AMG’s big E is back to bludgeon the opposition with its raw power, and this latest version has the means to really make it hurt thanks to the addition of all-wheel drive.
Just when you thought things couldn’t be much madder in the universe of uber-fast German four doors, Mercedes-AMG arrives with a new sledgehammer in the form of the E 63 S 4Matic+. It’s not only the most powerful weapon in Merc’s war chest, but the E 63 now has the means to harness all that mighty potential with the addition of all-wheel drive. And after a few hundred fast and furious miles in its luxo-racer cabin, we can confirm it is one potent machine.
Where to start? Probably under that shapely bonnet we suppose. The new model is available here in both E 63 and more forceful E 63 S guises. They each use the now familiar twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 but here they employ a new pair of twin-scroll turbos in the valley of the V8. In the E 63 these boost to a maximum of 1.3bar to deliver 420kW and 750Nm and in the S, they compress to a force of 1.5bar to churn 450kW and 850Nm from the V8. The snails are fed by a new exhaust manifold which optimises the flow of spent exhaust gases from each cylinder for a quicker response. Also new are the pistons, the intake design, intercooler system and cylinder deactivation. Unique to the S variant are active engine mounts which soften the NVH in Comfort mode but stiffen in the Sport modes to help minimise the movement of the hardware in quick running for improved response and control.
The E is the first AMG V8 to use the nine-speed auto which gains the ‘wet start-off clutch’ in place of the usual torque convertor. AMG has revised both hardware and the control unit for swifter shifting, and has also managed to improve its low speed refinement. There’s now an output shaft protruding from the unit to send torque to the front axle. AWD Mercs aren’t anything new but one with a variable torque distribution is. The E 63 has an electromechanically-controlled coupling on the front axle which locks-up to drag drive forwards. The vehicle runs primarily as a rear driver with the system sending as much as 50 per cent of the shunt forwards when needed.
The usual array of drive modes returns; Comfort, Sport, Sport + and a customisable Individual setting, while S buyers get a Race mode. Along with looser ESP thresholds, it also enables a Drift mode for track use which puts the AWD system to sleep, sending all of the fury to the rears.
The E 63 is air sprung this time around and AMG has reworked much of the suspension hardware. The rear set-up is unique to the 63, there’s an increase in track both front and rear while improved roll stiffness and wheel control come via new bushes, hubs, geometry and roll bars. A mechanical locking rear diff is used on the E 63 while the S gets an electromechanical device for more precise control of the lock-up, and there’s a variable steering rack with an AMG-specific ratio.
So, plenty of hardware changes to transform the luxury E into a racer, while the styling hints at the mechanical menace beneath. The front end is unique, all wide and aggressive with elements to direct the air where it needs to be, and the pumped guards contain the wider front track. The rear aero aids are always subtle on the big E with a gurney flap on the boot lid and diffuser doing the business, the latter flanked by a quartet of pipes. The S wears forged alloys with a centre lock look, and within lies the ceramic brake package complete with gold-hued calipers.
The price? The AMG E-Class range starts at $166,900 for the E 43, and the E 63 is $199,900, with the S being $229,900. That’s a substantial fee, but as we discovered, it is also an extraordinary offering.
With the introduction of the 43 variant, AMG has been able to really hone the E 63 S, for it’s one particularly focused performance machine. As is common of the breed, multiple drive modes give it a shot of everyday refinement but even in the Comfort setting, the air sprung ride is firm and there’s a fair degree of tyre noise, even at 50km/h. There’s the odd gripe from the diff, especially when cold, and the front end can get grumpy when manoeuvring at slow speeds too. So those who think that the E 63 will pamper like a E 400 will be advised to try the E 43 first for their dose of AMG, but for those accepting of the above conditions, they’ll relish the E 63 S.
