Mercedes-AMG E43 4Matic review - good pace from latest load-lugger

Ignore the over-promise of the AMG badge and the E43 is a quick, stylish and luxurious way to travel

Evo rating
  • Stylish looks, stunning cabin, great cross-country pace
  • Not as exciting as a proper AMG should be

AMG’s 43-badged offerings can be considered an interim step between AMG Line look-alikes and the full-fat V8 models in the manufacturer’s range.

The Mercedes-AMG E43 4Matic, available in both saloon and estate form, serves exactly that purpose, whetting the appetite before the V8-powered E63 arrives in the next year or so.

Engine, performance and 0-60mph time

You’ll find the same engine under the E43’s long bonnet as you will in other 43-badged AMGs, albeit in a slightly higher state of tune here than in smaller, lighter models.

The 3-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 gets increased boost and software tweaks to realise 396bhp at 6100rpm and 384lb ft of torque – 34bhp and a single pound-foot more than the same engine in the C-class. It’s paired to a 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission – with obligatory gearchange paddles for manual control – and uses 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive.

> Click here to read our review of the Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe

The result of these combined factors is a 4.6-second 0-62mph time in saloon form, with the Estate a tenth behind. Top speed in both is electronically limited to 155mph.

The traction of that all-wheel drive system means the E43 feels brisk off the line, but acceleration through the gears never quite has the punch you expect of something carrying the AMG badge, nor the drama associated with AMG’s usual rear-wheel drive offerings.

The E-class’s spectacular refinement can take some credit for that however, as a quick glance at the speedometer usually reveals you to be travelling quicker than you expected. There’s a slightly artificial feel to the AMG’s exhaust note, presumably a necessary evil to provide some drama in such a quiet cabin, but the constant burble is enough to remind the driver they haven’t chosen one of the diesels.

Throttle response is good too, but left in automatic mode the nine-speed transmission can occasionally take a few moments to work out which gear is required when it kicks down for overtaking. Responses to flicks of the paddle in manual mode are quick, though it can sometimes take a few tries for the ‘box to okay your request for a lower gear when charging into corners.

Technical highlights

Like other 43s, the E43’s V6 uses a ‘Nanoslide’ coating for the cylinder liners, a technology developed from Mercedes’ experience in Formula 1. It’s claimed to be low-friction and wear-resistant. Low friction is also claimed of the all-wheel drive system’s transfer case, which can be varied model-to-model to adjust the front-to-rear torque split. In the E43, 69 per cent of the engine’s torque is sent to the rear axle.

What’s it like to drive?

The E43 does not feel like a product of Affalterbach. It doesn’t have the rampant performance, it doesn’t have the soundtrack and it doesn’t have the slightly naughty feel that defines the brand’s V8-engined, rear-wheel drive products.

It’s also lacking in tactility, with steering that performs its task with decent weighting but little feel, and slightly dulled turn-in responses. Nor is it as adjustable – such is the lateral grip, traction and stability of the chassis you’d really need to be going some for throttle inputs to significantly adjust your trajectory.

With a significant input into the steering wheel and a lift of the throttle you can force the rear tyres to relinquish their grip of the road, but so swiftly is it caught by the stability control (even with the traction control in sport handling mode) and so mighty is the E43’s traction when you get back on the throttle that there’s little incentive to try and play.

Instead, you’re better off exploiting the E43’s virtues to cover distance both safely and at surprising speed, a task it performs with aplomb.

And while the E43 never feels like a light car – it’s 1855kg in estate form, so braking always needs a slightly firmer prod than you expect and you’re never pinned into your seat when accelerating – it’s always a surprise to step out of the car and find so much bodywork behind you.

The suspension controls the car’s movements incredibly well; large bumps, crests and undulations do little to fluster the E43. And even with the dampers in their firmest setting, the ride isn’t unbearable on UK roads. The E43’s incredible composure and grip means it’s never really engaging you and doesn’t make you feel integral to its rapid point-to-point pace. However, you can’t help but respect its ability to achieve such poise in demanding situations.

