21 Jun 2013

Mercedes E 63 AMG review

Matt Hubbard reviews the 5.5 litre biturbo V8 AMG version of the E Class Mercedes.

I drove the new Mercedes E63 AMG saloon, with the 5.5 litre biturbo V8 engine and 7-speed automatic gearbox (AMG MCT Speedshift).  It's the top of the E Class range and costs £73,745
How does it look in the flesh?

Stunning.  In the metal the new E Class looks great.  It's a large car (4.9m x 1.85m) but hides its bulk well with some crisp lines and in particular a sharp swage line running through the door handles.  The rear is very well done.  It's not Jaguar elegant, more robust and in your face.  I like it a lot.  With the 20" wheels, quad exhausts and AMG front spoiler the E 63 AMG takes the already good looking E Class and makes it more muscular.

What's that AMG engine like?

Powerful, fast, instantly reactive.  It's a great engine.  I've experienced it in every single Mercedes it's in except for the GL.  Its only let-down is a lack of commotion (noise) when off throttle and at idle, but that's a product of regulations.  The old 6.3 V8 was a more characterful lump but this does its job well - albeit in a slightly more clinical manner.  It makes a great noise on-throttle and crackles when downchanging.  Torque is enormous and you never feel like its running out of steam.
How is it to drive?

The engine provides plenty of power and the 7-speed automatic gearbox is great.  Leave it in Sport and use the paddles when you feel like it, although to be honest it doesn't make a huge amount of difference if you do or don't.  Don't turn the traction control off unless you are either on track or like playing with danger.  The steering is quite heavy but over-assisted.  It feels strangely artificial, like they've removed all feel then tried to engineer it back in.  The brakes are not quite as dreadful as in the non-AMG E Class, which means they're still quite wooden.  The brakes in the CLS 63 AMG and C 63 AMG feel so much better.  The ride is fine - comfortable and without too much body roll, a good balance.  The steering and brakes ruined the experience somewhat.

What's the interior like?

On the surface it looks great.  It's vast and very well designed as you can see from the photos.  A simpler COMAND system controls the satnav, radio etc.  It has DAB, which is fantastic.  The seats are pretty wonderful and very supportive, although the lumbar support was odd.  I like a good, sharp lumbar support for my lower back and it did the job but the sheer amount of control meant it was difficult to find a good fit in the first place.  The interior lets itself down in the use of materials, which are a very poor example of cost engineering.  The A-pillar and headlining material looked and felt cheap and really should be Alcantara in a £73k car.  The wooden strip across the dash is plastic, which looks dreadful when you see the edges of it behind the steering wheel.
Will it impress the neighbours?

Yes, absolutely.  It looks fantastic and sounds great when you first start it up and pull away.  Unless they have have a poke around inside and notice the plastics your neighbours will be seriously impressed.

What's the competition?

BMW M5, Jaguar XFR, Lexus LX, Range Rover Sport.
Would you recommend it?

No.  It's a fine looking, fast, spacious ├╝ber saloon with a few fatal flaws.  The steering, brakes and interior materials let it down.  It also can't escape that "old-man" mustiness that I felt in the E 220 CDI.  Mercedes themselves produce better cars than the E 63 AMG - the C 63 AMG and CLS 63 AMG are both slightly different propositions that do the job better.  The Jaguar XFR is a far superior car to the E 63 AMG and costs £9,000 less.

What are the stats?

Engine - 5.5 litre bi-turbo V8 with 7-speed AMG Speedshift automatic gearbox
Price - £73,745
Power - 557 hp
Torque - 531 lb ft
0-62mph - 4.2 seconds
Top speed - 155mph (limited)
Economy - 28.8 mpg
CO2 - 230 g/km