Mercedes-AMG E43 offers steely handling at some expense of ride quality
Easy steering tempers heft The latest Mercedes-AMG E43 Saloon is equipped with a 3-litre V6 engine with twin turbochargers and churns out 401hp and 520Nm of torque. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

If life's compromises could be embodied in a car, the latest Mercedes-AMG E43 Saloon would be that car.

The first performance variant of the current-generation E-class sedan, the E43 has a 3-litre V6 force-fed by two turbochargers to make a heady 401hp and 520Nm of torque from 2,500rpm.

To put that in perspective, the popular E200 has 184hp and 300Nm.

The steroidal E43 hurtles to 100kmh in 4.6 seconds - 0.1 second quicker than its wagon twin driven last year. It has an electronically limited peak velocity of 250kmh.

The E200's 7.7-second century sprint is leisurely in comparison, even though its theoretical top speed of 240kmh is not far from what its beefier sibling is capable of.

But to deliver an on-road performance that is worthy of its big heart, the 1,840kg E43 rides on 20-inch wheels bolted to a stout chassis. The ride, even in Comfort mode, is decidedly firm.

This endows the AMG-lite Merc with lovely sure-footedness and a superb confidence around corners at speed.

Alas, this is at some expense of ride quality. Occupants will feel the road quite keenly, with poorly repaved tarmac jolting through to the cabin.

This is rather uncharacteristic of the E-class, which has always been able to filter out surface imperfections easily. Previous-generation AMG-fettered E-class variants have also been more cushy.

Getting those 401 horses to gallop is also not as easy as it sounds. The car requires a heavier right foot than expected. Perhaps it is because peak torque is attained only at 2,500rpm - rather high for a turbo. (The E200's 300Nm is available from 1,200rpm.)

Combined with its heavier kerb weight and stodgy chassis, the E43 - equipped with rear-bias all-wheel-drive - feels less effortless than expected.

Thankfully, its steering is. The car tracks truly and does not require much input at the helm. But when inputs are given, it responds as quickly and judiciously as any performance model out there. It is its easy steering that mitigates the car's overall heftiness.

Like all cars tuned by AMG, the E43 makes all the right noises. Its repertoire ranges from a mellow background drone to a full-bodied hair-raising roar. Rising and ebbing with throttle inputs, this AMG song adds to the car's sporty handling.

Weighing nearly 200kg more than the E200, the E43 is 33 per cent thirstier. But for something which matches a Porsche 911 Carrera in a straight-line shootout, that is a small penalty.

Despite its compromised ride, the E43 is, of course, far cushier than a 911. It is best driven in Sport mode, with its suspension set in Comfort.

And it has all the creature comforts of a luxury car. There is plenty of nappa leather, open-pore wood and brushed stainless steel on board. A Burmester sound system is standard issue.

Most of the switches and controls are intuitive, but some are just too sensitive and twitchy (like the navigation set).

Strange as it may sound, the best seat in the house in this AMG may not be behind the wheel.