E-Class whets the appetite
The new Mercedes-AMG E43 perfectly blends performance and high-end luxury, writes Geraldine Herbert
Sometimes the best cars are the most understated; you could be a thrill-seeking speed freak and nobody need know. The latest variant of Mercedes E-Class, the AMG E43, is just that. Designed to plug the gap between the regular E-Class and the rip-roaring E63, the E43 is a fast but demure car, rather than a hooligan sports saloon.
More menacing than the standard E-Class, the double exhaust and chrome surround grille hint at the power beneath the bonnet. Inside, the S-Class-inspired interior is wrapped in black leather, with red topstitching. Everything feels like it has been painstakingly chosen with your exclusive comfort in mind; it is lovingly and lavishly finished.
Our test car sits at the bottom of the Mercedes AMG line-up, powered by a turbocharged six-cylinder engine, it produces 401hp, which is good for 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 250km/h. That's not quite as dashing as the V8-powered E63 version, with a 604hp 4.0-litre engine that does 0-100km/h in a mere 3.4 seconds and top speed is limited to 250km/h. But at a base price of €91,680, our test car is almost a bargain compared to the €143,995 required to drive away in an E63.
Outside the AMG line, the E43 competes most closely with the Audi S6 with 450hp and goes to 100km in 4.4 seconds, or BMW's 540i xDrive M Sport with 335hp and a 0-100km/h time of 4.8 seconds. The S6 is the fastest and slightly more powerful of the three and, at €95,550, it's also more expensive. The 540i xDrive starts at €81,910.
Behind the wheel, it feels fast and responsive - take it on a back road and relish the sharp steering, confident handling and smooth-shifting automatic gearbox. Despite its size, it is agile and grips beautifully thanks to the four-wheel-drive system, but it is also comfortable cruising at low speeds.
Three distinct drive modes, 'comfort', 'sport' and 'sport plus' veer between high levels of comfort and sporty driving dynamics. Comfort is the ideal setting for the daily grind, but press the sport button and instantly the steering sharpens and even the transmission feels faster. It sounds great, too, the exhaust having been artificially amplified to emit a louder, richer sound.
Prices for the E43 start from €91,680, and you get plenty of equipment as standard including black nappa leather, multi-chamber air sports suspension and AMG instrument cluster. Our test car came with some optional extras - 20-inch AMG alloy wheels €1,876, metallic paint €1,494, metal weave trim €767 and a night package €426 - bringing the total price to €96,243.
Like most sports cars, the E43 has a taste for fuel, and consumes 8.2 litres per 100kms - and with high CO2 emissions of 192g/km, road tax slips into Band F, so will cost you €1,200 annually.
All versions of the E-Class, including the AMG E43, have a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating; the AMG E43 is awash with the very latest safety and technological advances.
If you want comfort and speed, the E43 is the one to opt for; it will still garner the nods of appreciation, but with the flick of a switch, you'll have as much power as you are ever likely to need. It is also a family car which tops 100km/h in less than five seconds but will cosset your little darlings in luxury while turning in a performance worthy of any racetrack.