Road test: Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic+ saloon

  • Huge performance, with 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds
  • Improved handling is the biggest leap over old model
  • Massive tech included, focusing on driver aids

The expansive E-Class range really does have something for everyone. It encompasses sensible suited diesels to these range-topping Mercedes-AMG E63 and E63 S versions - which successfully switch business attire for some race wear.

As the most sporting model in the line-up, the E63 gains additional aggressive styling touches. These include deeper front intakes, slight flaring to the wheelarches to cover its larger wheels and tyres, and a boot-mounted spoiler and quad exhausts underneath the reprofiled rear bumper.

Even so, choose a sober colour and the E63 could be described as relatively discreet. Starting it will leave you in no doubt that this is AMG’s high-performance take on Mercedes-Benz’s most intelligent saloon.

No surprises: the new 2017 E63 is one very quick motor

Mercedes-AMG is well known for adding masses of power to the German carmaker's line-up, and there’s no shortage of it here. In standard E63 guise, the 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 engine delivers 570hp and 752Nm of torque, enough to allow it to ace the 0-62mph sprint in just 3.5 seconds.

If that’s not quite quick enough, Mercedes-AMG will happily sell you the E63 S. In this car, power swells to 611hp and torque rises to 851Nm, dropping that 0-62mph time to 3.4 seconds. Choosing the S also brings a more sophisticated, electronically controlled rear differential and active engine mounts to the standard equipment list.

Either E63 is faster than any of its rivals. Its sprinting ability is now enhanced by AMG’s adoption of four-wheel drive into the E63’s extensive technical arsenal, while the top speed in both variants is electronically limited to 155mph, though specify the optional AMG Driver’s Package and that raises to a headier 186mph.

Handling improvements up the E63's game 

A surfeit of power has long been AMG’s signature, but recently it’s added some real sophistication into how it’s all managed. The E63 demonstrates that with real conviction, being able to span a broad stroke from comfortable day-to-day civility to snarling, track-focused racer.

To enable that, there are plenty of choices available for the driver through a simple Drive Select toggle, Comfort softening the responses of the accelerator, nine-speed automatic transmission, toning down the sports exhaust and bringing some suppleness to the taut, three-chamber air suspension.

Switch up through the various modes to Sport+ and the most extreme Race setting and the E63 and E63 S change in character. Suspension, engine and gearbox end up being on high alert, and delivering their sharpest, most immediate responses to very good effect.

Here the E63 really impresses, with its class-leading performance matched to a chassis and powertrain that’s engaging and hugely entertaining, yet controlled and entirely predictable.

For the most demanding drivers, there’s the ability to select a so-called Drift Mode. It decouples the drive to the front axle and effectively creates a rear-wheel drive E63.

Such is the fine chassis balance, and the unobtrusive operation of the 4Matic+ even at the extremes of the E63’s performance, that Drift Mode is just a little bit silly, though an amusing reminder of AMG’s more unhinged side.

Selectable driving modes

Drive the E63 in Comfort and, figure-hugging racy deep-bolstered sports seats and background V8 burble aside, you could convince yourself or your passengers you’re in something with half the horsepower.

The steering is key here, the chunky, flat-bottomed wheel itself offering fine weighting and accuracy, and actually delivering some feel.

The suspension makes a great fist of combining comfort with corner-carving - AMG’s development of the E-Class’s sophisticated three-chamber air springs and adaptive dampers providing supple, controlled ride comfort in any of its modes.

Only the slight tyre roar from the wide rubber it wears gives the E63’s range-topping sporting status away, but given its enormous breadth of ability that’s really no compromise.

There is a problem, however. Even though the E63 and E63 S retain all the E-Class’s most intelligent near autonomous driving features, you’ll never want to use any of them...

How much?

Mercedes-AMG is yet to reveal exact pricing, but being at the head of the E-Class line-up it’ll be the most expensive E-Class you can buy.

There’ll be a premium for the S, though given the additional equipment and performance it brings it’ll be worth it, particularly as there’s no fuel consumption or emissions penalty for choosing the go-faster E63 AMG. The S retains the same 31.7mpg official consumption figure and 203g/km CO2 emissions of the standard model.

In reality this Merc missile will be much thirstier, obviously, but it’s highly improbable anyone buying an E63 will be buying one with any concerns about the cost of running it.

In time the E63 and E63 S model choice will be enhanced with the addition of an estate version, while those buyers wanting to show they’ve been early to buy this new model can option the special Edition One model, which adds some rather overt styling extras and additional choices for interior trim.

Verdict

Once the unruly member of a super-saloon gang, four-wheel drive, a sophisticated chassis and hugely powerful 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 have added some dynamic finesse to Mercedes-AMG’s most powerful saloon.

No longer a mere dragster in comparison to BMW’s M5, the Audi RS6 and Porsche Panamera Turbo, it arguably heads them for handling now, too.

The new M5 will have to be very good indeed to better this impressive AMG.