THE new Mercedes-AMG E63 S carries on where its predecessor left off, with a 450kW turbocharged V8 giving it a huge serve of performance. There’s one crucial difference, though – the arrival of standard all-wheel drive, making this car both quicker and more stable than the last one.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
The Mercedes-AMG E63 is one of the fastest sedans on the planet, powered – in its brawniest “S” guise – by a 450kW twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 and finding traction through a new all-wheel-drive system. Mercedes claims it is capable of dispatching the 0-100km/h benchmark in just 3.4 seconds – this really is a four-door alternative to a supercar. Being based on the Mercedes E-Class gives the E63 the best possible start, with strong design and a long list of standard equipment. However, although pricing is yet to be finalised, we can already tell you that it’s set to be seriously expensive. Expect to have to pay at least $250,000 for the E63 S when it goes on sale next July.
The engine. AMG models have always had charismatic engines and the new E63 is no exception. The twin-turbo V8 is a virtuoso, happy to trundle around at low speeds projecting burble, or mount a full redline mission and show off its supercar-humbling performance. It’s enormously fast when you want it to be, but it’s also a relaxed cruiser when operating at barely a tenth of its full potential. Built for autobahn speeds, the biggest challenge in Australia is always going to be holding it back.
Its handling. While previous versions of AMG’s big saloons have struggled to find traction to match their enormous power outputs, the arrival of a new 4Matic all-wheel-drive system on this generation of E63 means it feels far more dynamically secure with huge grip and a well-weighted chassis that keeps things calm even when you’re pressing on. While it’s not quite as involving as its rear-drive predecessors we reckon most potential buyers will gladly trade some of the old engagement for the extra confidence of the new car.
A high level of refinement. Despite the huge performance on offer, the E63 never feels harsh. Air suspension and switchable dynamic modes come as standard, and in its softest Comfort mode it is almost as pliant as the regular E-Class. The bigger tyres kick up more road noise, especially on poor quality surfaces, but overall refinement levels are exceptional for what is a serious performance car.
The cabin. As you’d expect given its position at the top of the range, the E63 builds on the strengths of the standard E-Class cabin, adding huge amounts of standard equipment. The interior is brilliantly designed and a great place to spend time, with the AMG getting kitchen sink specification and a full battery of driver assistance systems, including the semi-autonomous Drive Pilot.
Fuel economy. No one is going to buy the E63 to save on their fuel bills, but AMG has given it several clever eco-features including selective cylinder deactivation that shuts down four cylinders in the engine under light use. The official 9.1L/ 100km EU fuel rating is impressive for something like this.
Its high cost. Mercedes says that this E63 will cost about the same as the outgoing model, with a much higher level of standard equipment. You’re still looking at what’s likely to be a quarter-million-dollar E-Class though, and it’s worth mentioning that the new V6-powered E43 AMG gives a fair approximation of the experience for just two thirds the price.
Deflated involvement. The E63 is meant as more of an executive express than an out-and-out sportscar, but although the new all-wheel-drive system means it has much more grip and traction than its predecessor, something of that car’s involvement is lost in translation.
Drift mode. The inclusion of such a system on the Ford Focus RS triggered a tabloid frenzy in Australia earlier this year, so it’s worth mentioning that the E63 has a similar system. For track use only, it disengages drive to the front wheels and turns off stability control, allowing the car to steer via the rear wheels. We don’t reckon most buyers will use it that often…
The new nine-speed gearbox. It’s just a niggle. The automatic gearbox works extremely well when left to its own devices, but if you’re tempted to take control of it in manual mode it feels like you’re upshifting and downshifting the whole time because there are so many ratios.
ANY COMPETITORS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
The Mercedes-AMG E63 S arrives as its most obvious rival, the BMW M5, is retiring, so we’ll have to wait a while to see how it copes with the next-generation M5 due in 2017, which will also shift to all-wheel drive. That said, the stripped-and-whipped M5 Pure ($184,715) does look like a bargain compared with the AMG’s likely price tag. The other bitter German rival is the Audi RS7 Performance, costing $258,000 and with 445kW from its twin-turbocharged V8 engine, meaning it pretty much matches the E63 on power. The Maserati Quattroporte is a left-field alternative, although only the 390kW V8 GTS gets close to the Merc on power, and it costs $331,000. Alternatively, try waiting for the forthcoming second-generation Porsche Panamera.