This is the first AMG variant of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It retains the E400’s high-tech safety tech and 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 engine, but with more power, an upgraded suspension and better steering. It’s nowhere near as bonkers as the impending E63, but it strikes a good balance of refinement and performance while managing to stay under the radar.
- It’s inconspicuous. Most current AMGs are raucous things that attract a lot of attention. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not for everyone. The E43 is a plain-clothed way to get AMG driving thrills while dialling back the race car styling and boisterous snap, crackle and pop of the exhaust.
- It’s luxurious. The cabin is simply beautiful and of high quality. The standard air suspension in the E43 is also great. Variable drive modes can soften the suspension for maximum comfort, or firm up the dampening for better steering response without ever getting too harsh over rough road surfaces.
- It has heaps of grip. Where the ferocious AMG C63 is rear-driven only, the E43 gets a fixed all-wheel drive system that sends about two-thirds of the engine’s grunt to the rear wheels, and the other third to the front. It’s a good balance of grip and agility, and means on the road you never feel like the car is past its limits.
- It’s fast. No, not face-melting fast like the hi-po AMG GT. A mature kind of fast. 295kW and 520Nm are suitable power outputs for this softer, more useable AMG.
- It’s plain. Staying inconspicuous is good, but the E43 is maybe a little too bland. Even those who know what they’re looking at may find it hard to pick this AMG from a regular E-Class, and that’s not great when it’s likely to cost $165,000 when it arrives in Oz later this year. That much coin will also buy the far less covert AMG C63. Tough choice.
- It’s quiet. Dialling up the full force of the E43’s twin-turbo V6 through its Sport Plus mode should let out a bit more volume from the tailpipes. The exhaust system has valves inside it which can shut down engine noise in Comfort mode, and let it become more vocal in Sport and Sport Plus, though not as much as we’d like. It’s a good sounding engine when revved.
ANY COMPETITORS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
The Audi S6 is probably the most direct competitor to the E43, though it’s much older and not as engaging as the E43. A leftfield alternative is the Maserati Ghibli S which also features a twin-turbo V6 engine with very similar outputs (301kW/550Nm) and is similarly priced at $169,900. Its Italian character and perceived exclusivity will prove drawcards for some.
Strangely, in the current BMW 5 Series line up there’s no model that occupies quite the same niche as the E43. The 535i can’t keep up, the 550i no longer exists, and the M5 sits much further up the food chain.
If you ask Mercedes-Benz, competition from within its own ranks is where the majority of cross-shopping will take place. The AMG C63 is a compelling alternative. Priced at about the same money it takes performance to the extreme and will be quicker than the E43 over any test, though it is smaller, less luxurious and not as technologically savvy.