7 Jan 2014

Driven - Mercedes E63 AMG S

Alex Wakefield reviews the Mercedes E63 AMG S

Mercedes E63 AMG S

I began an extremely pleasant day as a guest of Mercedes Benz, by driving two AMG models. First, I tried the muscular C63 Edition 507, followed by the spectacular SLS AMG GT.  I’d not had any experience of the legendary handbuilt, naturally aspirated 6.2 litre V8 engine which powered both and wanted to have a go before it was consigned to history. Like so many other manufacturers, Mercedes is coming round to the current trend of downsizing, and turbocharging. As a result, I put off sampling the latest E63 AMG S, for fear of disappointment.

I need not have worried. Recently facelifted, with a bold new front and rear lighting signature, the E63 AMG in standard form is now fitted with a twin turbocharged, 5.5 litre V8 which spews out a pretty healthy 557BHP. The benchmark 0-62mph test is complete after 4.2 seconds and a top speed which must surely be in the region of 200mph is thwarted by an electronic limiter at 155mph. Those figures are extremely impressive, but in the spirit of constant improvement and bragging rights, there’s an option for those who need more.
Mercedes E63 AMG S

For those people, the most powerful E Class ever sold is now available, with the wick turned up to give 585BHP, a 4.1 second sprint to 62mph, and if you specify the optional AMG Driver’s package, (and why wouldn’t you?) a top speed of 186mph. Those are legitimate supercar figures, and are knocking on the door of those boasted by the King of all AMG, the SLS AMG GT. Yet, if you so wished, it could also pass as a respectable minicab.

That’s not to do the E63 AMG S a disservice, because, chrome tipped exhaust finishers, spoiler and red brake calipers aside, it’s a pretty discreet package. In side profile, with the beautifully simple 10 spoke lightweight wheels, it’s a real Q car; only the extended side skirts and bumpers give the game away, until you spot the ‘V8 BiTurbo’ badge on the front wing. Walking around our subtle grey coloured test car, there’s not too much to indicate at the savage performance capability.
Mercedes E63 AMG S engine

Inside, the same impression is given. There’s plenty of space for front and rear passengers, the comfortable perforated leather seats give support without being difficult to get into and out of, the boot is enormous, and everything is nicely set out, well crafted and anything other than showy. There’s a nice metal push-button starter, and a wonderfully tactile leather and alcantara bound steering wheel, behind which are two solid metal gearshift paddles. Shift into first and pull away, and at first the experience is entirely free from drama. Where the older 6.2 litre engine always makes you aware it is in front of you, there’s very little to indicate what lurks ahead until you pick up speed.

In the new E63, the sensations which stick in the mind are exhaust noise, and savage, brutal acceleration. It must be something akin to that which a first time crack user experiences, because it is utterly addictive. Hit the AMG button on the centre console, and the car stiffens up from suspension to throttle response, and the noise level increases. Having been fortunate enough to have driven supercars in the past, I prepared myself for the face-bending acceleration but stamping on the throttle brought forth an experience that I will never forget. I was utterly unprepared for the brutal shove in the back, and wonderful bellow from behind me.
Mercedes E63 AMG S

Very, very quickly, insanely illegal speeds approach and it’s time to take in what’s going on. For the size, the E63 AMG S is very easy to place on the road and quickly inspires confidence in how quickly you can enter and exit tight turns, the superbly responsive brakes adding to this experience. The steering wheel is a wonderful, chunky thing and throws back sensation to the driver beyond those that might be expected for an electromechanical system. You can try and work your way through the AMG Speedshift 7 speed transmission using the paddles behind the rim, but your attention is best given to holding tight; as is now normally universal, the transmission is better than you.

It’s better to enjoy the other sensations, as the uncharacteristically wieldy E63 lets you scythe in and out of traffic and blast through roundabouts. Each time you slow down, even from a moderate speed, there is an intoxicating flutter, pop and bang routine from the rear exhaust boxes which is simply magical. It’s a shame to get out and look around and realise that those chrome tipped exhaust finishers are actually a fake trim, sat proud of the actual pipe itself. It’s a reminder that artifice and electronic flattery are core to this car, and the way it gives any driver ideas above his or her station.
Mercedes E63 AMG S

The electronic gimmickry which works behind the scenes is not something to be feared though. The engine is still handbuilt, and still exudes character, although you can never forget that the aural sensation is heavily synthesised through flaps and baffles. That this car also does composed, hush service as a generously proportioned family saloon, is thanks to technology too. A press of a button transforms the car from cab rank, to pit lane although the power is never far away.

There’s a fear that emissions regulations, environmental concerns and related marketing are responsible for driving the muscle out of cars like this. Whilst the engine is a little smaller than what went before, make no mistake that this is a better power unit in every way. It is smoother, quieter where appropriate, cleaner and more economical. It even delivers a respectable claimed 28.5mpg on the combined cycle. Yet it delivers utterly, utterly crushing performance that even less than ten years ago, would have embarrassed just about any Lamborghini, Ferrari or Porsche on sale.

If you’re going to spend a lot of money on an E63 AMG, you may as well shell out a few extra pounds to have the S Edition, but even without the additional performance, there seems little doubt that you would own one of the best cars in the world. This car does everything. Your grandmother could drive it to Bingo, you could pick the kids up from school, cross continents with the entire family and then set a lap record at the Nurburgring. Everybody is happy.

Review by Alex Wakefield