Once a small, independently owned tuning shop, AMG has grown into Mercedes-Benz’s highly successful in-house performance division, known for its powerful engines, race-inspired aerodynamics, and sporty interior treatments. Sales of AMG-branded vehicles increased 33 percent last year in the United States, and Mercedes-AMG wants more. A large part of that strategy hinges on the AMG 43 lineup, a relatively new series of cars and crossovers that sits between the standard Mercedes-Benz models and the high-powered AMG 63 and 65 vehicles.
Powering the AMG 43 lineup is Mercedes-Benz’s 3-liter V-6 biturbo, tuned by AMG engineers to produce 362 hp and 384 ft lbs of torque. The exception is the AMG E43 sedan, which I first drove last year in Germany. Its engine generates 396 hp because of its larger turbochargers. In each AMG 43 model, the engine is paired with a 9-speed, 9G-Tronic automatic transmission. The company’s 4MATIC all-wheel drive is standard equipment on all models, except the rear-wheel-drive SLC43 roadster. These entry-level AMGs lack certain touches, such as the hand-built engines for which the AMG 63 and 65 models are known. Nevertheless, Bernhard Glaser, general manager of product management for Mercedes-Benz USA, insists, “These are the same engineers in Affalterbach [AMG’s headquarters in Germany] developing these cars.”
While test-driving all nine AMG 43 models along the coast and through the canyons in Southern California, I found that though the vehicles share the same power train, each has a distinct character.