Mercedes’ “AMG Lite” recipe perfectly blends potency and daily livability in the stunning new E-Class.
– Hamburg, Germany
There’s a great middle-ground to be had in this Mercedes-AMG E43 sedan – a sort of “AMG Lite,” if you will. It combines all the style, comfort, and technological tour de force of Mercedes’ E300 but shoves a little more oomph under the hood. Think of it as a replacement for what would have been the E550 with a much more impressive name. If you find something like an E63 too hot, but need more get-up-and-go than the E300, this E43 offers a sporty-looking, fully baked AMG experience that might be your perfect bowl of porridge.
- I can describe this car’s driving dynamics in one word: smooth. Everything about it is fluid. The 3.0-liter biturbo V6 delivers 396 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque – a healthy 155 hp and 111 lb-ft more than the E300 – and the nine-speed automatic transmission sends the power to all four wheels with a linear wave of oomph. At no point does the E43 sound or feel like it’s trying to be a hardcore-to-the-max E63, instead just launching you down the autobahn with a serene quickness.
- I’ll need to get the E43 out on some more involving roads, but my experience on the highways and lazy backroads of northern Germany reveal a car that’s willing to be hustled when provoked. Toggle the Dynamic Control switch into Sport or Sport+ modes and the chassis tightens and steering sharpens, the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system moving power around to make the E43 an entertaining dance partner.
- This car doesn’t just have the best interior in its class, it has one of the best cabins in the entire automotive space right now. Every single surface is finished with Maybach-like quality and attention to detail, the dual-screen gauge cluster and infotainment display feels truly next-generation and futuristic in its design and reconfigurability. Heck, there are even sixty-four ambient light colors to choose from. The AMG-specific front sport seats hold you close with comfort and support. I could sit in this car for days on end and never want to leave, and I’d enjoy every single bit of the drive.
- To expand on the points about feeling truly futuristic, all of the same safety and driving tech from the E300 makes its way up to the E43, and it integrates nicely in this AMG package. The semi-autonomous Drive Pilot with its adaptive cruise control and steering assist works a treat, and keeps the E43 one step ahead of its key rivals in this performance category.
- Nothing about the E43’s design feels overwrought or like it’s trying too hard. It offers just the right blend of elegance and aggression, and makes for a hella pretty E-Class.
- Mercedes will eventually offer its fully smartphone-based driver detection system in the U.S., but I’m not sold on this tech just yet. You hold your phone up to the door to unlock the car, and leaving your device on the charging tray behind the cup holders lets you start the vehicle. But it’s finicky – the system often fails to recognize the placement of the phone, chiming endlessly about how the key cannot be detected during vehicle operation. I actually used the smartphone app in place of a conventional key fob, and the whole time, I just wanted the fob so the car would shut up. It’s a cool bit of tech, sure, but I’m hoping Mercedes works out the kinks before offering this stuff Stateside.
- I worry that this car is going to get expensive, and fast. Pricing isn’t out just yet, but expect the E43 to cost at least $65,000 when it hits U.S. dealers early next year. Fully optioned, you’re probably looking at an $85,000 E43 – that’s as much as a 640-hp Cadillac CTS-V. That said, the E43 offers a more compelling package than a run-of-the-mill BMW 550i, and absolutely whomps the more powerful Audi S6 and Cadillac CTS VSport in terms of comfort, tech, and luxury. It’s a hard car to beat, if you go easy on the options.
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com & Mercedes-Benz