Owners of past AMG Es will mark the move to all-wheel drive as the most notable improvement. Traction is well assured now even with a rear-drive bias and 850Nm of twist tormenting the Pirellis with every determined prod of the gas pedal. Thinking back to the supercharged E55; the primitive traction control struggled under duress, cutting the power crudely. And while the naturally aspirated E 63 was better with a more linear power delivery and improved traction control system, it still had its moments where the rear tyres struggled to deal with the demands of both lateral grip and traction in bends. The variable nature of this new AWD system sees the E 63 S turn in quite neutrally, the strict suspension set-up controlling chassis movements and allowing the tyres to maximise your mid-corner momentum. You then roll quickly into the gas and the fronts start working to ease the load on the rears, and all that mighty torque spits you out the other side. The trick thing is you don’t really feel the front wheels start to grab, but you know they must be working to get the job done so effectively. While this AWD set-up is not as forgiving as, say, the A 45’s when getting hard on the gas early in bends, you can still give it what for and it will stick, helped by a dab of electronic stabilisation.
For fun we slipped the E 63 S into Race mode where it favours an even more rearward torque bias while instructing the TC to stand down and this unlocked another level of interaction for the E. More care and attention is required in this mode where you are quickly reminded of the fast moving mass you’re pushing around. As for Drift mode, we simply weren’t game enough on road. While the suspenders are right firm in the Sport+ and Race modes, they can tolerate bumps, and the added restrictions on body movements are welcome.
The 63’s steering is quick, and with the added starch in the front end, this responds rapidly for a big car. There’s a fair degree of heft in the racier drive modes but also some life, giving a sense of the strain the Pirellis are under as they load up in the bends. And you can ask a lot of them on road – the grip is impressive for what is a big bruiser. You’re going to need a good track session to reveal this car’s breaking point, and even then we suspect you’ll need to try hard.
The auto we left to its own instruction; the engineers have spent long hours sorting the ones and zeroes, and it does the job on road downshifting when you’re on the brakes, holding gears through bends and upshifting late with the throttle pinned. Downshifts are particularly snappy and it will even pluck first gear if the turn is super tight. And then you’re glad you have the traction of the 4Matic system as you rocket out the other side. This car was fitted with the optional ceramic brake package ($9900) and though they offer up good power and resistance to abuse, the pedal feel was a tad dull on road.
What we haven’t really mentioned is just how rabidly quick this big four-door is. Merc’s Race Start is now easier to use: select the right drive mode, brake hard with your left foot, floor the throttle, and cue 3500rpm as you release the brake for an optimal launch. The nose lifts as the torque squats the rear and, save for a brief slurring of the clutch packs in the AMG ‘start off device’, the full extent of the motive forces are converted into searingly quick forward momentum. There’s enough here to see off the Porsche Panamera Turbo we tested last month. It’s but one dimension of its quickness however.
The improvements to the engine bring a crisp throttle response; it’s not that far behind some of the best unassisted engines in the way it cracks on and off the gas. It’s an epic engine, seemingly always ready to rock, and it spins quickly to almost 7000rpm. It has a rasping induction note thanks to the turbo configuration, though there’s still plenty of exhaust racket too, complete with the usual barping and crackling. Figure on gas use in the range of 13 – 30L/100km. The latter seems to be the limit of the trip computer readout.
Along with the cracking pace, the E 63 S delivers the E-Class’s generous accommodations, rear passengers seated on a sumptuously trimmed and sculpted seat, and there’s a big hold for the luggage, accessed via a powered boot, with split folding even.
The 63 S gets all of the E’s active safety do-dads though we like how there are dedicated buttons to deactivate the lane keeping function, activate the parking camera and quickly raise the ride height to keep the splitter out of harm’s way. While the list of features is long, all the specification adds weight; a standard E 63 S is listed at 1875kg whereas the Kiwi car is 2033kg. With its suede trim, the steering wheel is a mite slippery, and a drive mode button placed on the spoke would be handy, as the switch is concealed on the console by the infotainment controller for right hand drive cars. The AMG Performance seat you may find unforgiving, supportive for sure, but firm. A more pampering seat is available as part of a comfort pack however. And among the menus of the impressive looking digital dash are the AMG-specific screens to relay how you’re doing in the bends via the G meter, or show just how much power you’re using, even how hot the tyres are getting.
It may all prove too much for some and they can settle for the E 43, but for those with a racer bent, the E 63 S will certainly measure up.
|Model||Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4matic+||Price||$229,900|
|Engine||3982cc, V8, T/DI, 450kW/850Nm||Drivetrain||9A, AWD|
|Fuel Use||9.3L/100km||C02 Output||207g/km|