Test Car Specifications
Model tested: Mercedes-AMG E 43 4Matic Saloon
Price: starts at £55,695 on-the-road
Engine: 3.0-litre biturbo V6 petrol
Transmission: nine-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: four-door, five-seat saloon
CO2 emissions: 192g/km
Combined economy: 33.6mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Power: 401hp at 6,100rpm
Torque: 520Nm at 2,500- to 5,000rpm
Kerb weight: 1,840kg
The new Mercedes-AMG E 43 4Matic is the first of the new generation W213 E-Class as seen through the eyes of AMG, though clearly there's room above it for a full-on E 63 model in time. Here, we have an AMG version of the company's 3.0-litre biturbo V6 petrol engine producing 401hp and 520Nm of torque thanks to two larger turbochargers. This is sent via a recalibrated nine-speed automatic to all four wheels, though the rear axle receives 69 per cent of that output in normal circumstances to give it more of a rear-drive feel. The suspension has had a makeover too, and it uses the air-sprung Air Body Control system as its basis so it has adjustable spring rates and damping depending on driving mode selected. That air system allows the driver to raise the ride height to get over small obstacles and it also lowers the car automatically at higher speeds to bring the centre of gravity down. Elsewhere in the chassis, the electromechanical speed-sensitive power steering featured is a variable ratio system and there are larger cross-drilled and vented brake discs all-round.
Stylish-wise, the E 43 looks even more aggressive than the AMG Line versions of the E-Class and rides on a set of bespoke 19-inch alloy wheels. The interior gets even more of a makeover, with red seat belts, fantastic Artico and Dinamica sports seats (that's man-made leather and suede), a flat-bottomed steering wheel, bespoke dials and plenty of black upholstery with red stitching.
The E 43 will be available in saloon guise from £55,695 on-the-road, while pricing for the E 43 Estate will be announced later in the year.
How does it drive?
Potential buyers need to temper their enthusiasm here and try to dial down expectations. After all, virtually all AMG-developed versions of the Mercedes E-Class have been tyre-smoking hot-rods and the most recent have added a layer of real driver engagement to that basic appeal. The E 43, it should be remembered, is designed to be the 'first stage of AMG performance for the E-Class' according to its makers, not a replacement for a V8-engined, fire-breathing E 63. With all that in mind, the technical specification is promising, thanks to that stonking 401hp biturbo V6 and tweaked transmission, not to mention the significant chassis upgrades carried out. AMG has even sent most of the engine's output to the rear axle. This has the makings of a very good car.
But then something strange happens. When you're finished admiring the red-on-black interior and enjoying the sports seats, you start it up and amble out into traffic in the default settings. And, curiously, it doesn't feel like a hardcore AMG car. It's quiet, civilised and very smooth to drive. How bizarre... This is your first indication that the E 43 may be an AMG E-Class for those that want to use it every day without being constantly goaded into driving quickly by the car. Thankfully, a lot more of the usual AMG character comes out once you switch into Sport or Sport Plus mode.
Do that and the throttle is sharper, the exhaust is a lot louder, the steering is heavier, the transmission changes more abruptly and the suspension firms up noticeably. In this guise, the E 43 is crackers fast when you keep the accelerator pinned, but it's never actually quite 'crackers'. That's to say it's always composed and stable feeling, with little movement of the chassis to engage the driver in the process of driving quickly. Perhaps it comes alive more on a track, as there's a lot of grip, which you won't comfortably overcome on the public road. And yet this is probably less likely to be used on a circuit than the forthcoming E 63. The result is that it all feels a small bit anodyne, in spite of the excellent brakes, transmission and well-weighted steering.
There's no doubting the engineering gone into the new Mercedes-AMG E 43 4Matic and it's a polished product that does everything well. That is, except for engaging its driver in the process of going quickly. If that's less important to you than image, quality and pace, then so be it, but we can't help but feel that, in keeping space in the line-up for the new E 63, AMG didn't make the E 43 as much fun as it could be. It means that this is not an AMG saloon for the brand's hardcore fans, but instead perhaps one to draw others into the fold.