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Mercedes-AMG E 43 review: Fast, but not furious
THERE'S a difference between hitting the clubs to slam half a dozen tequila shots down your throat, and just letting your hair down for an evening. The new BMW M5 and its arch-nemesis, the Mercedes-AMG E 63, are all about the former. Then there's this car, the Mercedes-AMG E 43. It offers loads of fun but does so without an accompanying sense of chaos.
High-performance labels such as AMG (for Mercedes), M (BMW) and RS (Audi) are a way for car companies to strut their stuff, performance-wise.
They also give drivers the chance to indulge in some old-fashioned, tyre-screeching fun, but often with a veneer of practicality. They usually take roomy four-door cars or Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and pump them with enough steroids to make them capable of hunting down fast cars from the likes of Porsche and Maserati.
These high performance cars are great for the bottom line, too. Last year, Mercedes saw its AMG brand sell a record 131,970 cars worldwide, an increase of 33 per cent year on year. That handily outpaced the volume growth of 9.9 per cent for the Mercedes-Benz brand itself.
More than one in 20 new cars from Mercedes is now a speedy AMG version.
It's cars like the E 43 that have helped put the brand in the fast lane. "43" is something of a second-tier number for the brand, but that makes it cheaper and thus, more accessible. The E 43 costs around two-thirds as much as the fastest E 63 S, and offers two-thirds the oomph: its engine produces 401 horsepower versus the E 63 S's 612 hp.
That's not the only difference. Whereas every E 63's V8 engine is built by hand, by a single specialist, the E 43's humbler V6 engine is put together on a regular Mercedes assembly line.
But while the E 43 doesn't quite have the pedigree of a full-blooded AMG model, it still offers plenty for performance junkies.
Engage the Sport+ driving mode, and the Mercedes immediately goes on high alert: the transmission shifts gears with more immediacy, the steering becomes slightly heavier, and the exhaust note gets a little more raspy.
But it's the engine that is the heart of any AMG experience, and the E 43's V6 is a doozy. Beyond a brief lag when its turbochargers start to spool up, the Mercedes hastens along like something on a mission to destroy your driving licence.
There's plenty of grip from the tyres to enable some heroic cornering speeds, too, and if you're in the mood to cover ground quickly, there's little else that can do so with such high levels of comfort and performance.
What will probably sell the car, though, are its looks. The garden-variety E-Class is a shapely thing to begin with, but the E 43 is decorated with none-too-subtle details that make it feel special.
The diamond-studded grille, tiny boot wing and 20-inch wheels are the stuff of wall calendars (at least, for the walls of slightly sad car-worshipping types). It's all very racy inside, too, with the upholstery stitches and even the seatbelts in red, to provide a lovely contrast.
At its core, though, the E 43 is still an E-class. The ride can get busy over bumps, but it's never punishing, and the adjustable air suspension does a fine job of making it a comfortable car to glide around in. Driven sedately, it's quiet and easy to handle.
The one thing it doesn't do is frighten you. Depending on how much of an AMG purist you are, that could be construed as a minus because the brand's cars have traditionally been borderline scary to drive.
While it does pick up speed with satisfying ease, the E 43 never explodes forward violently the way the E 63 S does. It doesn't have an engine that sounds like a tiny erupting volcano, either.
The upshot of all that is that the E 43 is very clearly for people who want the size and comfort of an E-Class, with something extra in the looks and performance departments, but minus the expense and bedlam of a full AMG model. It's one thing to drive a car with hair-raising performance, but quite another if you simply want to let your hair down from time to time.
Mercedes-AMG E 43 4Matic
Engine 2,996cc, twin-turbo V6
Power 401hp at 6,100rpm
Torque 520Nm at 2,500-5,000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
0-100km/h 4.6 seconds
Top Speed 250 kmh (limited)
Fuel Efficiency 8.4L/100km
Agent Cycle & Carriage Industries
Price S$395,888 with COE