Five minutes with a Mercedes-AMG E 43 Estate

Mercedes-AMG’s ‘halfway house’ performance model, the E 43 4Matic, in its most practical Estate guise. This machine uses a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V6, driving all four wheels through a nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox. It’s designed to take on the very-fast-but-not-the-fastest vehicles in the rival BMW and Audi line-ups – cars like the M550i xDrive and the S6. However, those three letters on the left-hand side of the Merc’s bootlid conjure up some pretty strong emotions in car enthusiasts and, despite healthy numbers of 401hp and 520Nm, there’s the worry that the E 43 might not have enough firepower to please its toughest critics.

Why are you driving it?

AMG is known for dropping almighty V8s into the bodywork of various E-Class models through the years, resulting in some of the most unhinged German cars you can find. But while there will be a full-on E 63 at the top of the current E-Class tree very soon, the E 43 is a whole new concept for AMG fans to get their heads around. Namely, what if the company did a subtler, more distinguished performance vehicle? So what we want to know is: can a V6 E-Class AMG really be special enough to make shunning the V8 worthwhile?

What do you like about it?

Almost everything, truth be told. The latest Mercedes E-Class is a wonderful, refined machine and the E 43 treatment hasn’t spoiled it. Nor has opting for the goliath boot on the back of the car, the Estate variant boasting 640 litres of cargo capacity. So what you have here is a phenomenally fast Mercedes whatever the weather – courtesy of its 4Matic sure-footedness – that is great to drive, comfortable to cruise in, loaded with the most alluring technology (like the beautiful twin 12.3-inch TFT screens in the dash) and capable of carrying a family of five, two dogs in the boot and a load of clobber in a roof-mounted storage box with ease. It makes a very good case for being all the car you would ever need for any conceivable situation. That it also looks really good, all understated menace on the outside and high-quality fixtures and fittings within, and sounds properly ferocious when switched into its sportier driving modes are mere cherries on top of a very tasty cake.

Any issues?

Well, it’s a high-speed Mercedes-AMG, so it’s not cheap. The price of the wagon begins at £58,290 and our test car had a few toys added to take it to £62,480. It’s also not quite as smooth in the ride department as some of its ‘lesser’ brethren, like the E 220 d AMG Line on optional air suspension, and of course it won’t be inexpensive to run, as that powerful V6 likes a drink – expect around 33mpg on a long motorway jaunt as your best economy, with more like 23mpg on local country lanes. There’s also the consideration that people who can afford this sort of car would simply want the E 63 and no substitutes, no matter how good they might be. However, one caveat here – as we’ve recently driven a Jaguar XF 2.0-litre diesel saloon that cost nearly £50,000 with options, and examples of the latest BMW 5 Series saloon in 530d M Sport trim that were a terrifying £66,000 with some extras fitted, a 401hp, genuine Mercedes-AMG for less than £62,500 suddenly looks like a bit of a bargain.

What’s it like as a business vehicle – are there any tax benefits?

There are no tax benefits and, as it’s not a diesel, it does not boast stellar figures as a company car proposition. The CO2 emissions of 197g/km will make it very pricey once VED laws change on April 1, as you’ll fork out £3,450 in road tax alone in ownership years one to six, while it sits in the very highest Benefit-in-Kind bracket of 37 per cent. If you want an E-Class Estate as a company car, the E 220 d is going to make so much more sense than the 43.

Where does it rank in class right now?

We’re still waiting for the BMW M550i xDrive Touring that would wipe the floor with this AMG – believe it or not; but the truth is that the BMW is stupidly powerful – so the 540i xDrive wagon would have to suffice. Audi hasn’t replaced its ageing A6 as yet, meaning a new S6 competitor is some way off, and while Jaguar does a fabulous 380hp XF S model, the Brit firm hasn’t yet committed to making a Sportbrake estate version of its executive challenger. So, given the Mercedes-AMG is better than the 540i in most departments and about the same price, the E 43 Estate is currently top of its (admittedly small and rarefied) class.

Perhaps the more pertinent question is whether we’d recommend the E 43 over its more potent and desirable E 63 stablemate… and that’s tricky. There’s no doubt the E 63, in full 612hp ‘S’ guise, is truly remarkable – and yet, there’s something alluring about a discreet Benz wagon that can still hit 62mph from rest in 4.7 seconds; comfortably more than quick enough for most drivers’ needs. Also, the E 43 is certain to be usefully cheaper (by probably around £20,000 and more) than the E 63 Estate is going to be when prices for the latter are confirmed, which means if you accept the premise of a V6 E-Class AMG, then the E 43 is a sensationally brilliant car which you’d be mad to ignore.

TECH SPEC

  • Model: Mercedes-AMG E 43 4Matic Estate
  • Price: E-Class Estate range starts from £36,350; E 43 Estate from £58,290, car as tested £62,480
  • Drivetrain: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol, nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
  • Economy: 33.6mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 197g/km – £500 VED first 12 months, then £270 annually thereafter, if registered before April 1, 2017/£1,200 first 12 months, £450 per annum next five years, then £140 annually thereafter, if registered post-April 1, 2017; 37% benefit in kind
  • Top speed: 155mph (limited)
  • 0-62mph: 4.7 seconds
  • Power: 401hp at 6,100rpm
  • Torque: 520Nm at 2,500- to 5,000rpm