This is old-school Mercedes-AMG: the big, brawny E 63 S. We find it gets the balance of brute force and finesse just about right.
Base price: $215,000.
Powertrain and performance: 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8, 430kW/800Nm, 7-speed automatic, rear-drive, Combined economy 10.0 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 4.2 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4879mm long, 1474mm high, 2874mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 540 litres, fuel tank 67 litres, 19-inch alloy wheels.
We like: Sheer excitement, cutting-edge technology, extravagantly equipped.
We don’t like: Looks dated compared with newer C-class, AMG styling could be too subtle for some.
How it rates: 9/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Mercedes-AMG is certainly broadening its power base these days, with everything from four-cylinder road rockets like the A 45 to a bespoke coupe, the forthcoming GT.
In the midst of all this, the E 63 AMG is like meeting an old friend. This is the kind of vehicle that used to be AMG’s stock and trade: a large, square-jawed sedan with a monstrous V8 engine under the bonnet. Recognisably related to something much more prosaic, but with a completely mad mechanical specification. The latest version of the E 63 AMG for New Zealand brings an S power upgrade as standard, because most owners of the previous model ticked the box for maximum thrust (known as Performance Package back then) regardless.
The S-specification adds 20kW/59Nm, to take the totals to 430kW and a scarcely credible 800Nm. Nice round number, that.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? For a car with such extreme outputs, the E 63 AMG S can be surprisingly docile and comfortable when required. That’s the mark of a great muscle car, of course: the ability to provide as much pleasure rumbling along at urban speeds as it does in full song.
What is even more surprising is that the E 63 has remarkably good traction when you deploy all of that power in anger. Certainly not scary, which is a tribute to the electronics at work as much as anything.
Worth noting that the E 63 S is available with four-wheel drive in left-hook markets, which drops the already alarming 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.2 seconds down to just 3.6 seconds. That’s true supercar territory. The engine note is sensational, as AMG V8s always are. The AMG Speedshift automatic transmission flicks between ratios with alacrity, while the sports steering is light and easy, but pleasingly accurate.
You dial the level of aggression in the powertrain and chassis up or down by using the pushbutton driving mode selector. Most Mercedes-Benzes have three modes, but the E 63 has an extra-angry one on top. Plus a launch-control function.
In part, these cars are designed to allow wealthy people to go and do huge oversteer slides on track days. Naturally, the E 63 S comes equipped with everything you need to do that, including a specific AMG rear axle differential lock. Enjoy.
A small point, but AMG believes there’s still pleasure to be had in grasping a traditional gearlever. So while conventional E-class models have a wand-like gear selector on the steering column, the E 63 boasts a proper transmission lever on the centre console that AMG calls E-Select.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? You could argue that the E 63 S is a little too subtle on the outside. Sure, it has wider tracks (wider front guards, even), an AMG styling kit and some pretty fancy wheels, but it doesn’t exactly shout about its performance credentials.
The same could be said of the interior, although you cannot help but be impressed by the stunning attention to detail. At first glance the E 63 S cabin is just another upmarket E-class. But it has a specific AMG instrument panel including a race timer, bespoke AMG seats (active multicontour), pedals and steering wheel – the list goes on. There’s even a special clock in the dashboard made by IWC.
The E-class is a big car by any standards, but there’s plenty of technology designed to make everyday driving easier. It has Distronic Plus, including adaptive cruise control (which works right down to standstill) and steering assistance to help keep the car in the chosen lane. It boasts a 360-degree parking camera system and if you really want it to, the E 63 will even identify a suitable space and park itself.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? The E 63 S is looking a little old-school compared with the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz sedans, such as the C-class and S-class.
But there’s a certain charm in that, especially when the technology is anything but and the performance and handling are so exquisitely extreme.
This is an awesome machine. Dropping big black lines on the road has never been achieved with such dignity.
- Blind spot warning: Yes
- Lane guidance: Yes with steering assistance
- Cruise control: Adaptive with stop and go
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Intelligent headlights: LED with adaptive high-beam assist
- Parking radar: Front and rear with 360-degree camera
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Three-zone with additional B-pillar vents
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/yes
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/yes
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Power boot or tailgate: Yes
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
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