Our first test of the rear-wheel drive E63 S-Model reveals that all-paw traction isn\'t required...
Facelifted for 2013, the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S-Model replaces both the previous E63 and E63 Performance Pack models in Australia.
The new E63 AMG S-Model gets more power than both older models – 430kW up from 386kW and the Performance Pack’s 410kW – with only minor tuning modifications performed to the existing 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the changes keep the hard-hitting Mercedes-Benz sedan ahead of newer rivals, such as the 404kW Jaguar XFR-S and 412kW Audi RS6, though the supercharged HSV GTS matches the E63’s output.
We tested the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S-Model at its international launch in Spain, but only in all-wheel-drive guise. Although all left-hand-drive S-Models send drive to all four wheels, equally, all right-hand-drive models maintain the last iteration’s rear-drive layout.
That makes this our first time in the new E63 AMG with the S-Model’s 430kW exclusively powering the rear wheels. Four laps of Melbourne’s 3.1km Sandown raceway should be just enough to see whether the all-paw system was required for reasons other than just to increase off-the-line traction for faster performance times – the rear-drive claims 0-100km/h in 4.1 seconds compared with 3.6sec for the AWD.
So with the front driveshaft eliminated from the S-Model’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, we slid into the black leather AMG sports seat, gripped the black leather and Alcantara AMG steering wheel and headed out for the first local drive of the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S-Model.
Starting with the gearbox, adaptive suspension, steering and exhaust in ‘Comfort’ mode, the AMG is smooth, comfortable and (relatively) quiet. It absorbs Sandown’s notorious bumps and high ripple strips with ease and shifts gears subtly. Gears can still be manually selected via steering wheel mounted paddles, however, the system retakes full control soon after the last slap of the paddle.
Driven sedately, the light and communicative (and new-for-2013 electro-mechanical) steering combines well with the engine’s effortless low-end grunt, seemingly retaining the E63’s ability to be gentlemanly transport during normal driving.
With lap one almost gone, the switch from Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde takes place. ‘Sport’ is skipped and the most aggressive ‘Sport+’ mode is selected via a dial located on the centre console. The button for the suspension, placed just below, is then pressed twice to provide the firmest setting.
A single corner and 900 metres of front straight is more than enough to notice to the change. The throttle is sharper, the exhaust louder, the steering heavier and the S-Model’s 1870kg body feels more strapped down.
From over 200km/h the big E63 pulls up well under hard braking. The brakes, comprising 360mm front and rear brake discs and red-painted six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers, are hugely effective despite soft pedal travel after being lapped enthusiastically.
Another round of bumps and ripple strips are felt more through the wheel and heard in the cabin but are still handled with aplomb, never upsetting car or driver. Turn-in requires marginally more effort from the arms and while the steering is sharper, when pushed hard into a corner, the E63’s front end doesn’t feel as keen as that of its luxo rival the BMW M5.
Corner exit in the E63 AMG S-Model is all about managing the 285mm-wide, 19-inch Continental rear tyres by the tilt angle of the driver’s right foot. With no front-end pull, it’s time to see if 430kW at 5500rpm and 800Nm at 1750-5000rpm is too much for just two wheels…
Get on the throttle early and hard and rear-end slip through the limited-slip differential is guaranteed, even with the three-stage stability control left on. But there is still impressive grip, and therefore traction, unless the throttle really is treated with disdain. The S-Model’s extra power only forces the driver to be a bit more subtle, with the engine never working against the chassis.
Once going, the force-fed V8 simply unwinds without hesitation all the way to its 6500rpm redline, gear after gear, with each shift accompanied by excellent exhaust bangs. Exceeding 230km/h is easily achieved up Sandown’s 910m-long back straight.
Laps two, three and four vanish into burnt fuel and CO2 emissions – far beyond its rated 10.0L/100km and 234g/km – and the drive is over.
Priced at $249,900 the new E63 AMG S-Model costs $8915 more than the ‘base’ E63 but $8945 less than the E63 AMG Performance Pack – almost halfway between the two cars it replaces. The S-Model’s power hike over the PP is certainly a plus, but extra technology including auto parking, auto braking, lane detection and active cruise, seals the new car as being better value too.
Some AMG fans will rejoice in not having a front driveshaft present to hinder the E63’s long-standing tyre destroying potential. But even better for enthusiasts of all kinds, the rear-drive Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG remains a cohesive and capable large performance sedan. It doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the extra power; but as with the pre-facelift E63 AMG, smoke and sideways silliness can be easily provoked.
With only mild tweaks to the suspension, the E63 AMG S-Model should also still prove a comfortable cruiser on public roads. That test awaits its formal arrival in September, just in time to do battle with the XFR-S, RS6 and GTS…