It can’t be understated just how lovely a place the E-class cabin is to spend time, either. It feels infinitely more special than any 5-series, Jag XF, Audi A6 or similar, is trimmed beautifully throughout, and in Estate form in particular, is utterly vast inside. However, the blue light that extends the width of the dash is just on the wrong side of tasteful while occasionally being distracting, too.

Prices and rivals

There’s no direct rival for the E43 from the BMW range, with the 535i M Sport significantly underpowered next to the Mercedes and the 550i M Sport both more powerful and endowed with an extra pair of cylinders. It’s also getting on a bit – there’s a new 5-series on the way very soon.

> Click here to read our Audi S6 review

It’s the same deal with Audi, whose S6 (in saloon and Avant form) matches the power and cylinder count of the BMW and whose A6 offers no equivalent petrol model whatsoever, just diesels. Jaguar and Lexus? The XF S and GS 450h get closest, but neither has an estate option and the hybrid Lexus in particular is significantly more serene than it is sporty.

Most Popular

Triumph Lynx – Dead on arrival
Triumph Lynx
Features

Triumph Lynx – Dead on arrival

With a 3.5-litre Rover V8 under the bonnet and TR7 fastback styling, the Lynx could have been British Leyland’s answer to the Ford Capri
18 Jun 2021
New 992 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring revealed – now available in manual and PDK
Porsche 911 GT3 Touring – rear profile
Porsche 911 GT3

New 992 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring revealed – now available in manual and PDK

The Touring pack has returned, combining the 992 GT3’s set-up with more understated looks
15 Jun 2021
Used car deals of the week
Used car deals
used cars

Used car deals of the week

Here's what caught evo’s fancy this week on the second hand car market
17 Jun 2021
The reluctant LaFerrari driver – evo archive
evo archive – LaFerrari truck extraction – stop!
Ferrari

The reluctant LaFerrari driver – evo archive

How do you get a £1million hypercar out of the back of a delivery truck? Very, very, slowly…
15 Jun 2021
Next generation BMW 7-series spied – flagship saloon to once again set the tone for future models
Next generation BMW 7-series spied – front quarter
BMW 7 Series

Next generation BMW 7-series spied – flagship saloon to once again set the tone for future models

All-new saloon to feature IC and EV powertrains, but once again it’ll also lead the way aesthetically
16 Jun 2021
MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn
MAT Stratos – front tracking
Lancia

MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn

It’s been a long time coming, but this Ferrari F430-based reimagining of the Lancia Stratos is finally here
11 Jun 2021
BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance
BMW M5 CS – front cornering
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance

Nonsensical on paper, but sublime in practice. Never has a modern supersaloon been more tactile or more engaging
14 Jun 2021
Hyundai i20 N revealed – Ford Fiesta ST rival priced from £24,995
Hyundai i20 N car pictures
Hyundai i20 hatchback

Hyundai i20 N revealed – Ford Fiesta ST rival priced from £24,995

N division's second model set to shake up the junior hot hatch establishment
17 Jun 2021
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition – slide
Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act

Immense performance from about the coolest modern muscle car out there. It’s expensive, but there’s nothing else quite like it
12 Jun 2021
Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement to be revealed June 24
Ferrari F171 spy 2021 – header
Ferrari

Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement to be revealed June 24

Ferrari’s going hybrid and V6 for its next mid-engined supercar
16 Jun 2021
2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?
Audi RS3 manufacturer spy 1
Audi RS3

2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?

Audi Sport is putting the final touches on its new RS3 hot hatch and saloon
10 Jun 2021
2022 Polestar 3 teased – all-new Audi e-tron rival a stepchange model
Polestar 3
Polestar

2022 Polestar 3 teased – all-new Audi e-tron rival a stepchange model

Yes, it’s another electric SUV, but this one will be the first ‘true’ Polestar
17 Jun 2021
GTO Engineering Squalo interior sketches revealed – new-build Ferrari 250 GTO hommage draws closer
GTO Engineering interior
Ferrari

GTO Engineering Squalo interior sketches revealed – new-build Ferrari 250 GTO hommage draws closer

New details, including the interior, have been revealed about the GTO Engineering Squalo
15 Jun 2021