Fly un­der the radar

Be­neath body pan­els barely tweaked by AMG, the E43 pos­sesses huge power and grip.

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - By John Carey

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 …

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