MY FATHER-in-law has never understood this job.
He’s certainly never been impressed by it. Our relationship has been tense since I married his only daughter and transplanted her from Sydney to the greener pastures of Melbourne before the family could protest.
He visits relatively often, probably to keep an eye on me, and the string of new metal parked in the garage has never elicited more than an acerbic remark about how modern vehicles ride too firmly.
Any car conversation invariably comes back to the 1968 Jaguar 420 he once owned and adored, and was forced to sell when the realities of a life with four kids became too much.
My wife and I became parents ourselves this month, and her dad came to see us again. Maybe it was the tiny mush of newborn in my arms that softened him, but for the first time he was genuinely curious about the Mercedes-AMG E43 in the driveway; the car I have been treating like my first-born for almost six months now, while waiting for the real thing to arrive.
From the beginning of my custody I’ve been self-conscious about the E43’s appeal to a more mature target audience and my position relative to it. The E-Class is stately, distinguished and specifically tailored to the landed gentry; not a 30-year-old bloke who still likes Japanese imports.
But I have welcomed every day the E43 has been in my possession. I get this car. And in a few days’ time when I hand back the keys and wave auf wiedersehen to the ’bahn-storming sedan, I will be sorry to see it go.
A trip to Baby Bunting with my wife’s old man and his bevy of questions gave rise to a basic E43 explanation including the many pros and few cons I’ve spoken about here previously. He knew more than I expected about its angrier brother, the Mercedes-AMG E63, but there is a wrong way to look at the E43 and that’s as a watered-down version of this deranged beast.
Incredible as it is, the E63 is borderline unsuitable for daily use. AMG’s carefully enhanced E43, meanwhile, is perfect for it.
Then again, so is a regular E400 4matic, which ultimately raises a value question. Is AMG’s E43 halfway-house worth the extra $20,000 spend over an E400?
Pragmatically, for the average E-Class buyer, probably not. The excellent E400 will satisfy their every whim. But for any E-Class faithful who enjoy driving, I absolutely think the E43’s existence is justified.
Its steering is sharper, its engine livelier, and the credibility of its AMG education and the heritage of its badge do more for inner smugness than you might think. It’s important to feel good about driving a car that costs this much. The E43’s firmer suspension may turn some away, yet its tight control didn’t rate a mention from my overly sensitive dad-in-law.
Given the chance (and a $160,000 stimulus package) younger blokes impressed by noisy things will probably choose the similarly priced C63 S from AMG’s line-up, but the less sophisticated (though faster) C-Class isn’t necessarily the better choice.
Dealership intelligence says there are customers who have indeed cross-shopped the two and found in favour of the larger, more advanced E-Class. And in my opinion, that decision checks out.
The E43 is supremely liveable, and that’s its magic. It adapts its character like few others can. Comfort mode says what it does and does what it says. Sport and Sport+ awaken accessible performance I’ve never felt tentative about delving into. It sounds good without shouting. It’s smart and grown-up. And it is decidedly not a big C-Class, even if your neighbours can’t tell the difference.
I think I understand what it’ll be like to grow older and still enjoy cars, and if I’m fortunate enough to drive one of these when my son is ruffling the feathers of his own father-in-law, I’ll be a happy bloke indeed.
Read part four of our 2017 Mercedes-AMG E43 long-term review here!
First published in the October 2017 issue of Wheels Magazine, Australia’s most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.