When AMG takes a Chill Pill
The 10th-generation Mercedes E-Class sedan introduces a new pecking order with not just one but two AMG models in the lineup. You got the first sniff at the makeover of the mighty and long-running E63 from our First Drive review of that flagship E-Class model. But instead of an all-or-nothing approach to high performance, the automaker is taking AMG’s extreme nature down a notch by launching the all-new Mercedes-AMG E43 sedan, which packs close to 400 horsepower and a long list of performance tweaks.
As its name suggests (Mercedes-AMG, not Mercedes-Benz), the E43 has the full stamp of approval from Mercedes’s performance division in Affalterbach, Germany, and is a legit member of the AMG family. That said, the E43 can’t be lumped in with AMG’s oft-repeated “one man, one engine” philosophy, a reference to the brand’s long-running custom that each powerplant is built solely by one AMG technician. That practice will only apply to the potent turbo-fours, V-8s, and V-12s powering AMG 45, 63, and 65 models, respectively.
Instead, the E43’s engine starts life as Benz’s 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 used in vehicles such as the upcoming E400 4Matic wagon—where it makes 329 hp and 354 lb-ft. From there, AMG works its magic by bolting on larger turbochargers (making 16 psi of boost) and reprogramming the engine’s software for a total output of 396 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. AMG also optimizes the nine-speed automatic for quicker shifts and tweaks the standard 4Matic all-wheel-drive system to send 69 percent of the torque split to the rear axle. Also standard is an AMG Dynamic Select system, which adjusts engine and transmission response as well as steering and air suspension calibrations based on the selected drive mode (Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus).
We spent a day driving the E43 in Malibu and the surrounding canyon roads, where the engine really shined. Strong and peppy, the twin-turbo V-6 never felt labored pulling the hefty sedan through the twisties. Once we got the E43 on the track, the sedan ran to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, right on pace with competitors like the Lexus GS F and Cadillac CTS Vsport, which did the deed in 4.4 and 4.5 seconds, respectively and slotting nicely in between the E400 and AMG E63, which should run mid 5s and mid 3s respectively The engine and exhaust note sound aggressive, especially in Sport Plus mode, but we should note some of that noise is artificially amplified through speakers in the cabin (and cannot be defeated). Add-on engine and exhaust sound boosters are all the rage in the world of luxury sport sedans, and at least the E43’s version is convincing. Gearshifts are relatively quick and a tad aggressive in Sport Plus mode, which adds to the sedan’s sporty character. The gearbox occasionally fumbled shifts between first and second, but switching to Sport or Comfort mode ironed this out.
In an effort to make the E43 handle like a proper AMG car, engineers revised the steering knuckles and load-bearing joints. AMG also increased negative camber on both the front and rear axle, and it retuned the standard air suspension. The result is a 4,309-pound (1,954-kg) sedan that tackles corners smoothly and with relatively little body roll. On the figure-eight course, the E43 ran a 25.1-second lap and the strong brakes (with 4-piston calipers up front) halted the sedan from 60 mph in 110 feet. The variable-ratio steering system, however, felt a tad artificial and gluey regardless of drive mode. If anything, the E43 highlights the crisp and lively steering feel of the aforementioned Lexus and Cadillac.
That said, the E43 excels as a comfortable cruiser despite its sporty hardware. Our test car’s optional 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires were a handsome addition, but they occasionally amplified rough spots on the road. Stick with the standard 19 inchers to improve the overall ride and reduce noise intrusion.
Visual upgrades are relatively subtle and include Biturbo 4Matic badges on the front fender, beefier bumpers, AMG logos on the grille and trunklid, and quad exhaust tips. Inside, the AMG seats provide plenty of lateral support with more AMG logos sprinkled throughout. With a starting price of $73,325 USD, the E43 could be substantially cheaper than the E63. It might not be as extreme as the E63, but the E43 will likely be just right for most AMG buyers.
|2017 Mercedes-AMG E43 4Matic|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$93,505|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.0L/396-hp/384-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,309 lb (54/46%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||194.6 x 72.9 x 57.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.6 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.1 sec @ 107.0 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||110 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.93 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||25.1 sec @ 0.77 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||18/25/21 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||187/135 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.94 lb/mile|