I HAVE no idea how old the average first-time E-Class owner is, but at 30 years of age I reckon I’m well ahead of schedule.
Even the bloke at Mercedes-Benz looked at me like I was a couple of decades early to the party as he handed over my handsome new Selenite Grey long-termer. He seemed to think I might not like it.
But it’s no ordinary E-Class I hold the key to; it’s a Mercedes-AMG E43, the first W213 breathed upon by the specialists at Affalterbach. Bigger turbos and more boost ramp up the outputs of its 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 to 295kW and 520Nm, and I can’t see what the grumblers in our office mean when they say it’s not AMG enough.
I managed to sample the E43 before committing to this inter-generational relationship, and its level-headed brand of performance made a positive impression.
I don’t think there’s an AMG sedan as easy to live with as this one. Its sharper steering and stronger shove add to the practical E-Class platform without sacrificing its greater sense of prestige and comfort over the smaller, harder-edged – and equally priced – C63.
So the start of our ‘getting to know you’ phase is full of optimism. Then it hits a snag. The E43 is almost five metres long – so long that I have to move a wall of shelving in my garage before the big unit fits. But it looks good in there; sophisticated and suave. I find myself standing at the door admiring the way it sits just so over its distinctive alloy wheels. There’s little else outside to identify the E43, but people in the street have already started to notice it more than I expected them to.
Aussies have responded to AMG in recent times like no other people on earth, and as the E43 and I have formed a bond, I can’t say I blame them. Even in standard spec with nary an option to speak of, the thoughtfully designed and beautifully made cabin with its perforated leather and finely machined alloy touchpoints feels expensive and luxurious, without laying it on too thick or feeling in any way twee.
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Most of our first month has been spent in traffic, and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve left the car’s Dynamic toggle thumbed to its most relaxed. Even with AMG-specific calibrations for the steering, gearbox and suspension, the E43 finds a way to pamper its passengers when trundling around slowly. The cabin is whisper quiet, bar some tyre noise, and driving like this is almost effortless.
The E43 inherits a metric shedload of high-tech paraphernalia from the E400 on which it is based, including Merc’s class-leading driver-assistance technologies. A longer steer in the coming months will be the best way to explore its capabilities, but I’m already fascinated by the way the systems are psychologically preparing me for the future.
Two, ultra-sharp screens perched up front form the portal into a world of submenus and preferences that verges on overwhelming. Sifting through them means learning how to operate buttons and wheels on the centre console and touch-sensitive pads on the front of the steering wheel, and I’m worried I’ll say goodbye to it without ever figuring it all out.
But the critical stuff is obvious; one button for the nine-speed auto’s manual mode and another to firm up the air suspension. Flick the drivetrain to its more aggressive settings and the E43 does duality of character with aplomb. The flexible V6 elicits a satisfying induction growl when dialled up, and is faster and more exciting than its relatively subdued exhaust note suggests.
There will be time to press into the E43 in the months to come, but as an everyday tool it has consistently left me feeling better getting out than I did getting in.
AMG has built performance cars for grown-ups since it first set up shop, and in that regard the E43 might just hit the nail squarely on the head.
By Ryan Lewis
TWO months in to Mercedes-AMG E43 ‘ownership’ and something terrible happened. I saw another one on the road – a white one – and it looked so good it made me sad.
White is the colour this car should be. It lets the blacked out Night Package trim and AMG styling details work so much harder, in ways Understated Grey just can’t.
Of course, this car is only on loan. I’m sure the regret would be worse had I spent $160,000 of my own hard-earned dollars, waited (potentially months) for it to turn up, and then realised I’d made a mistake.
Which got me thinking – if I did spec my ideal E43, what would I do differently?
Not a lot is overlooked as standard. I even smugly discovered when leaving the shops with both arms straining under the weight of a week’s groceries that it has a hands-free boot release. I stood uneasily on one foot at the back of the car, risked humiliation and waved the other in the air under the bumper.
Lo and behold, it worked first try. The boot lid opened and I dropped my bags inside triumphantly without ever touching the key. A nice surprise, even from a car at this price.
The only single-option equipment not fitted to the loaded-as-standard E43 is a TV tuner you can’t watch while driving, a wireless charging pad that wouldn’t work with my phone, and climate control for the back seat area I’ll never sit in. So, no harm no foul.
What I am missing is the Performance Ergonomic Package ($4400) that adds AMG sports seats, a microfibre-trimmed steering wheel and red stitching.
Sadly, there’s no crackly exhaust in the Performance pack like there is for other 43 models. Without it the E43 is too quiet when you want fireworks. There’s a decent soundtrack there, which deserves to be more vocal. Still, the AMG interior garnishes would transform my interior, which is too similar to the less expensive E400 for my liking. I’m not alone in thinking this: Benz Australia says almost every E43 bought in Oz has the pack fitted.
Except mine, it seems.
There’s still chatter in the Wheels office about whether or not the E43’s torquey bi-turbo engine is good enough for an AMG badge.
With the Mercedes-AMG E63 now here the gap between them is blatantly obvious, but the way the V6 effortlessly tugboats up hills at 1500rpm in 8th has won me over, even if its concerning thirst for fuel hasn’t.
So that’s my perfect E43; Diamond White with the Performance Ergonomic Package and carbonfibre dashboard inserts instead of matte timber to fully satisfy my champagne taste.
