TOP 5 FU­TURE TECH­NOL­OGY FROM FRANKFURT

The shape of things to come

Driven - - Contents -

Our test car car­ried matt brown wood trim with sub­tle alu­minium ac­cents bring­ing enough bright­ness to the dark cabin. Like any Merc, the in­te­rior is lu­di­crously cus­tomis­able, although the con­tem­po­rary fin­ish in our test unit crafted a stately yet sporty cabin that felt re­ward­ing with­out be­ing over­bear­ing.

The front seats were op­tion­ally heated and cooled as well, and the Burmester 3D sur­round sound sys­tem – blast­ing 1,450 watts of flaw­less sound through 23 speak­ers – was a wel­come ad­di­tion to the cock­pit ex­pe­ri­ence.

Also in­cluded in our test car was Mercedes’ en­tire suite of driv­ing au­to­ma­tion and ac­tive safety tech­nolo­gies, a sur­round view sys­tem, ac­tive high beams, and key­less en­try. AMG’s Ac­tive Multi-con­tour front seats com­pleted the pre­mium lux­ury pic­ture.

MODE OF CHOICE

Like most other sporty Mercs there are four driv­ing modes – Eco, Com­fort, Sport, and Sport+ – as well as a dri­ver­set In­di­vid­ual op­tion. Eco, which sets stop/ start to be more ag­gres­sive and uses a glide func­tion to, ef­fec­tively, de­clutch the trans­mis­sion, just doesn’t be­long in a six-cylin­der. More so in this six-cylin­der. Com­fort mode has a the­o­ret­i­cal use case and is likely to be the go-to set­ting for most drivers. More gutsy pi­lots would ei­ther opt for Sport or Sport+, or skip the for­mer al­to­gether and go for the full AMG ex­pe­ri­ence that the + af­fords. Ul­ti­mately, that is why you turned your back on four­pot-power to be­gin with, no?

In­di­vid­ual al­lows the driver to con­fig­ure en­gine, trans­mis­sion, and sus­pen­sion set­tings, but most drivers will prob­a­bly not fid­dle with this op­tion too much, and are far more likely to flick be­tween Com­fort and Sport+ as cir­cum­stances dic­tate.

Apart from tighter steer­ing, switch­ing to Sport+ mode in­stantly readies the big sedan for ac­tion by rais­ing the en­gine speed, con­tract­ing gear­box shift-times and ra­tios, and con­sid­er­ably stiff­en­ing the sus­pen­sion. It also does what most AMG fans want from their cars; it opens up the ex­haust…

DE­LEC­TA­BLE DRIVE

At 4,942 mm in length, and weigh­ing in at 1,880 kg the E43 is a big car. De­spite its bulk, it feels nim­ble and sporty, well bal­anced and pur­pose­ful.

It does re­mind you of its rear-wheel bias ev­ery so of­ten when hard cor­ner­ing in Sport+ mode, but for the most part, and thanks in part to the AMG-tuned setup, the big Merc ea­gerly chews up the bends.

Steer­ing re­sponse is di­rect enough in the up­per driv­ing modes but de­cid­edly vague in Com­fort and even worse in Eco. Throt­tle re­sponse is nei­ther vi­o­lent nor too con­trolled. In­stead, it is some­where in­be­tween, in that elu­sive sweet spot where the E43 sim­ply goes when your right foot meets the car­pet.

LAST WORD

While the adren­a­line-fu­eled will yearn for the fire-breath­ing Mercedes-AMG E63, the price pre­mium – some­where north of R700,000 above the E43’s ask­ing – will likely serve as a sober­ing re­minder that you’re not in the CEO’s chair just yet. But if you’ll feel bet­ter for it, in our opin­ion the price vari­ance just isn’t war­ranted, un­less the V8-pow­ered mon­ster is what you de­sire most in life.

But if not, the E43 is suf­fi­ciently en­gag­ing, bor­row­ing just enough from its eight-cylin­der sta­ble­mate to keep things sat­is­fy­ing, blending am­ple power with the dis­tinc­tive lux­ury driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that E-Class buy­ers have come to ex­pect.

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