Wearing well-tailored suits, these business sedans carefully hide their muscles: the Audi S4, the Mercedes-AMG C 43 and the Volvo S60 Polestar convert more than 350 HP via four-wheel drive into targeted performance. FIRST COMPARISON TEST via auto-motor-und-sport.de.
You can never have enough torque, a proverb says. This postulates itself so easily, until you get a rear-wheel-drive sedan, which can transfer just partially the power to the road. The rest is lost to traction control. Later you try a 4×4 – and sometimes find that it makes you happier, because the torque-grip ratio is much better.
One step smaller? The Mercedes-AMG C 43 would be such a potential fortune-teller. From AMG’s point of view, it is the entry-level model below the C 63, and from the point of view of Mercedes the second-strongest C-Class. And from the perspective of the Audi S4 and the Volvo S60 Polestar, the C 43 is a serious competitor. If so, it is an AMG-tuned Mercedes C 400 – with 367 instead of 333 hp and 520 Nm instead of 480 Nm of torque.
Two V6 against Volvo’s four-cylinder
In turbocharged times, the performance jump of the bi-turbo three-liter V6 is not a magic trick, but a consequence of a higher charge pressure and retuned engine control unit. But the changes in the chassis are even more characterizing: the C-Class gets more stiff steering knuckles and articulation joints on the front axle as well as parts of the C 63 elastokinematics on the rear axle. At the front and rear the C 43 has more negative fall. In addition, the adaptive sports suspension is standard, as is a three-stage ESP as well as a larger braking system including 18-inch wheels – and a rear-wheel-drive biased four-wheel drive system.
The recipe is similar in the S4, but not in the Polestar. This is, so to speak, a larger turbocharger, optimized exhaust system and retuned engine management. But where the S4 has a V6, the S60 needs to manage with a four-cylinder. A compressor supports the turbocharger and the two-liter thus churns out 367 hp and 470 Nm.
Well, you can expect much, but not always meet the expectations. The fact that a compressor is working under the bonnet can be heard without a doubt – but not so noticeable. The two-liter motor pushes rather cautiously out of the basement, comes only at medium speed to the point, without subsequently bursting into a turbo fire, just as the similarly heavily charged AMG 2-liter in an A 45. And the Volvo four-cylinder runs rough. In a direct comparison, the Polestar driver can follow the S4 and C 43, but the two-liter engine has to make an effort.
On the highway, the Polestar is nervous, the standard sports suspension is too rigid. The Öhlins shock absorbers show themselves in their element, demonstrate enormous ambition, which, on closer inspection, however, turns out to be exaggerated hardness. The dull steering dampens jubilation, hardly delivering feedback from the grip ratios at the front axle. Although it is a four-wheel drive, the polestar feels like a front-wheel drive.
Who now considers the pure driving dynamics, the Polestar gives way to his competitors. But this only applies to the dry-smoothed and smoothly brushed test site. If ground waves come to the corners, the landing gear begins to bobble.
Of course, driving fun plays an important role. But not only: The Audi scores in everyday traffic, offers the passengers the most space and when loading the widest trunk area. These are arguments that make the S4 a pleasant companion. Also, its on-board electronics are easier to use than in the Mercedes. For this, the driver counters with steering assistance in stop-and-go traffic as well as partially autonomous driving. In the suspension comfort, the C 43 does not quite approach the suppleness of the S4 – Audi now stands for a wide spread of ability thanks to the adaptive shock absorbers. The insulation of the interior is also good. In the S60, rear passengers suffer in terms of thigh support, while front seats are also too soft.
Great sound in the C 43
The ear interprets the decibel onslaught of the C 43 as an emotional sound. Its V6-Biturbo plays the combustion song passionately, yet harmonious and pleasant, even with opened exhaust flaps not too pushy. Only in sports-plus mode does the C 43 howls like a traditional AMG, firing under full load thunders from the tailpipes.
With pleasure, a load of torque is swept on the asphalt. Thick, smooth and supple. And it tastes so marvelous for unsurpassed sportiness. The power and transmission are in perfect balance. The front axle hooks in, the rear makes for, quite naturally and without any artificial momentary play. The curve is already crossed with unrivaled mastery, and the C 43 is pushing ahead towards the next straight. Playful and enthralling. When did a C-Class finally trigger such enthusiasm?
Despite an optional sport differential, the S4 can not keep up, remaining more reserved in the background. The V6 sounds great, the gearbox switches fast, the rear steers with great precision, even much more than in the Mercedes. But it all ends in a sudden.
“Artificial” is the word, so true of the S4: Although the old Audi problem of the sensitive steering is on the right path, the whole chassis is still a disconnected. Load-changing reactions such as the rear axle wiping away in the dynamic mode come as programmed, yes unnatural and can surprise the driver. The same track, which had previously been defeated with great aplomb in the C 43, seems now more trivial.
But the comparison test does not only evaluate emotions. Thus, the Audi scores extremely determined points: it brakes more stubbornly than the Mercedes, its engine is a little more economical, its interior more generous, its suspension comfort higher, its maintenance somewhat cheaper. And despite the subjectively digital driving impression, he can not be held responsible for the objective driving dynamics.
This is the reason why we have selected two winners: the Mercedes-AMG C 43 as the most fun and sporty and the Audi S4 as the most practical and comfortable.
1. Audi S4 3.0 TFSI Quattro
Spacious, the shortest stopping distances, the best comfort, the lowest consumption and the least maintenance costs.
2. Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic
Great driving experience, good steering and gearbox. The V6 biturbo and the adaptive suspension are excellent too.
3. Volvo S60 Polestar
With its hard suspension and the not exactly gripping engine, the Polestar can win little here. Equipment and price are ok.
Mercedes-AMG C 43
|Base price||59.300 €||60.065 €|
|Lenghtx Height x Width||4745 x 1842 x 1404 mm||4686 x 1810 x 1442 mm|
|Trunk volume VDA||480 bis 965 L||480 L|
|Engine||2995 cm³ / 6-Zylinder||2996 cm³ / 6-Zylinder|
|Power (Torque)||260 kW / 354 PS (500 Nm)||270 kW / 367 PS (520 Nm)|
|Maximum speed||250 km/h||250 km/h|
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h||4,7 s||4,7 s|
|Consumption||7,3 L/100 km||7,8 L/100 km|
|Test consumption||10,2 L/100 km||10,8 L/100 km|