Fly under the radar
Beneath body panels barely tweaked by AMG, the E43 possesses huge power and grip.
THIS Mercedes accelerates as rapidly as any current HSV Commodore. The E43 belts from rest to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds, its maker credibly claims.
It’s a good number but Mercedes-AMG is working on the E63, which will slice a sizeable chunk off it. Due in Australia in 2017, it’s the kind of car that has made the brand’s reputation and will have a roaring, snorting, crackling twin-turbo V8 under its bonnet.
The Mercedes-AMG E43 4Matic, to give its name in full, packs a quieter, calmer twinturbo V6 and is scheduled to arrive in Australian showrooms later this year, priced at about $170,000.
The “4Matic” explains how the new E43 can match the 0-100km/h time of an HSV with a supercharged V8 with more than twice the displacement and many more kilowatts. The big Australian drives only its rear wheels, while the German newcomer sends power to all of them, 4Matic being the Benz name for all-wheel drive.
In the E43, it is set up to send about two-thirds of the power to the rear axle and the balance to the front. This means the Mercedes-AMG turns power into performance without waste, while still handling much like a rear-drive car.
When you mash the E43’s accelerator to the floor it leaps forward without fuss or drama. No tyre spin or smoke, not even a hint of squeal.
Maximum power is 295kW, more than any other version of the 3.0-litre. At MercedesBenz’s high-performance AMG division, engineers selected bigger turbochargers and rewrote engine management software to achieve the power boost.
It’s a very good engine, delivering a solid surge of thrust anywhere above 2000rpm.
Equally fine is the ninespeed automatic transmission bolted to it.
With five driving modes, selected via the Dynamic Select toggle mounted on the centre console, Mercedes-AMG gives the driver a lot of control over how the E43 feels and sounds.
Eco maximises fuel efficiency and enables “sailing”, meaning that between 60km/h and 160km/h the transmission automatically slips into neutral and allows the car to coast when the accelerator pedal is released.
Comfort mode disables sailing but is otherwise similar. It means light steering, a soft setting for the standard air suspension, smooth gearshifts and quiet exhaust.
Sport firms the suspension, hastens gearshifts and adds weight to the steering.
Select Sport + and you’re at the wheel of a beast. The exhaust snarls, there’s a thump in the back as gears are speedily shifted, the accelerator pedal is more sensitive and the suspension is firmed for flatter, faster cornering.
Finally, there’s Individual, which allows drivers to mix and match all the variables.
A quiet but quick cruiser, the E43 was quite comfortable on backroads and autobahns to the north of Stuttgart, Mercedes’ home town.
The new E-Class has a spacious, beautifully designed and carefully assembled interior. AMG makes some changes — red seat belts, for example — but the inbuilt classiness of the newest Mercedes sedan still shines through.
The E43 is a car for those who like to fly under the radar. While there are some AMG changes to the exterior, including a very discreet bootlid spoiler, the body panels are the same as any ordinary E-Class.
It doesn’t shout speed, in other words. That’s a job the new E63 will do. As with the E43, it will come only with 4Matic.
The extra traction compared to the outgoing rear-drive E63 means it will have acceleration to equal some of Europe’s most exotic supercars. And HSVs won’t see which way it went …