bira during the week, and the media event was the finale to the week-long event. Members of the media arrived on Friday evening and experienced a spectacular AMG launch event featuring light and driving show plus rock concert, with a trendy live broadcast on social media.
Saturday’s event consisted of three training stations, such as slaloms and braking, designed to display the capabilities of the C43’s different driving modes – comfort, sport and sport plus. It also gives instructors a chance to check out the driving skills of the participants.
While the exercises might be far from exciting, it was a good warm-up for the main event of the day – performance driving around the demanding Bira circuit.
Well-known for its treacherous negative-camber first corner, long sweeper and precision-required chicanes, Bira circuit offers drivers a chance to experience extremely difficult situations where vehicle weaknesses are easily spotted. Whether it’s steering precision, suspension or engine torque, the Bira circuit shows it all.
Drivers were divided into two groups of five C43’s, each caravan led by an instructor driving the GLA 45, which was kind of funny (leading a group of sports cars with a crossover).
But do not be fooled. To quote an MBT official (who surely doesn’t want to be named), “If you cheat and don’t get caught, it’s called motorsport”.
These instructors are racing champs from Australia and going fast (in any type of vehicle) is their occupation. And while the GLS may seems a little quirky entering corners with its SUV stance, it actually has better acceleration than the C43 (4.3 vs 4.7 secs for 0-100kph) and is capable of leaving the C43 behind in straight-line acceleration, without sweat.
I was lucky to get into the car right behind the instructor during all three sessions (and was not interfered by a slow driver) and had a great time taking the C43, with its twin-turbo V6 pumping out 367hp and 520Nm, around the 2.4-km Bira circuit.
The 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, with a 30-70 front-rear distribution, provided the C43 with excellent grip in corners, allowing it to accelerate out of corners quickly while maintaining good stability. It was easy to drive this car around Bira at high speeds, although for safety reasons the caravans didn’t get close to the full limits of the C43 until the final lap.
I clocked approximately 1 minute 28 seconds maintaining a steady distance from the GLA during this final lap (which means he’s going at the same speed), but in my opinion, this car should be able to easily break the 1:20 barrier if we really went all out.
Sales of AMG vehicles have been growing dramatically here during the last three years, and Mercedes is hoping that the AMG brand will finally kick off in Thailand this year with local production of the C43, which is expected to serve as a precedence for other Mercedes-AMG models that could also be assembled here.
And the good thing about the C 43 is that, although it doesn’t possess that fire-breathing character of its crazy sibling the C63, it has been designed to offer great real-world driving with good circuit performance.
You can drive it like a normal family car during weekdays (to work or to the supermarket) and to the circuit for driving events just like this during the weekends.
Mercedes-AMG C43 4MATIC Coupe Specs
Engine: V6 twin turbo with intercooler
Bore and stroke: 88x82mm
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Max power: 367hp/5,500-6,000rpm
Max torque: 520Nm/2,000-4,200rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
0-100kph: 4.7 secs
Top speed: 250kph
Average fuel economy: 12.5km/litre
Average CO2: 183g/km
Suspension (f/r): multi-link, stabiliser/multi-link, stabiliser
Steering: powered rack-and-pinion
Turning circle: 11.2 metres
Brakes (f/r): vented disc/vented disc
Track (f/r): 1,563 /1,546
Weight: approx. 1,735kgs
Wheels: 19-in alloy
Tyres: 225/40 R19 (front), 255/35 R19 (rear)
Fuel tank capacity: 66 litres
Price: Bt4.14 million
Distributor: Mercedes-Benz Thailand Ltd