As you open the doors to the E-Class, it becomes evident that this car is very special.
In recent years, introductions of sub-performance brands from the big three Germans have sparked a revolution of sports sedans and coupés. Audi and BMW offer their respective S-Line and M-Performance lines, and Mercedes-Benz has now followed suit under the AMG umbrella. Using the E-Class family as an example, the vast majority of buyers will opt for either the luxurious E 300 (reviewed here) or six-cylinder E 400. But what if you want something with added athletic ability without stepping up to the big kahuna that is the E 63? That’s where this car comes in – the 2018 Mercedes-AMG E 43 4MATIC.
Wedged firmly between the E 400 and E 63 offerings, the E 43 offers the flair from the AMG family of vehicles, with a powertrain that’s subdued and more livable than the turbo V8. The E 43 gets the diamond grill, blacked out accents, a rear lip spoiler, and special ground effects – all setting it apart from the luxurious and comfort-oriented E-Class models. Biturbo and AMG badges are placed strategically around the vehicle both inside and out, and an aggressive 20” wheel design completes the look nicely. The E-Class remains one of the more attractive players within the segment, with conservative yet elegant styling.
Powering the AMG E 43 is a 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6, which initially sounds like a letdown when compared to the BMW M550i (reviewed here) with its boosted V8. Output, however, is 396 horsepower at 6,100 RPM and 384 lb-ft. of torque, peaking between 2,500 and 5,000RPM. In the real world the V6 is more than enough power, especially considering barely any E 43 buyers will be taking it to the track (that demographic will be opting for the E 63). Power on tap is instantaneous and there is minimal turbo lag; the E 43’s exhaust has a distinctive note that is satisfying and a reminder that you opted for the sportier model.
A nine-speed automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels using a special AMG-tuned version of 4MATIC all-wheel-drive. Not to be confused with the trick system in the E 63 that can become exclusively rear-drive with a “Drift Mode”, this 4MATIC setup remains rear-biased and can split power 69/31 rear-to-front. Even still, the whole shebang can launch the E 43 from 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds, which is remarkably quick. Pushing it around corners with the satisfying response of the AMG-tuned steering is good fun, and the E-Class handles surprisingly well for a larger sedan.
Where the E 43 feels noticeably firmer than the E 300 is in its suspension setup. Rather than a traditional spring set, the E 43 makes use of AIRMATIC, which is Mercedes-Benz talk for air suspension. The damping is adaptive depending on what drive mode the vehicle is in, but the particularly cool party trick offered is that the car actually lowers by 15mm at speeds over 125 km/h to ensure maximum efficiency and airflow. A button on the console can raise the car up to 35mm if additional ground clearance is required.
The E 43’s suspension in its most comfortable setting is still on the firmer side, but not uncomfortably so. Where the car is a real ace is when the more athletic side comes out in “Sport” and “Sport+”, and the car is just perfectly damped with no wallow whatsoever. Highway driving in this car is simply a dream thanks to this, and the AIRMATIC suspension, while more expensive a repair outside of warranty, is wholly worth the cost of admission.
The E 43 is not the car you buy if fuel efficiency is one of the highest priorities on your list. Even still, with Mercedes-Benz’s ratings of 12.4L/100km in the city and 9.4L/100km on the highway, the typical driver will have no issues keeping the average economy in the 10L/100km range. Our test took place on 91-octane premium fuel and returned a very acceptable 12.1L/100km. This is taking into accounts temperatures hovering right around the freezing mark. The AMG’s tank will hold 80L, which is a bit larger than the E 300’s 66L capacity.
As you open the doors to the new E-Class and enter the cabin, it immediately becomes evident that this car is something very special. Sharing its essentials with the “regular” E 300 and 400 models, the dashboard is centered around two adjacent 12.3” infotainment screens that are just stunning to look at. The graphics are simply beautiful and clearly legible even in direct sunlight. Black open pore wood and aluminum switches finish things off, and of course, there is generous use of leather around the car.
The steering wheel in this specific vehicle is Alcantara at the sides, and excellent to grip. This is much like the example in the E 63, and the sport seats are AMG-trimmed as well. Heating, ventilation, and massage functions are all top notch, including an exemplary Hot Relaxing Back/Shoulder setting which is a godsend for those of us who suffer from back issues over longer drives. Material usage isn’t a hodgepodge of luxury and sport trimmings; Mercedes-AMG has been very careful to ensure that the classical elegance of the E-Class sedan has not been too infused with hardcore athletics.
As good as this car is, it isn’t without its faults. The COMAND infotainment system offers a plethora of features and capabilities, including Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth streaming, and smartphone apps. All of this is controlled via a COMAND knob with a touchpad placed right on top of it. Additionally, two small thumb-sized touchpads on either side of the steering wheel contribute. The problem is, all of this comes at the price of being extremely convoluted. Tasks as simple as turning on the seat massage function involves going through a series of screens. While response and capability is there, this system isn’t as user friendly as BMW’s iDrive. On the other side of things; sound quality from the optional Burmester audio system is simply mind-blowing.
The pricing strategy for the E 43 is quite straightforward. It starts at $80,400, which is significantly more than the $69,800 E 400 but far cheaper than the $115,500 E 63 S. Our vehicle was equipped with the $6,200 “Premium Package” adding heated armrests and rear seats, Burmester sound system, keyless go, ventilated front seats with massage, foot activated trunk release, power trunk closer, and a rear window sunshade. An AMG Driver’s Package for $1,000 adds the 20” wheels, performance steering wheel and summer tires. A $2,600 Technology Package adds the LED headlights with adaptive high beam assist, and heads-up display. The total sticker came in at a hefty $90,200, but the car does offer a significant amount for this price.
If opting for a new E-Class, one option we highly recommend is the Intelligent Drive Package. This feature (not equipped on this test vehicle) is one discussed extensively when our editor tested the E 300 (reviewed here), but simply put, it brings the E 43 one step closer to autonomous operation. Mercedes-Benz uses a series of driving assists including Active Lane Changing Assist, Active Steering Assist, Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, and PRE-SAFE to keep the car driving semi-autonomously. It’s a brilliant thing and is segment leading, closely followed by the Pilot Assist tech in the new Volvo S90 (reviewed here).
The reality is; the sporty luxury sedan is the sweet spot for a huge demographic. These buyers are people who want more space than a compact sedan or coupé can offer, and want the dynamic characteristics of a full AMG car without the expensive fuel bills from a thirsty boosted V8. The 2018 Mercedes-AMG E 43 4MATIC is a rolling technology suite that’s surrounded by plush materials, but the fact that it can hold its own if it were thrown into a track setting is just icing on top of the proverbial cake.