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Super saloon showdown: Mercedes E 43 vs E 63

  • Mercedes-AMG offers two souped-up E-Class saloons
  • V6-powered E 43 and the full-fat V8 E 63 on test
  • One is easier to live with but the other more entertaining

So you want a fast E-Class - well, the previous version featured an AMG-tuned car with a massively characterful (but quite thirsty) 6.2-litre, eight-cylinder engine.

Click here for the full expert Mercedes-Benz E-Class Saloon range review

This time around though the motor has been replaced by a smaller 4.0-litre V8. To negate that loss of displacement a pair of turbos help to boost power levels to 612hp in the qualifying-spec E 63 S.

Also making its debut is the V6-powered E 43 – sitting below the full-fat car but still benefitting from an AMG performance hike.

So which is best?

As you’d expect the power increases the higher up the E-Class AMG tree you climb: the E 43 has 401hp and 520Nm of torque, the E 63 has 571hp and 750Nm of torque, while the top-spec E 63 S features 612hp and 850Nm. Which is a lot.

Predictably 0-62mph times tumble in line with the amount of horsepower on offer: expect 4.6 seconds, 3.5 seconds and 3.4 seconds respectively. Both engines make a superb noise too - the V6 is more tuneful, although slightly synthetic, while the V8 is louder, angrier and much more aggressive.

In the real world the E 43’s performance feels easier to live with, offering more laid-back, wafty acceleration in comparison with the E 63, which fires you alarmingly down the road.

Surprisingly there isn’t much to separate all three power outputs in terms of fuel economy, all of which claim mpg figures in the low-30s and CO2 outputs of 192 and 207g/km (E 43 and E 63).

Is the E 63 very firm?

Yes it is – which is odd because while both the E 43 and E 63 feature air suspension, the latter feels like it could do with a setting softer than its claimed Comfort mode.

Things get increasingly taut as you climb the scale to the downright belligerent Sport+, which is really better reserved for smooth tarmac or a racetrack. The E 43 is much cushier on lumpy tarmac, but in return never feels quite as agile as the E 63.

This means it can seem a bit of a confusing half-way house – while the E 63 is uncompromisingly firm, it does at least deliver extremely sharp and responsive handling. The E 43 can feel a bit neither here nor there.

Both cars are all-wheel drive only which means massive amounts of grip, and in the case of the E 43, fairly benign handling. The E 63 however feels very rear-driven and requires a lot of concentration to extract the best from.

What about equipment?

Predictably you get more equipment as you spend more money on your fast E-Class. Pick an E 43 and you get big wheels and a sporty bodykit, but not much else.

The E 63 and E 63 S ramp up the performance kit on offer with a mechanical differential (electronically controlled in the S), a performance gearbox and grippier bucket seats in the latter.

Of course there are many options to choose from, including plenty of exterior carbon fibre, a driver’s package which unlocks a higher top speed, and nigh-on £7,000-worth of carbon ceramic brakes.

Verdict

Given an unlimited budget you would of course choose the E 63 S – chassis comfort aside, it is a seriously fast and involving machine with plenty of space for all the family.

That said the E 43 gives you a decent flavour of what Mercedes-AMG is all about. It’s not quite the full experience but with a list price nearly 50% cheaper than the top model, it represents (relatively) good value for money.