The unrelenting pace of progress in the motoring industry never fails to induce awe. Every year cars get faster, smarter, safer and more efficient. Sometimes you think the peak of what is possible has been reached. But that could never be the case. There will always be new feats to accomplish — and new ways for cars to defy the laws enshrined in science books. There will always be new gaps to exploit, too. Take the folks at Mercedes-Benz for example. The chasm between the regular derivatives and those fiery Mercedes-AMG versions has grown considerably. And the space has been bridged by offerings of medium-weight performance that sit between the “mild” and “extra-hot” points on the Scoville scale of the burn of chilli peppers.
One such model is the E 43 4MATIC. Put simply, this is a healthier alternative to the full-fat E 63 that will inevitably join the lineup. From the figures, the model appears to be an authentic sporting sedan. Mercedes-AMG used the boosted 2996cc V6 engine, which South Africans are familiar with in the SL 400 and, more recently, the GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC. This unit also powers the C 450 AMG 4MATIC, which our market does not receive — ostensibly because it might encroach on C 63 sales.
In this instance it is tuned to offer 295kW and 520Nm, about 25kW more than the other variants of the motor. According to Mercedes-Benz, this is thanks to two larger turbochargers, in addition to uprated software. Four-wheel drive promises more effective transfer of power to the bitumen beneath. Do it right and you could hit 100km/h in 4.6sec, claims the manufacturer. Remember the E 55 AMG from the W211 series? It was armed with a monstrous eight-cylinder mill producing 350kW and 699Nm, which resulted in a sprint time of 4.7sec. The E 63 AMG that succeeded it came to the party with 378kW and 631Nm, dispatching the dash in 4.5sec. Proof, once more, that times have indeed changed.
One of the criticisms of the new E-Class, set to arrive in South Africa later this year, is that it looks too similar to the C-Class and S-Class siblings. Remember, though, this one-size-fits all styling template worked brilliantly for Audi. It goes a long way in safeguarding resale values. But this AMG version brings a little more attitude to the mix. Not only do the three large openings in the front apron look aggressive, they serve to aid cooling. It features the distinctive diamond grille with chromed pins — a concept first seen on the A-Class 250 AMG Sport model in 2013. From the side you will spot beefy 19-inch wheels. Highlights at the rear include quad-flow pipes, a diffusor and a subtle spoiler on the boot lid. It looks especially sinister in the black paint choice you see here.
The inside is equally adapted to the demands of a more spirited drive. Take the seats, for example. Mercedes-Benz says lateral support has been improved — to keep occupants snug at all speeds. Nappa leather is an optional extra. Model-specific pedals, a black roof lining and red safety belts are further touches. The instrument panel has a chequered-flag design and the model also comes with a lap timer. A nine-speed automatic transmission does duty in this case. And it has been tweaked accordingly, with sport and sport-plus driving modes. The double-declutching function in these settings makes for an experience that is even more emotional, says Mercedes-Benz.
So expect the usual assortment of thrilling snaps, crackles and pops on the aural side of things. It also gains the manufacturer’s impressive Air Body Control air suspension system with three modes: comfort, sport and sport plus. Although it is a four-wheel drive model, the power split is biased towards the rear. That promises some of the shimmying-tail excitement we have come to know and love from traditional AMG products. Stopping power comes in the form of perforated discs, with four-piston fixed calipers at the front and one-piston fixed calipers at the rear. The former are endowed with bold AMG lettering.
The Mercedes-AMG E43 4MATIC seems to be an enticing prospect. On paper, it looks as though it has a great deal to offer. One feels that it could even be a smarter alternative to the full-on V8 version, because it would provide about 90% of the thrills and likely for a lower price. This is probably one of the arguments the executives at Mercedes-Benz will consider in their product planning for our market.