First Drive: 2017 Mercedes-AMG E43 & E63 S

First Drive: 2017 Mercedes-AMG E43 & E63 S
 

Have carmakers reached the limit of what is possible? Entertaining such a notion is easy. But observers probably thought the same when air-conditioning became a thing. Or when navigation systems first made an appearance. No, many manufacturers continue to assert that a spirit of pushing the envelope is relentless and far from dead. Progress is good – even though an enjoyable pastime among motoring scribes is bemoaning the demise of mainstays like the manual transmission.

But the bounds of physics are unflinching. The rules have never changed, nor will they ever. Taking a close look at the new Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+ might affirm that engineers are indeed stroking the outer realms of what can realistically be achieved in a high-performance road car. For example, the decision was made to include four-wheel drive, a different setup from the tyre-shredding predecessors.

That does not mean it has lost the ability to char rubber – more on that later. Usability is what they were going for, unlike ridiculous (but entertaining) efforts such as the monstrous Mercedes-AMG S 65, which thrusts 1000Nm via two contact patches. BMW, once staunch advocates of rear-wheel drive, will also roll-out their xDrive system to the forthcoming M5 (G30). Audi must feel quite smug, having been at the fast, all-wheel drive car game for more than a minute now.

Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+

A notable hallmark of any Mercedes-AMG product is a fearsome soundtrack and brutal power delivery. The model employs the same twin-turbocharged 3982cc, eight-cylinder unit as the C 63 and GT flagship. In this case it has been fettled to produce 450kW and 850Nm, which is good for a claimed sprint time of 3.4 seconds. Our market will only be receiving this S version, not the regular car with lesser output figures.

The resulting fury from a launch start is something to behold. In the power seat, the sheer force of something just under two tons accelerating so rapidly is a novel sensation. And from the outside, the sight is as dramatic: the imposing snout sticks up and the mechanical cacophony of that V8 resonates off the bitumen and through the air with impressive burliness.

A nine-speed automatic makes light work of that mighty torque output. Left to its own devices availed more concentration to attaining greater velocities around the famed Kyalami Grand Prix circuit in Johannesburg. One would be delusional to think they can operate the steering-mounted shifter paddles with more dexterity than the computer.

Although, if you are sharp in wit and reflex – and have ample space in a controlled environment – then be sure to try out the dedicated drift setting. Unlike the gimmicky system Ford offers in their Focus RS, this really works. It sends 100% of the power to the rear axle and disengages the electronic aids, of course. You can drive the car in this mode at your own risk. Mercedes-AMG opted instead to let us members of the national automotive press loose on the skidpan, with fairly telling results. Be in no doubt that such a hefty amount of power shoveled to the hind will humble even the most self-assured authors.

So, this E 63 S 4MATIC+ is loud, aggressive and wields as much power as a meeting table at Saxonwold Shebeen. Job done. But what if you prefer something a little less boisterous? Mercedes-AMG will offer a solution in the form of the E 43 4MATIC.

E 43 4MATIC

Armed with a boosted 2996cc, six-cylinder engine, the model produces 295kW and 520Nm of torque. Despite the power deficiency in comparison to its bigger sibling, the E 43 4MATIC is not considerably slower than the more powerful car. It will dispatch the sprint in a brisk 4.6 seconds – with an interesting assortment of belches as it works through that nine-speed automatic. Expectedly, the model is substantially less expensive than the full-fat derivative. And you could specify additional styling bits that, to the untrained eye, give it a near-identical look to its brother with the bigger engine.

For many customers, the performance attributes of the E 43 4MATIC would be enough in real-world conditions. But the extra dose of ferocity brought by the E 63 S 4MATIC+ certainly warrants the additional outlay. Mercedes-AMG has shrewdly covered the bases with their performance variants of the venerable E-Class. – Brenwin Naidu

Pricing:

Mercedes-AMG E 43 4MATIC: R1 165 800
Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+:
R1 868 400