There's something strange about describing the new Mercedes-AMG E 43 as the 'entry-level' AMG car in the E-Class line-up, especially when you delve into its specifications, but that's what it is, as there will, in time, be a range-topping E 63 model. Our first drive in the E 43 reveals that AMG has created a car with a very different personality to its top-line motors, one that'll appeal to those that like fast cars, but don't necessarily want to explore the outer reaches of their handling capability. Expect it to be a rare beast in Ireland, though.
In the Metal:
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class gets a purposeful AMG makeover inside and out to make it the E 43. Up front there's a new and more aggressively styled bumper with larger air intakes and a diamond radiator grille with chromed pins for added distinction. That's complemented by a tasty set of 19-inch alloy wheels, while the rear end features two exhaust outlets and a restyled bumper with a diffuser insert. The overall effect is undoubtedly sporting, but not at all over the top.
Inside, there's a red and black theme throughout, from the (slightly garish) red seatbelts to the excellent AMG-branded sports seats upholstered in Artico and Dinamica (man-made leather and suede substitutes) and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. The door panels and dashboard also feature Artico with red stitching, which is a neat touch. There are bespoke instruments too, and extra AMG display options if you've gone for the optional double-width display screens.
If you jumped into the Mercedes-AMG E 43 and drove off in the car's standard mode, you'd wonder if you're really in a proper AMG car. It's docile, comfortable, compliant and incredibly quiet. Don't fret though: there is an AMG car lurking behind the driving settings, you just need to toggle the switch around to Sport or Sport Plus to find it. Do that and everything sharpens up, including the steering, throttle response, gearchange speed and even the exhaust sound. Up front is a 3.0-litre biturbo V6 petrol engine producing 401hp and 520Nm of torque, based on that found in the Mercedes-Benz E 400 4Matic's, but with AMG fettling. It sounds fabulous when you extend it and there are the usual gratuitous pops and bangs on the overrun too. With 0-100km/h in well under five seconds, its performance is never in doubt and the 4Matic four-wheel drive system should allow owners to deploy more of that performance more of the time, regardless of the weather.
Unfortunately, for those seeking engagement over outright pace, the E 43 doesn't quite deliver. It's very fast, sure, and has buckets of mechanical grip, but you feel like you're a passenger a lot of the time, instead of controlling it all. That's despite 69 per cent of the engine output going to the rear wheels by default. Nonetheless, if you just want easy, fast cross-country pace then the E 43 has you covered.
What you get for your Money:
We don't have pricing for the Mercedes-AMG E 43 as yet and the Band E tax won't help matters. There isn't a lot of demand for such a car here, even if the E 43 is well-equipped, as most well-heeled enthusiasts will just wait for the E 63.
We do love the subtly muscular looks of the new AMG E 43, the enhanced cabin, the muscular engine and the all-weather capability. It's undoubtedly accomplished and faster than anyone really needs, but those that truly love driving won't be enthralled by the relatively inert chassis. We suspect they're better off waiting for the forthcoming V8-engined Mercedes-AMG E 63.