Mercedes AMG E43

Baby E63? Or a perked-up E400 with an AMG badge? From the out­set it swings to­ward a con­ser­va­tive note rather than ag­gres­sive over­tones

Motor (Australia) - - FIRST FANG - By DANIEL DEGASPERI

The AMG of old is back with the twin-turbo E43 of­fer­ing sen­si­ble speed, but is that what we want?

EN­GINE 2996c V6, DOHC, 24v, twin-turbo / POWER 295kW @ 6100rpm / TORQUE 520Nm @ 2500 -5000rpm / WEIGHT 1765kg / 0-100KM/H 4.6sec (est) / PRICE $160,000 (est)

PUN­DITS around the globe were shocked when Mercedes-AMG un­cloaked its class­chal­leng­ing, 450kW, 3.4s 0-100km/h E63 com­plete with an all-wheel drive sys­tem that can dis­able the front drive­shafts to do skids un­til the back tyres burst like Amer­ica’s san­ity. It even trumped the Porsche Panam­era Turbo and its 3.6sec sprint.

But there's been an LA-to-NYC­sized chasm in the E-Class range be­tween the sub­dued E400 and the all-guns-blaz­ing AMG E63. En­ter the Mercedes-AMG E43; although from the out­set it ap­pears as though it swings to­ward a con­ser­va­tive note rather than ag­gres­sive over­tones.

The E43 shares the ba­sics of its 3.0-litre V6 en­gine with the E400, but with two larger tur­bocharg­ers de­ploy­ing 1.1bar of boost and cylin­der lin­ings coated in fric­tionre­duc­ing Mercedes-F1-de­rived Nanoslide tech­nol­ogy also used in the four-banger A45/CLA45/GLA45.

It shifts from 245kW to 295kW at 6100rpm, and from 480Nm to 520Nm be­tween 2500rpm and 5000rpm. The 1765kg E43 AMG gets a nine-speed auto and 4Matic sys­tem with 69 per cent of drive per­ma­nently di­rected to the 275mm-wide 19-inch rear rub­ber, de­liv­er­ing 0-100km/h in 4.6sec.

Some dis­tance still ex­ists to the 450kW/800Nm E63, but with a price of around $160K, the E43 is far and away from big brother to the tune of $90K in Aus­tralia.

The E43 also hits the rewind but­ton by two decades – the 1997 E36 AMG cost $185K and ran an atmo six that achieved a 6.7sec sprint. It re­turns to the days when AMG mod­els lim­boed un­der the radar with more re­strained styling than, say, a C63 Edi­tion 1 in matte grey with or­ange stick­ers.

Be­yond a flared front bumper, lip spoiler and quad ex­haust pipes, this 4.9-me­tre-long AMG could be a Mercedes-Benz sedan by any other name – prob­a­bly an E400 Sport.

In­side, the leather seats are laced with red pip­ing and an AMG­trade­mark Al­can­tara tiller, although the stan­dard E-Class cabin with its S-Class-like de­sign, IMAX screens and bevy of tech­nol­ogy (adap­tive cruise, self-driv­ing, high-end au­dio) starts from a lofty stan­dard.

Fire the V6 en­gine up and an ex­haust ‘whumpf’ im­me­di­ately sig­nals this E-Class’s Af­fal­ter­bach train­ing. With the hemmed-in re­fine­ment of a base Benz, how­ever, lit­tle per­son­al­ity fil­ters in on light and medium throt­tle open­ings from an en­gine that sounds generic.

Thank­fully the twin-turbo revs quickly to­wards its top-end, re­veal­ing clearer and crisper acous­tics, and will per­mit each gear to be slammed into the cut-out with­out auto-up­shift­ing when in Sport Plus man­ual mode.

Nab a right pad­dle and burnt fuel crack­les and fizzes through the ex­haust and, fi­nally, the E43 chars its ties with the E400.

Cu­ri­ously, though, the smaller C43 gets a switch­able sports ex­haust, where the E43 uses a one-size-fits-all va­ri­ety that makes the driver work hard for any theatre.

Even left in Sport Plus auto mode the trans­mis­sion is su­perb, slink­ing into taller ra­tios when it de­tects calm cruis­ing and im­me­di­ately scal­ing oc­taves and thump­ing through ra­tios when a bru­tal bruis­ing is re­quested via the throt­tle.

Fur­ther AMG tweaks in­clude spe­cial steer­ing knuck­les and load­bear­ing joints, in­creased neg­a­tive cam­ber on both axles, more rigid elas­tokine­mat­ics and a faster steer­ing ra­tio work­ing around a trio of unique Air­matic air sus­pen­sion set­tings.

Im­me­di­ate and sharp re­sponse through the tiller is an high­light, as is ride qual­ity that never fal­ters – even on lumpy back­grounds around Stuttgart in firmest Sport Plus the E43 main­tains con­trol and com­fort, yet in ac­tual Com­fort mode it’s never soggy.

The darti­ness of the front end be­lies the 4.9-me­tre long dimensions, en­cour­ag­ing the driver to crack the throt­tle early in cor­ners and in­dulge in the two-thirds-plus rear-drive bias.

How­ever, even in sta­bil­ity con­trol’s mid­dle Sport Han­dling Mode, at­tempt­ing to neu­tralise the E43 when the out­side front rub­ber is loaded up can be frus­trat­ing. Un­like the (smaller sized) Audi S4 with its sport cen­tre dif­fer­en­tial, this AMG lacks the pre­ci­sion to pivot be­tween its front and rear axles.

AMG wants the E63 to be lairy, yet the E43 sits flat, re­sists body­roll but is un­in­ter­ested in push­ing on.

This is a solid sports sedan, but for $160K the grainy en­gine note leaves ex­pec­ta­tions of greater char­ac­ter.

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