Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet Road Trip

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Most people equate Nova Scotia with fog, lobsters, lighthouses – and possibly Trailer Park Boys. Granted, having grown up there I can attest that Rickie, Julian, and Bubbles are not entirely fictional characters, but one thing I know for sure: even they might be surprised by Nova Scotia’s rapidly blossoming wine industry.

A big part of the AMG experience has always been the aural hijinks, and this bent-six does not disappoint.

A 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet proved a worthy vessel for exploring some of these regions, and of course, the need to assess the merits of this stylish “AMG lite” convertible was paramount – here resplendent in an uber-cool matte-finish Designo Selenite Grey ($2,500) and Cranberry Red leather upgrade ($1,990).

And so its starts, the “essential” upgrades and packages that render the base MRSPs of premium European automobiles as mere specks in the rearview mirror. To wit, the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet starts at $68,800 but here is optioned to $85,380.

The C43 bridges the gap between the 241 hp 2.0L turbo four C 300 4Matic Cabriolet ($57,100) and the rabid 503 hp 4.0L bi-turbo V8 C63 Cabriolet ($84,900). The C43’s bi-turbo 3.0L V6 barks out a credible 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, and drives all four wheels through a nine-speed 9G-Tronic transmission.

First stop is Wolfville. This picturesque university town that nestles into the eastern reaches of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley has long been somewhat of a cultural oasis, and now the region can be counted as one of Canada’s wine destinations, bragging about a dozen wineries and, more importantly, some pretty fine wines.

A few kilometres east of Wolfville we pull the Merc in to The Grand Pre Winery. In 1979, Roger Dial brought a grape variety from the Niagara region of Ontario, thinking it would do well on these fertile hills that overlook the historic Grand Pre dykelands – thousands of hectares reclaimed from the sea by French Acadians over three centuries previous. That grape, renamed L’Acadie Blanc, is now a staple of the region.

A little closer to town we find a brand-new winery, Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards, that creates small-lot wines from certified organic vineyards. They practice biodynamic viticulture that incorporates complex composting, herbal sprays, and certain operations dictated by the movement of the sun and moon.

There are some fantastic winding roads that bisect the dykelands – a perfect place to exercise the C43. With a claimed 0–100 km/h dash of 4.8 seconds, this drop-top is properly quick. The 3.0L biturbo V6 may not be hand-built and signed by a single technician in Affalterbach like the mighty AMG V8s, but it does haul to its 6,500 rpm redline in a linear rush, and turbo-lag is a non-issue.

The nine-speed auto is impressive too, swapping gears smoothly in Comfort mode and then banging them off with aggression when Sport or Sport Plus Mode is selected. Instant response to shift-paddle inputs too.

This tester is equipped with the $1,850 AMG Driver’s Package that bestows 19-inch alloys with Pirelli P Zero Run Flats (225/40R19 front 255/35R19 rear) and an AMG Performance Exhaust System that when activated spits out some rather spectacular metallic farts on full-throttle upshifts. A big part of the AMG experience has always been the aural hijinks, and this bent-six does not disappoint.

We leave the coastal lowlands and head south into the Gaspereau Valley where the slopes are now blanketed with grape vines. Luckett Vineyards is a pretty slick operation with a grand tasting room, fine dining and an outdoor patio overlooking the vines. They claim “our wines truly are worth phoning home about,” and from an old British phone booth plunked in the middle of a vineyard, you can do just that – free phone calls to anywhere in North America.

You can’t visit the Annapolis Valley without making a trek over the North Mountain (more of a large hill, really) to Halls Harbour where its famed lobster pound has been serving up the tasty crustaceans for decades. A word of warning: once you’ve feasted on lobsters while viewing the harbour you’re pretty much ruined for eating them anywhere else. Hard to believe that before lobsters got all gentrified, this “junk catch” was used to fertilize the local fields.

Mercedes-Benz has upped its interior game big time with this latest C-Class – and new E-Class for that matter. Passengers bask in top-shelf design, materials, and workmanship. The front seat are where you want to be, however, as the rear two perches are a bit tight – but certainly serviceable. And with the standard AirCap airfoil, backseat riders are largely unruffled by turbulence when the side windows are raised. The front 16-way buckets get standard AirScarf that caresses your neck with a warm breeze on those cool evening jaunts.

Next on the agenda is an extended highway run to NS’s North Shore, just across the Northumberland Strait from PEI. In true Benz tradition, the C43 Cabriolet is a long-legged touring champ, and the three-layer acoustic top insulates the cabin well. It retracts in about 20 seconds, and up to a speed of 50 km/h.

Jost Vineyards in Malagash claims to be Nova Scotia’s first wine producer, having planted vineyards in 1978. Naturally, the locals thought they were nuts. Turns out the climate, tempered by the warm-ish waters of the strait, was perfect for cool-climate varieties like Baco Noir, Millot, and Castel. The wines here are world class, and Jost certainly has fun naming them. Created for Canada’s 150th, The Great Big Friggin’ Red, “A BBQ Fiend, That’s Right Buddy” is a nod to the local vernacular. Another winner is a red blend of four grapes fermented on their skins called, wait for it… 4 Skins.

When the roads are smooth and winding, the Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet can show its stuff. Steering is quick and precise – 2.1 turns lock-to-lock – and new for 2017 is a three-stage stability control system that allows for a bit more arse-end action before stepping in. The 4Matic all-wheel drive runs with a 33/67 front-to-rear torque bias.

Factor in an impressively rigid structure, and this drop-top carves the corners with conviction. The only downside is a stiff ride over the rough stuff, even in Comfort mode.

So could this Mercedes-AMG C43 “tweener” be the sweet spot in the C-Class Cabriolet line up? I would say yes. The C 300 4Matic is a bit tepid, and the rear-drive AMG C63 is a pricey and ballistic handful. Of course, it all comes down to budget. If you can spring for the C43 and the necessary upgrades that make it all the more fabulous, you won’t be disappointed with this somewhat rare, exceedingly competent, and undeniably desirable drop-top.

Engine Displacement 3.0L
Engine Cylinders V6
Peak Horsepower 362 hp
Peak Torque 384 lb-ft
Fuel Economy 12.2/9.0/10.8 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 249 L
Model Tested 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet
Base Price $68,800
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,695
Price as Tested $88,175
Optional Equipment
$16,580 – Designo Selenite Grey $2,500; Cranberry Red leather upgrade $1,990; AMG Driver’s Package $1,850; Intelligent Drive package $2,700; Premium Package $4,900; Climate Comfort Front Seats $1,200; 360-degree camera $590; Adaptive High-beam Assist $250; LED headlights $350; dark ashwood trim $250