But the beer budget could be a problem.
I experienced a minor freak-out from the E43’s AEB system this month.
At night on my own street with no obstructions in sight, the car clamped its brakes for a full emergency stop before realising the coast was clear and rolling out of it.
The issue hasn’t repeated since, but a little reading up unearthed drivers reporting similar weirdness in other cars from time to time. Merc couldn’t explain it.
Hopefully nobody is following too closely if it ever happens again.
By Ryan Lewis
MONTH three of my relationship with AMG’s E-Class gateway-drug has included time in the embrace of others.
It wasn’t the car’s fault; it was mine. I spent several days overseas in two spells. And while I wasn’t thinking it at the time, I missed the big grey blunderbuss.
The second of my two trips ended with a redeye flight from Korea to Melbourne, landing me back in the airport carpark mid-morning, midweek, trying my best to make amends with the faithful Mercedes E43.
I slumped into the driver’s seat, feeling a bit weary after enduring a sleep-deprived night on an aircraft, and let out an involuntary sigh of relief. Sitting inside the peace and quiet of its thickly glazed cocoon, it was just so nice to be home.
That same wave of relief washed over me about a week later when I got back into 1ID-4FX after a weekend romp with a Lexus LC500. I can barely tell you what that car was like because I spent most of the time yelling at its navigation system and the utterly broken touchpad control Lexus forces you to use.
I bring it up because in the first episode of this series I made a comment about the E43 having a confusing menu hierarchy. I take it all back. The LC 500’s encyclopaedia of infotainment felonies makes navigating the E43’s gorgeous interface feel like playing Nintendo, even if there are a few relatively minor imperfections.
WHEELS REVIEW: Mercedes-AMG E43
This month the grown-up E43 has further proven itself to be a car of multiple dimensions; a consummate cruiser and a barrel of fun when getting on it with liberal use of the throttle.
There’s signature precision to be found at the front end where re-engineered steering and suspension components form a major AMG point of difference compared with a normal E-Class. The E43’s unique appeal in the AMG line-up lies in its maturity and size, and the way it drives is far better than you might expect.
Bags of grip lend the E43’s chassis a hunkered down security, but plonk your right foot deep into the 295kW power reserve and, in the right mode, the all-paw 4Matic system puts on an unexpectedly rear-drive-like performance. Electronic nannies interfere earlier than would be ideal, but this 1765kg lump is fun to drive hard.
I’ll concede it’s not the performance-purist’s first weapon of choice, but I’m still a bit disappointed with myself for not finding more time for bendy road indulgences this month.
There are only a few weeks left for me to savour the E43 on an everyday basis, and I’m beginning to feel anxious about how quickly the return date is rushing up.
I’d best make the next month a good’un.
By Ryan Lewis
AFTER sinking my teeth into the Mercedes-Benz E43 over the last few months, I genuinely have little to complain about, but there is a question I’ve been trying to answer: how much is the E43’s far-reaching driver-assistance tech really adding to my ownership experience?
The E-Class is one of the most advanced vehicles on the road, and that’s central to its sales pitch, but on a day-to-day basis only some of it has proven useful so far.
Benz stops short of using the term ‘self-driving’ for its Drive Pilot systems because it gives customers the wrong idea about how much of their attention is required when the car is in control, and therein lies the rub: the answer is still ‘all of it’.
s a party trick with somebody new in the passenger seat, letting the car steer itself gets eyebrows raised in amazement. Practically, it’s a ‘nice to have’ on motorways where Distronic allows you to dial back your level of focus on surrounding cars and simply monitor the big sled as it follows a lane, but you must always be ready to correct it whether the system asks you to or not.
In traffic, the Stop and Go function works well, though it is slow to get going again to the point where I’ve copped horn blasts from drivers behind as the E43 sits watching the car in front pull away.
Then there’s the active lane keeping, which on a couple of occasions has forcefully tried tugging the car back into line when I have been deliberately steering away from an obstacle. Worse still were two AEB brainfarts which threw me and a car full of family members against the seatbelts on an empty bit of road.
Outside of these gripes the electronics are good. Its surround-view cameras and multibeam headlights are amazing, and the car’s knowledge of its environment has opened my mind to the future, but it won’t be until the next generation of Merc’s autonomous tech (starting in the S-Class) that the systems really start to change the way we drive.
The E43 is a stepping stone to, rather than the arrival of, the truly driverless car, and I’ve been able to appreciate it more after recalibrating my expectations.
Other shortcomings are few. The gearbox can be clunky when cold and there’s a tyre scrubbing problem where the front rubber shudders across the road when at or near full lock, juddering the steering wheel. It’s known to affect other 4Matic models and doesn’t cause damage or wear, but does take a little sparkle off the prestige sheen.
Next month will be our last together, and with my firstborn child due midway through, I expect that ride home from the hospital to truly cement the bond.
Clean sweep? No, scratch that
Wheels is battling with a local council after the E43 was side-swiped by a rogue street sweeper.
The four-wheeled aggressor left gouges across the AMG’s front-right wheel and a scuff on its bumper. Fear of other people’s carelessness is a constant pressure point with this car. Parking far from the shopping centre hordes only goes so far.
When nobody but you cares, being precious is a stressful business.
By Ryan Lewis
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.