Topless star

The four-seater Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet is a comfortable soft-top with 520Nm on tap from 2,000rpm.
The four-seater Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet is a comfortable soft-top with 520Nm on tap from 2,000rpm.PHOTO: DAIMLER

Mercedes' new C-class Cabriolet is elegant and tackles twisty roads with aplomb

Life, they say, is full of compromises. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

It is the same with cars. Most coupes, for instance, are fun to drive, but tend to be impractical and bumpy.

Mercedes-Benz, however, seems to have eliminated the need for compromises with its new C-class Cabriolet.

This is the first time that a topless version is available in the C-class range. Previously, the Mercedes' only four-seater convertible was the E-class Cabriolet, which actually uses the platform of the lastgeneration C-class.

The C-class Cabrio has plenty of road presence. It has an athletic stance and an elegant face, but its rear end is somehow unappealing to me.

Its cabin boasts swathes of metallic trim and soft leather upholstery to deliver the luxurious feel you expect of Mercedes.

  • SPECS / MERCEDES-AMG C43 CABRIOLET

  • PRICE: To be announced when car arrives by year end

    ENGINE: 2,996cc 24-valve V6 turbocharged

    TRANSMISSION: Nine-speed automatic with manual select

    POWER: 367bhp at 5,500rpm

    TORQUE: 520Nm at 2,000-4,200rpm

    0-100KMH: 4.8 seconds

    TOP SPEED: 250kmh (electronically limited)

    FUEL CONSUMPTION: 8.3 litres/100km

    AGENT: Cycle & Carriage

Most four-seater convertibles are short on backseat space, but thanks to the new car's 2,840mm wheelbase, rear occupants - even those up to 1.8m tall - enjoy generous legroom.

The backrests, however, are too upright and cannot be reclined.

The use of a soft-top instead of a hard-top means the roof takes up less boot space.

The C-class Cabrio has a maximum luggage capacity of 360 litres - which is three-quarters of what a C-class sedan has.

It takes 20 seconds to open and close the roof and this can be done while the car is moving at up to 50kmh.

Thus far, this convertible has shown that it is both roomy and practical. But I was still sceptical about its performance.

Because the lack of a fixed roof impairs a car's structural integrity, engineers add additional bracing to the chassis and body. This usually means added weight and a stiffer suspension set-up.

But the moment I drove off in the Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet, I was impressed.

The dreaded scuttle shake was absent and the ride remained pliant across a variety of road surfaces. The car did not feel heavy, despite weighing 1,795kg (135kg more than the C43 Coupe).

The car's athletic performance is down to its engine - a turbocharged 3-litre V6 churning out 367bhp and 520Nm. These figures enable it to demolish the century dash in 4.8 seconds.

Naturally, I had the most fun in Sport+ mode. The throttle is at its most responsive setting and the gearbox's shift patterns are optimised to take advantage of the motor's powerband.

The transmission is Mercedes' own nine-speed automatic, which is seamless and rapid.

Plant your foot on the gas pedal and the C43 moves with authority, announcing its presence with its throaty exhaust.

The gearbox will hold each forward ratio until the motor approaches 6,000rpm.

Brake late as you enter a corner and your rewards are titillating blips punctuating each downshift.

The transmission can even perform three downshifts in quick succession. That I often found myself in the optimal gear for fast exits added to the feeling that the car and I were in sync.

I expected the C43's 4Matic (all-wheel-drive) system to dull its agility, but my fears were unfounded. Interestingly, the 31:69 torque split between front and rear axles is permanent, not variable.

My route through Trieste and over the border to Slovenia primarily consisted of twisty mountain roads.

The C43 did not disappoint. It may not have the keenest turn-in, but it is obedient. Only when you carry too much speed into a corner will you get understeer.

I was so enamoured with the C43's performance that if it were not for time constraints, I would have retraced my route from Slovenia back to Italy to do it all over again.

Despite its name, the car is not a true-blue AMG model. AMG, Mercedes' sports division, is known for models with extreme performance. The C43 has the AMG badge, but its performance is not extreme.

That, however, does not dilute its appeal one bit.

• The writer is with Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2016, with the headline 'Topless star'. Print Edition | Subscribe