After spending some time in the AMG E 43, we can see the method to the multiple model madness of the E-Class line-up.
Mercedes-Benz has something for virtually every buyer preference and the E 43 sweetly fills the gap between the competent luxury of the E 400 and the Nurburgring madness of the E 63 S. We thought the E 43 might be the sweet spot in the range, and turns out that it is: it’s not a maniac but it isn’t boring either. Think of it as sports-luxury done right.
Where the E 400 is just over $150k, this is nudging $170k, hardly a stretch for those with the wherewithal. You get an AMG’d look inside and out and added performance via some Affalterbach fettling. The 3.0-litre bi-turbo gets bigger blowers and more boost to realise 295kW and 520Nm, while the software for the nine-speed auto has been tweaked for swifter shifting. The air suspension gains an AMG tune and the permanent AWD features a fixed torque split that sends 69 per cent of the shove to the rears.
The test car we drove was standard, and actually there are very few option boxes to tick on the E 43 to the point that we can’t think of anything it obviously lacks. There are all manner of convenience features and active safety items too. The adaptive cruise can all but control the car on the motorway outings, and also takes care of traffic queues.
With its expanse of digital displays across the dash, all the info is laid out the way you want it, and though a mouse controller will never be as good or simple to operate as a touch screen, it at least avoids the sticky fingerprints issue. The sports seats mix nappa leather with added support and are more accommodating than the hardcore AMG Performance seats in the E 63. Add the sports steering wheel and pedals with the faux leather-covered dash, and the E 43 does the sport luxo thing well.
Helping deliver a more rounded character are the variable drive modes and air suspension. In Comfort, the ride isn’t quite downy – there’s always a hint of the AMG-ness to the gait – but it’s wafty in comparison to the hard-edged E 63 S. Against the E 400, the engine is less responsive from right down low, needing 2000rpm before it starts to feel lusty.
In Comfort, the auto defaults to second gear to move off and so you initially feel a bit cheated as it doesn’t feel particularly quick, even though it clocks off 100km/h in just 4.6sec. We took to configuring the Individual drive mode to set the drivetrain to Sport, leaving the suspension and steering in Comfort (and axing the stop/start function) which made it feel more AMG like. Away from the burbs and into interesting roads, you’ll be selecting the Sport plus mode to really nudge things along.
Kept churning above 2500rpm, the V6 is responsive and spins well to its sign-off at 6000rpm. The meaty midrange keeps this humming along nicely, and the the nine-speed auto maintains it in that happy zone. It’s not the most sonorous six, but at least the tyre noise in this AMG is bearable. The auto never feels lost or laboured in its selections, changing down smartly under the brakes and swiftly up through the ratios.
With near two tonnes of metal flying around, the added roll stiffness of the air springs in full Sport plus mode keeps it from wandering about, while the progress is not harsh. The E 43 gets a quick steering rack so turns easily, and it starts loading up as you near the limits when those front tyres begin to really work hard.
The variable nature of the E 63 S’s AWD is missed here; the E 43 doesn’t feel as neutral in and out of the bends. That said, the AWD grip is plentiful while just a touch of patience is required out of tight bends to avoid power-on understeer, but otherwise the system sorts itself well. And if you feel that the electronics are doing things almost too well, a dab of the ESP button accesses a Sport Handling mode which loosens the thresholds and makes for more playful dynamics.
The brakes could do with more bite and pedal feel but the E 43 does stop well when you stand on the big pedal. As for fuel use, expect somewhere between 10 (a mix of motorway and urban commuting) and 17L/100km (hooning).
While you can’t get the wagon version here, the sedan is roomy, you’ll fit nine boxes of wine in the boot (we proved that), and with the seat folded flat, there’s room for as many again. Rounding out the package is the understated but powerful look, which makes the E 43 our pick of the E-Class range.
|Model||Mercedes-AMG E 43 4matic|
|Engine||2996cc, V6, T/DI, 295kW/520Nm|