Cars & Bids Bargain of the Week: 1998 Mercedes C43 AMG

Thanks in no small part to turbos, what were once outlandishly fast cars now seem like merely quick used cars. Not even AMG Mercedes are immune to the horsepower creep. But older AMGs offer some delights their new counterparts leave out, and often at more reasonable prices. And this week’s Cars & Bids bargain buy, 1998 Mercedes C43 AMG, has all that and a touch of hot-rod history.

The W202 Mercedes C43 AMG is the first factory-made AMG with a V8

The rear 3/4 view of a silver W202 Mercedes C43 AMG sliding around
W202 Mercedes C43 AMG rear 3/4 | Mercedes-Benz
1998-2000 ‘W202’ Mercedes C43 AMG
Engine4.3-liter ‘M113’ V8
Horsepower302 hp
Torque302 lb-ft
TransmissionFive-speed automatic
Curb weight3500 lbs
0-60 mph time6.1 seconds (Car and Driver)

Although it was founded by former Mercedes employees, AMG was originally an independent tuner. One that so happened to specialize in racing and hot-rodding Benzes. But after about 20 years of occasional official collaborations, Mercedes decided to formalize its partnership with AMG.

So, in the 1990s, it officially made the tuner part of the family. That meant speed-oriented luxury car shoppers could now buy AMGs with factory warranties. And the first such factory hot-road was based on the W202 Mercedes, the first-gen C-Class. The tuner gave it a hand-built 276-hp 3.6-liter inline-six to turn it into the 1995 C36 AMG. But it quickly followed up with something even more potent, a car that would introduce a long-running AMG staple.

That car is the W202 Mercedes C43 AMG, the first V8-powered factory-warranty AMG. Today, 302 hp doesn’t sound like a lot. But that’s more than the US-spec E36 M3 makes. And while the lighter, more agile E36 M3 is a sharper yet more compliant sports sedan, it doesn’t have a “steamy” V8 rumble, Car and Driver says. Admittedly, the rear-wheel-drive C43 AMG’s stiffer springs and Bilstein shocks impact ride quality slightly. However, it has quick steering and strong brakes. Also, the leather sports seats are supportive and well-bolstered; plus, there’s plenty of rear space.

Essentially, the W202 Mercedes C43 AMG is a 90s German luxury take on a 1960s American muscle car. Though to be fair, that’s what drew many AMG fans to the tuning division’s products. And while the latest Mercedes-AMG models are more well-rounded, comfier, and even faster, they exist because of the C43.

A 1998 Mercedes C43 AMG is available right now on Cars & Bids

A silver 1998 Mercedes C43 AMG parked on a road
1998 Mercedes C43 AMG | Cars & Bids

Seeing as it’s almost a classic car today, the W202 Mercedes doesn’t have as many gadgets as the latest C-Class. And that applies to the 1998 Mercedes C43 AMG currently listed on Cars & Bids, too. However, for a late-90s luxury sedan, it’s well-equipped.

Besides that hand-built V8, this Mercedes C43 has the standard AMG body kit and 17” wheels. In addition, it has two-tone leather upholstery, wood trim, a power sunroof, stability control, automatic climate control, and a CD changer. Also, its front seats are power-adjustable and heated. And the auto-dimming rearview mirror is a factory-original feature, as is the heated windshield washer system.

The white-and-black-leather front seats and wood-trimmed dashboard of a 1998 Mercedes C43 AMG
1998 Mercedes C43 AMG front interior | Cars & Bids

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With just under 179,800 miles on its clock, this W202 Mercedes C43 AMG has certainly been through a lot. However, apart from the usual assortment of scratches, scuffs, tears, and chips that come from a lifetime of driving, it’s in solid shape. The only ‘real’ issue is a repainted buffer with a worn-out flange. And it comes with extensive service records.

Speaking of service, the previous owner recharged the A/C and performed a tire, transmission, and windshield washer system inspection. The seller, meanwhile, just replaced the coil packs, valve cover gaskets, engine oil, oil filter, and headliner.

This first-gen C-Class is an affordable entry into AMG ownership

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As of this writing, this 1998 Mercedes C43 AMG is listed at $6300 with four days left in the auction. Even though the W202 remains surprisingly affordable, C43s usually cost closer to $11K, FCP Euro says. And it’s worth noting that this car originally cost around $54,600 in 1998; that’s roughly $94,100 today.

Given its age, mileage, and the fact that it’s an old luxury performance car, a pre-purchase inspection is recommended. Fortunately, the W202 C43 AMG isn’t just an affordable AMG, it’s also one of the most reliable, FCP Euro claims.

While it’s not supercharged like the W211 E55 AMG’s M113K V8, the naturally-aspirated M113 is even more durable. Early examples suffered from the same wiring harness problems that plagued the otherwise stalwart W124. But a later one like this shouldn’t have those flaws. And apart from age-related rust and rear main seal leaks, the only potential headache is changing out the 16 spark plugs. Yup, the M113 has two plugs per cylinder.

Regardless, the W202 Mercedes C-Class is a W124 and R129 SL contemporary, meaning it still feels solid and stalwart. And while it’s not as fast as the modern version, this C43 offers genuine AMG performance heritage for not a lot of cash. Plus, that V8.

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