60 road test: Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic Estate

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There was a time when you knew what to expect from an AMG-fettled C-Class: A big naturally aspirated V8 up front, rear-wheel drive and an honest, muscle car simplicity. Outwardly you might assume the C43 Estate was more of the same; perhaps a detuned version of the C63 (itself now sporting a pair of turbochargers)? But you’d be wrong.

The C43 comes with a twin turbocharged V6, for a start. Perhaps more intriguingly, it’s four-wheel, with a 39:61 front-to-rear torque split. Arguably, it owes more to the A45 AMG hot hatch that it does to the bahn stormers of old.

It takes a second to recalibrate your brain to the soundtrack. The V6 sounds good, but it’s an altogether more cultured noise than the rather thuggish V8 in the C63. You’d struggle to tell it was turbocharged too, with pin-sharp throttle response and no discernible lag. But you don’t quite get the full force of the engine at low revs, almost as if there’s some subtle massaging of the torque curve going on to mask the effect of the turbos. It’s actually a very satisfying feeling – one that encourages you to hold the gears a little longer than strictly necessary when operating the nine-speed auto in manual mode.

For a relatively large car the C43 Estate feels surprisingly agile. Most of the time you could be forgiven for thinking you’d slipped into the two-door coupe. Only under heavy braking do you start to sense the extra mass.

In contrast to the slightly feral nature you might expect from a big AMG, the C43 feels composed, sophisticated and perhaps just a little bit restrained. That’s no bad thing in a family estate and it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s more than £16,000 cheaper than the full-fat C63 and doubtlessly a whole lot cheaper to run. For £45,660, the C43 4Matic Estate actually looks like something of a bargain.