Why Driving Matters.
Driving the Canada-only AMG wagon that Americans can only dream of
Look on my station wagon, ye mighty Americans, and despair!
It is we Canadians who—alone in North America—have been chosen to wield all 385 horsepowers of the Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic Wagon. That’s right, a station wagon. The powers that be at Mercedes HQ have granted us this lanky beast, but denied it to Americans. Cast aside that inferiority complex, Canada; we are worthy.
The timing on Mercedes’ part is impeccable. Just as BMW is discontinuing the 3 Series wagon in our part of the world, here comes the C-Class. The Mercedes perfectly fills the compact luxury wagon void, which is a (very small) niche appreciated mainly by middle-aged enthusiasts who wear dad caps un-ironically, as well as younger enthusiasts who wear dad caps ironically but can’t afford luxury wagons.
In Canada, the littlest Benz wagon comes prepared two ways: as a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 255 hp for $47,400 (CDN), or as the AMG-lite C 43 with a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 385 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque for $59,900. The latter will do 0–62 mph in 4.8 seconds. Both versions have all-wheel drive standard, because Canadians need it like a baby needs a binky.
The C 43 feels small but dense, like a bulldog. This chunky boy thuds and clunks over pothole-ridden city streets at low speed. The 19-inch alloys don’t do it any favors. It’s rough enough that you hesitate to drive faster. Pucker yourself for a higher-speed run, though, and—in typical German fashion—the ride actually becomes passably compliant, even smooth on the highway.
Maybe nobody told the Germans our roads are garbage and our speed limit is usually low: 100 km/h (which is approximately 12 mph).
Sorry! Impolite to complain. But, while we’re at it, a couple more issues. The interior, which was once a big selling point of the C-Class, now feels a bit old and plastic. That’s true even on our $76,380 test car, loaded as it is with extra leather and bit of carbon-fibre (that’s how we spell it up here). The cabin of a new, well-optioned A-Class is nicer. The old-generation infotainment is so dire we actually miss the voice-control function of the latest MBUX system.
Just as we were starting to become dejected and question our excitement for this Canada-only wagon—Why, even, do we love wagons? They’re just, like, polite SUVs— we found the Sport+ mode.
Holy-smoking-Wayne-Gretzky this thing makes my toque stand up straighter than a Mountie when the Queen’s in town.
In Comfort mode the controls are heavy, slow, and lazy, but in maximum-sport mode they suddenly feel manic. The dampers, steering, throttle, and nine-speed automatic all stand to attention. The exhaust note switches into “Powerful” mode. And then? The C 43 scythes around corners like it’s on a pair of freshly-sharpened hockey skates. No sport utility will ever do that; they’re too tall and too soft. Squeeze the throttle and the response is instantaneous, a crisp and glorious bark. The sound echoes through the cabin in a way it just doesn’t in a sedan. The motor lunges through the rev range, spinning up so quickly you’d almost think there was a motorcycle trapped under the hood. There is no momentary pause, as there is with every AMG SUV, while the vehicle rears back onto its hind wheels before accelerating. The AMG wagon just hurries hard (it’s a curling thing) right from the get go.
It makes sense. This exotic wagon that Mercedes has bestowed upon Canadians is not only a mildly uncomfortable luxury car; it’s also an eminently practical sports car. Mercedes won’t sell many of them, which means the C 43 will surely become a cult collectible among enthusiasts. In 25 years, Americans will probably import all of them.
Whatever special love Canadians still harbor for station wagons is less some vestige of our colonial history and more an outgrowth of the fact we are a stubbornly practical people. We put milk in floppy bags because they’re easier to transport. We love an itchy plaid shirt because they last forever. And, we love our sports cars with three extra doors and all-wheel drive.
Oh, one more thing. You can keep your Buick Regal TourX, America. We were initially puzzled (and hurt) when GM chose not to sell its ungainly near-beer wagon in Canada, but no matter. We don’t want the TourX anymore. We have something much better.