I HAVE no idea how old the average firsttime E-Class owner is, but at 30 years of age I reckon Iím well ahead of schedule. Even the bloke at Mercedes-Benz looked at me like I was a couple of decades early to the party as he handed over my handsome new Selenite Grey long-termer. He seemed to think I might not like it.
But itís no ordinary E-Class I hold the key to; itís a Mercedes-AMG E43, the first W213 breathed upon by the specialists at Affalterbach. Bigger turbos and more boost ramp up the outputs of its 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 to 295kW and 520Nm, and I canít see what the grumblers in our office mean when they say itís not AMG enough.
I managed to sample the E43 before committing to this inter-generational relationship, and its level-headed brand of performance made a positive impression.
I donít think thereís an AMG sedan as easy to live with as this one. Its sharper steering and stronger shove add to the practical E-Class platform without sacrificing its greater sense of prestige and comfort over the smaller, harder-edged Ė and equally priced Ė C63.
So the start of our Ďgetting to know youí phase is full of optimism. Then it hits a snag.
The E43 is almost five metres long Ė so long that I have to move a wall of shelving in my garage before the big unit fits. But it looks good in there; sophisticated and suave. I find myself standing at the door admiring the way it sits just so over its distinctive alloy wheels.
Thereís little else outside to identify the E43,
Tyre-pressure monitoring is the E43ís only equipment gain over the highly specced E400 that sits atop the regular E-Class range. Good thing, too, as the dash readout tells me the rear left has picked up a slow leak. Justifying the rest of the $20K price premium Ė E43 over E400 Ė are an extra 50kW and 40Nm, AMG brakes and steering components, driveline and chassis tunes and AMG styling tweaks including pedals, steering wheel, grille, boot lip and 20-inch alloys.
but people in the street have already started to notice it more than I expected them to.
Aussies have responded to AMG in recent times like no other people on earth, and as the E43 and I have formed a bond, I canít say I blame them. Even in standard spec with nary an option to speak of, the thoughtfully designed and beautifully made cabin with its perforated leather and finely machined alloy touchpoints feels expensive and luxurious, without laying it on too thick or feeling in any way twee.
Most of our first month has been spent in traffic, and Iím not ashamed to say Iíve left the carís Dynamic toggle thumbed to its most relaxed. Even with AMG-specific calibrations for the steering, gearbox and suspension, the E43 finds a way to pamper its passengers when trundling around slowly. The cabin is whisper quiet, bar some tyre noise, and driving like this is almost effortless.
The E43 inherits a metric shedload of hightech paraphernalia from the E400 on which it is based, including Mercís class-leading driver-assistance technologies. A longer steer in the coming months will be the best way to explore its capabilities, but Iím already fascinated by the way the systems are psychologically preparing me for the future.
Two, ultra-sharp screens perched up front form the portal into a world of submenus and preferences that verges on overwhelming.
Sifting through them means learning how to operate buttons and wheels on the centre console and touch-sensitive pads on the front of the steering wheel, and Iím worried Iíll say goodbye to it without ever figuring it all out.
But the critical stuff is obvious; one button for the nine-speed autoís manual mode and another to firm up the air suspension. Flick the drivetrain to its more aggressive settings and the E43 does duality of character with aplomb. The flexible V6 elicits a satisfying induction growl when dialled up, and is faster and more exciting than its relatively subdued exhaust note suggests.
There will be time to press into the E43 in the months to come, but as an everyday tool it has consistently left me feeling better getting out than I did getting in. AMG has built performance cars for grown-ups since it first set up shop, and in that regard the E43 might just hit the nail squarely on the head.
My wife scornfully refers to the E43ís active seatbelts as Ďhuggersí. A firm squeeze from the Pre-Safe system at every start-up ranks near the top of her irritations list, and was enough to have her cursing at the car and at me for not working out how to turn it off sooner. After some minutes of navigating the digital maze of settings looking for the appropriate checkbox, marital bliss was restored. Her favourite feature? The centre consoleís analogue clockÖ
Date acquired: April 2017 Price as tested: $159,900 This month: 1014km @ 12.8L/100km Overall: 1014km @ 12.8L/100km 34 44 3 3 0 0 2 5 3 5 WEEK 4 URBAN COUNTRY SPORTS FAMILY MOTORWAY