Moving the V6 performace theme: the Mercedes-AMG E43 effect
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Launching the E43 moves the V6 performance car theme upmarket
Think of the new ‘AMG 43’ designation as shorthand for continued Mercedes-Benz sales success in 2017.
The three-pointed star is in an expansion phase that introduces new V6 turbocharged 43 performance into model lines as diverse as the GLE sport utility and the SLC roadster.
And it builds a third pillar to the Mercedes-AMG line-up between the high output turbo 45 four-cylinder rocket ships and the bi-turbo V8 63 machines.
Newest of the 43 derivatives is the Mercedes-AMG E43 Saloon which steps up the 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo performance level to 295kW and brings 4Matic all-wheel-drive to the equation.
The new E43 will enjoy a short-term reign as the performance flagship of the W213 generation E-Class line-up until the recently announced V8-powered E63 S versions begin arriving in New Zealand.
The line-up of 43 cars is an important addition for Mercedes-Benz New Zealand. The brand achieved record registrations of 2480 units in 2016 which included 350 AMG cars -- also a record and representing 16 per cent of sales.
And that was before the 43 effect gained full force.
"In the first two months of 2017 we've sold 90 AMG cars," said Ben Giffin, general manager of Mercedes-Benz Cars New Zealand. "The car in the hottest demand in our range at the moment is the GLC43."
Launching the E43 moves the V6 performance car theme upmarket from the C43 variants offered in saloon, estate, coupe and cabriolet bodystyles.
"It helps us bridge a gap in the range between the E400 at $149,900 and the upcoming E63 which we hope to launch at around $200,000," Giffin said.
"The E43 at $166,900 is at a perfect price point for its performance and equipment.
"And Kiwi drivers really appreciate 4Matic as we've already found with the C-Class where the only 4Matic model is the AMG C43." To date, across the C-Class, GLC, GLE and SLC models, the 43 badge has represented 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 performance with 270kW output and 520Nm of torque.
Breathing a bit deeper, thanks to larger turbochargers and revised engine management, the new E43 steps up the V6 biturbo output to 295kW while peak torque remains at 520Nm from 2500rpm. The E43 4Matic can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 4.6secs.
The 9G-tronic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel-drive are standard along with a sports braking system with larger diameter and perforated front brake discs. The NZ specification includes 20-inch alloy wheels.
Ahead of its local introduction this month, Driven joined Australian journalists for an E43 press launch with a day of driving in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne.
The turbo V6 performance arrives in an effortless style, the E43 accelerating with enthusiasm on a light throttle thanks to its muscular torque curve and the quick-shifting close ratios of the nine-speed transmission.
Larger throttle opening provokes multiple downshifts, a crackle of six-cylinder engine note and urgent overtaking response.
The sure-footed confidence of 4Matic showed off its benefit through a few narrow and twisting sections and for a car riding on 20-inch alloy wheels -- with run-flat 245/35 R20 front tyres and 275/30 R20 rubber on the rear -- the ride quality remains comfortably settled until the Sport setting of the Air Body Control suspension are selected.
Only then do some of the more severe level changes and mid-corner corrugations introduce a little abruptness into the responses. The low-speed suspension compliance gives the E43 a supple ride on city streets.
It's the breadth of performance from the engine and transmission along with scope for comfort or sport settings that makes the E43 equal parts luxury saloon and potent sports sedan. Deciding the precise blend of those flavours comes with the throttle opening and a tap of the drive mode selector.
With pricing from $166,900, the standard specification for New Zealand features 20-inch alloy wheels in a 5 x twin-spoke style along with sports seats trimmed with nappa leather upholstery, a sports exhaust system and the sports brake package. The E43 also gets a larger 80-litre fuel tank (an additional 14 litres).
Also specific to the AMG equipment list are stainless steel sports pedals, a flat-bottom sports steering wheel, dark-tinted rear privacy glass and an understated AMG bootlid spoiler lip.
Among the features shared with the E300, E350e plug-in hybrid and E400 models include a Burmester 590-watt surround sound audio system with 13 speakers, the Air Body Control suspension, head-up display, a large panorama sunroof and the new generation Multi-beam LED headlights with adaptive high beam assist.
In common with all of the new E-Class variants which went on sale in New Zealand last year, the new AMG E43 4Matic has achieved a 5-star Euro NCAP rating and its safety features include nine airbags, Attention Assist driver fatigue detection, an Active Bonnet, 360-degree camera and the Driver Assistance Package Plus that includes Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist.
The E43 has the wide dual-screen virtual display that was introduced on the E-Class and the Touchpad Controller for the Comand Online infotainment and navigation system.
A 64-colour LED interior ambient lighting system and dual-zone Thermatic air conditioning with the Air Balance ionisation, filtering and cabin fragrance system are other standard E43 features.
With a comprehensive specification, there isn't much left to consider on the E43 option list.
A Performance Ergonomic Package priced at $4400 adds more aggressively bolstered AMG Performance Front Seats and an AMG Performance steering wheel in a combination of black nappa leather and Dinamica micro-fibre. An alternative 14-spoke alloy wheel design is a no-cost option.
Three-zone Thermotronic climate control ($1450), digital TV tuner ($1200), wireless charging for mobile devices ($350) and a carbon interior trim option ($4400) are also available.
Mercedes-AMG E43 4Matic
Eninge: 3.0-litre V6 twin turbo petrol 295kW/520NM, 0-100km/h in 4.6secs
Gearbox: Nine-speed automatic transmission
Price: From $149,900
Pro: Equal measures of Mercedes-Benz luxury and AMG performance
Con: Not available locally in versatile Estate bodystyle