BMW 540i 2017 review: snapshot
The 540i ($136,900) sits atop the 5 Series tree in Australia, at least for now, and is powered by 3.0-litre straight-six good for a healthy 250kW at 5,500rpm and 450Nm from 1,380rpm.
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When is an AMG not really an AMG, but still a fitting homage to the models that built the brand?
The new E 43 is the eighth '43 after the SLC 43, GLC 43, GLC 43 Coupe and four C 43s, all of which arrived last year, and plugs a mighty gap between the mainstream E-Class line-up and the upcoming full-house E 63 S, while forming an almost exact philosophical fit with the E 36 and E 55 that helped put AMG on the map in the 90s.
How? Unlike the angry dinosaur V8 growl, supercar-like performance and generally hardcore demeanour we love about the current top-level models, the E 43 is more of a rapid grand tourer than a four-door supercar. Which is kind of what the AMGs of old were, before they sprouted exhausts from both sides and became more menacing than Mercedes.
The E 43 still boasts a muscular 295kW/520Nm from its twin-turbo V6 and all-wheel drive, but cloaks it all in an air-suspended package that's barely distinguishable from the AMG styling pack available from the base E 200 up.
It's priced $20,000 higher than the E 400 but still around $90,000 less than the E 63 S that arrives in June, and does nothing to dissuade the notion that Mercedes makes a car for almost everyone. And we're glad they do, particularly when the latest addition boasts a 4.6s 0-100km/h claim that would trump most mid-engined supercars of the 90s.
|Mercedes-Benz E43 2017: (base)|
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Rather than simply plonking the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 from the other '43s in the E-Class body and fettling the tune to edge it ahead performance-wise over the smaller models, the E 43 uses larger turbos to boost power by 25kW but retains the same 520Nm, which is also 50kW and 40Nm greater than the E 400.
Like all current E-Class variants, the engine is backed by Mercedes' very clever nine-speed torque converter auto and follows the E 400 and other '43s by sending power to all corners via the 4Matic all-wheel drivetrain.
Unlike the bulging wheelarches and gaping gob of the new E 63, the E 43 uses discrete flourishes to distinguish it from the regular AMG-pack E-Class.
Most obvious are the more aggressive 20 x 8 and 20 x 9 'RTO' wheels, but if you look closely it also scores subtle black winglets on the outer edges of the front bumper openings, a single bar grille insert, boot lip spoiler and black split exhaust tips.
Hiding within those wheels are upgraded 360mm brakes at all corners, with four piston calipers up front and single at the rear.
On the inside, the E 43 steps up to perforated leather and 'Dynamica' pseudo suede seat trim but the fronts appear to be the same comfortable shape as the regular AMG pack seats. Aside from a smattering of AMG badges, that's about it. Like the outside, it looks a little bit sporty, but luxury is the focus.
At $159,900 the E 43 sits exactly $20,000 above the E 400. As you'd expect it comes fully loaded with comfort and convenience features, including a choice of black, brown or beige nappa leather, 'Air-Balance' cabin scent and air filtration system, tinted windows, panoramic sunroof, head-up display and a 13-speaker Burmester surround sound audio system.
Like all new E-Classes, the E 43 also comes with the brilliant Drive Pilot suite of active cruise control and lane guidance tech that permit semi-autonomous driving, including the ability to change lanes. More sculpted AMG front seats and a Dynamica pseudo suede-trimmed steering wheel are available as a $3076 option, but it's worth noting that the seat upgrade eliminates the PRE-SAFE impulse side function that moves passengers toward the centre of the car when a side collision is anticipated.
Like all E-Class sedans, the E 43 has amble room for four large adults to travel comfortably. Everyday practicality is well considered with dual cup holders front and rear with bottleholders in each door, map pockets and ISOFIX child seat mounts in the outer rear positions. Boot capacity is a useful 540 litres.
Like all AMG performance models, the E 43 forgoes run-flats or a spare tyre in favour of an inflation kit.
Despite making more power and torque, the E 43 carries the same 8.4L/100km official combined figure as the E 400, but requires more expensive 98RON to achieve it. The E 43 also scores a 14-litre larger 80-litre fuel tank, which should stretch the range between fills by around 167km based on the official figure.
Like all versions of the W213 E-Class, the E 43 carries the maximum five star ANCAP and EuroNCAP safety ratings. A brilliantly integrated suite of active and passive safety features go well beyond its nine-airbag count, 360-degree parking cameras, rear cross-traffic alerts, and a pedestrian-protecting active bonnet.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
As with all Mercedes passenger cars, the E 43 is covered by a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Service intervals are either 12 months or 25,000km and the first three services are capped at $668, $1356 and $1356 respectively.
Working our way out of Melbourne via its network of motorways, there's little aside from perforated leather and Dynamica faux suede seats to tell us we're aboard something a bit more special than most E-Classes.
Left in Comfort mode via the console-mounted drive select toggle, the engine delivers a creamy urge with max torque available from 2500rpm, the transmission is silken and the ambience is very E-Class.
On the country roads beyond Melbourne's urban limits, you can tell you're riding on 20-inch wheels with limited sidewalls, but it's all entirely liveable and still very Mercedes.
Flick it over to Sport mode and it's much the same, but confronted with the bitumen rollercoaster that is Chum Creek Rd (look it up, it's worth it), we felt it was time for Sport +. Race mode is reserved for the full-blown AMGs, but Sport + instantly transforms the E 43.
The steering gets heavier, the exhaust gets louder and the transmission drops at least one ratio, but the dampers also become much firmer which makes it feel at least a couple of hundred kilos lighter than the aluminium-abundant W213 E-Class already is.
The stability control also loosens its leash and surprisingly permits some play from the rear end when you're really pushing under throttle. It is all-wheel drive, but the torque bias favours the rear wheels by a factor of 69:31.
The auto manages to shift quickly and the abundance of ratios means it happens very often. You'd have to be pretty bored to bother with the paddle shifters, as everything responds beautifully to your right foot – including the brakes.
It's very easy to drive very fast and you soon forget you're driving a near-5m long sedan.
The V6's growl will never match a V8 symphony, but it helps to stamp the E 43's individual character. If it made no noise it would be disappointing, but it does well to push a classic V6 bark past its turbos.
If you want a fast Benz but your other half prefers genuine comfort and doesn't like the sound of NASCAR, this is your solution. It's an opulent luxury saloon by default, but with proper performance and personality just the flick of a switch away.
We know the E 63 S will be sharper and 1.2s quicker to 100km/h, but it will also cost another E 200 more, and feel like a performance car ALL the time. The E 43 doesn't, which is just brilliant.
|Engine & trans||8|
|Price and features||7|
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