To the consternation of absolutely no-one, you cannot buy a slow petrol e-class in the uk. The range-topping E63 arrives next year, so for now the Mercedes- AMG E43 is the petrol E-class; it’ll plug the same gap as Audi S6 below RS6.
We’re testing it in the just-launched estate body style, which means 1820 litres of luggage space with the rear seats folded, 620 with them up, but – more crucially – three litres of joyous superplus-glugging V6 under the bonnet. It’s a smooth engine, one that accelerates eagerly from 1500rpm with an impressive absence of turbo lag, and shifts with a nine-speed auto. Mostly, that ‘box is creamy smooth, if inconsistently let down by thumps of mechanical Tourette’s.
With 396bhp/384lb ft, the E43 is quick rather than rapid, and the exhausts play a refined, subdued melody, like a trumpet through a mute, leaving plenty of space for the near-600bhp E63. But then, the E43 is not only a shandy-top AMG, it’s a different tipple altogether: softer, more sensible, more affordable too.
Air suspension and all-wheel drive is standard. So while the supple ride and sticky – if rear-biased – handling offers refinement and sure-footed safety, others will miss the sharper handling of full-strength AMG products, the tail-out flamboyance too.
This car also illustrates why AMG has dropped variable-ratio steering from halo products like the C63. The variable-ratio rack is lazy off-centre, but unnaturally accelerates like a skater dropping in to a half-pipe when you apply more lock. Combine that with a pause as you wait for the suspension to compress in corners and you find yourself nibbling uncertainly at the wheel, not making one confident input.
All in, though, the E43 estate is a likeable, logically positioned welcome mat to the E-class AMG household, a perfect daily driver for family types with a performance itch… and so much more enjoyable than a diesel.
Mercedes AMG E43 Estate
Engine: 2996cc 24v V6 twin-turbo
Power: 396bhp @ 6100rpm
Torque: 384lb ft @ 2500-5000rpm
Transmission: nine-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
On sale: First orders October
E 63 can breath easy