Mercedes-AMG E43

Back to basics for AMG-lite E-Class

RYAN LEWIS

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

EXPECTATION can ruin reality in many ways.

Like the pictures on the McDonalds menu, or online dating profile photos. For Mercedes-Benz, photos. For Mercedes-Benz, nothing builds expectation and promises excitement like an AMG badge, but its current crop of highly focused performance cars should be furthest from your mind when approaching the new Mercedes-AMG E43.

This mid-range mid-sizer is not like the other AMGs, yet unlike fast food outlets who overpromise and underdeliver, the crew from Affalterbach need not be ashamed. As with existing halfway-house models (C43 and GLC43), this polished sports sedan serves to broaden the scope of AMGís portfolio.

AMGs havenít always been uncompromising, and in some ways the E43 is a return to the Q-car. Itís the first performance variant of the new E-Class, ahead of E63, and uses AMGís 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 that plugs a gap between the manic 2.0-litre four and ferocious 4.0-litre V8.

Usually the engine is AMGís point of difference, but the V6 is distinctly different. Instead of falling under AMGís one-man, one-engine program, it rolls off the regular Mercedes production line fitted with AMG-spec turbochargers, exhaust and ECU, driving outputs to 295kW and 520Nm. Thatís 50kW and 40Nm more than the E400 on which the E43 is based.

Itís no snarling beast, though performance remains a selling point. Wide open, it cracks its exhaust valves and howls into action, with discrete pops and burbles on overrun. The rapid 4.6sec sprint to 100km/h seems undramatic when cocooned behind thick glazing.

Aim the E43 at a corner and things get more interesting.

The AMG-engineered front end incorporates new suspension and steering components. Handling is sharp in all five drive modes, which alter steering weight, suspension stiffness and throttle response. The recalibrated allwheel- drive system has a fixed, rear-biased torque split of 69:31 and the mix of grip and agility feels well judged. Thereís a three-tier ESP safety net, but with so much traction it takes a lot of leaning before any interference is felt. The E43 is lithe and sinuous, always controlled and impressively capable.

Stronger brakes, suspension tweaks and a gearbox tune round out the AMG improvements.

Mercís nine-speed auto is particularly effective in this application, with some engineered thump between changes in Sport Plus, and an AMG-specific manual mode in which youíre able to hold a gear against the rev-limiter.

Ride quality is another strength. Body control is exceptional; even in the most resolute drive modes, the E43 will gallop at full tilt undisturbed by lesser road surfaces. It never feels too harsh.

This could be seen as a matureage alternative to the C63; pricing is expected to be comparable, but it offers significantly more space, technology, luxury and greater perceived prestige, in a softer and more liveable package at the expense of some outright performance. The hard-edged C63 with its hugely elevated performance window will be too much for some, and that opens the door for the E43.

In this age of clickbait and hyperbole, the E43 has a refreshing lack of headline numbers and shouty bravado.

Itís a tip of the hat to AMGs of the past, and shows once again that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

PLUS & MINUS

Looks not quite AMG enough; needs more aural theatre in Sport Plus Sublime ride quality; front-end control; maturity Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Mercedes-AMG E43 2996cc V6 (90į), dohc, 24v, twin-turbo 295kW @ 6100rpm 520Nm @ 2500-5000rpm 9-speed automatic 1765kg 8.3L/100km (EU) 4.6sec (claimed) $165,000 (estimated) December 2016

Performance sleeper

From the outside thereís little to distinguish the E43 from the normal E-Class range apart from an AMG front grille, rear lip spoiler, and a unique wheel and tyre package.

Thereís no attentiongrabbing wide-body guards or aggressive bodykit to speak of.

That makes sense in the context of this newmeets- old AMG, but a little bit more visual flair would be welcome.

OR TRY THESE...

Audi S6 $170,716

Ageing Audi offers greater grunt from its 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 (331kW/550Nm), falls short of E-Classís ride, tech and luxury.

Similar sleeper styling, though conservative Interior lacks charm.

Maserati Ghibli S $169,900

More exclusive Italian-badge and comparable 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 (301kW/550Nm) stack up to an appealling leftfield alternative. Lacks E43ís sophisticated safety tech, but more interesting to look at.