This is the one we've been waiting for, the 600hp AWD Mercedes-AMG E63 S. The spec sheet reads like a best seller, but how does it translate to the road?
Just how far can we go from here?
I’m mid-corner, at pace. The front left finds wet, freshly fallen autumn leaves, the right on a warm, sun-kissed patch of hot mix tarmac.
The road is narrow, there’s no way to stop some of the Pirelli rubber from hitting the slick centre line. I expect to feel the pushing inclination of understeer and almost back off. Almost.
You see, this is the $239,900 2017 Mercedes-AMG E63 S, and it’s not really a backing-off car.
I ignore my conservative instincts and squeeze harder on the throttle. My body is braced in the Recaro as the lateral load increases. This is a slot car.
The AMG powers through the bend and explodes out the other side. Yes, there is a powerhouse twin-turbo V8 under the bonnet, but the real magic of the W213 E63 S is the way that power is delivered, almost undiluted, to all four wheels at once.
Thanks to the new 4Matic+ AWD system, with its constantly variable torque split, unpredictable, slippery and changing surfaces revert to an almost uniform level of grip.
The way the car adapts, adjusting drive front to rear, left to right, is so fast and so accurate that you are left wondering just what possibly could come next. And this isn’t some honed trackster, but a four-door, five-seat, luxury saloon.
Since the current generation, Mercedes-Benz E-Class was launched last year, every iteration has served as an entree to the main course that is the E63.
Wider arches, noticeable at the front, not so much at the rear, a giant front air dam and the usual array of subtle aerodynamic addenda around the rest of the bodywork give the ’63 a menacing and aggressive persona.
Sure, for the most part, it looks a bit like an AMG-kit on an E200, but as a holistic package, it works well.
The modern, Star Trek dashboard layout of the E-Class is maintained, with the AMG scoring some specific interface functions and layout options from the twin 12.3-inch LCD panels.
While on the move, you can view boost pressure, current power and torque outputs, as well as the myriad other trip and driving based data points we are used to from other E-Class models.
Frustratingly there is no gauge to identify the current torque split and power spread, but if you are exploring the limits of the car and are approaching the limits of the law, taking your eyes off the road to watch a cool graph or animation might not be the best thing.
There’s a good size boot, at 540 litres, plenty of room for rear passengers, even tri-zone climate control and a panoramic sunroof as standard.
Those sporty Recaro seats can be a little firm on a longer drive, but we’re told you can option a slightly more comfortable version like found in the E43, should your lower back not feel as flexible as it once did.
Like the C63, the E63 S uses an M177-family 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, where outputs have risen 20kW and 50Nm on the previous generation car to a whopping 450kW and 850Nm.
Mercedes claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 3.4 seconds, which we managed to match and potentially even beat, with our clock closing off at an organ-crushing 3.3-second run.
Peak power winds its way on at 6500rpm where the torque curve is low and usable between 2500 and 4500rpm. This means phenomenal response in any gear at any speed, with an orchestral soundtrack supporting the whole time.
There are a series of three flaps from each side of the exhaust system, and you can hear subtle changes through the four main driving modes, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race.
Being a sensible person, I kept the car almost exclusively in Sport+, where the snarl and crackle from the quad-pipes is a familiar tune for most V8 AMG models. How the E63 S differs though, is a new noise, a raw scream that sounds almost like a stockcar, emanating from the engine, and reverberating through the firewall and around the cabin.
Big load, high revs, the sound is all-encompassing.
Addictive isn’t even the start of it.
All of this comes at a consumption cost though.
Mercedes makes a claim of 9.3L/100km on a combined cycle, which is pretty high in this day and age. But expect to see this run into the high teens, or even low 20L/100km range if you start having a bit too much fun.
In the grand scheme of things, it is only fuel, so if you want to feel more environmentally conscious, in your 600hp AWD executive sedan, you’ll see the car slip to a four-cylinder running mode when in a cruise cycle, dropping your instant touring consumption to somewhere in the 5L/100km range.
But, then you’ll need to overtake someone and kaboom, things go all loud and thirsty again.
That overtaking sprint, by the way, is one of the most entertaining abilities of the six-three; hang in behind that Wicked Camper, struggling at 80 on a one-up one-down touring road, wait for a gap, albeit a short one, and nail the throttle.
You don’t even need to be in a Sports drive mode, the car just springs alive and gobbles up the road. The digital speed readout on the head-up display struggling to keep up with the sheer violence of the acceleration.
The roar, the crackle, the… oh, we’d probably better slow down again as that speed looks a little high. Good fun.
The technicians at AMG have re-worked the nine-speed multi-clutch speedshift transmission to be even faster and more efficient, although it is primarily engaged by the now standard column shift lever found on most Mercedes-Benz models.
I do miss the bespoke, milled aluminium and leather gear selectors though, which used to live on the console, space now owned by the Comand infotainment shuttle wheel and ‘hood’.
That aside, the transmission is again excellent, offering intelligent and fast changes when in an automatic mode, as well as tactile and engaging feel should you wish to tap away at paddles.
Despite running on 20-inch wheels (tyres are 265/35 front, 295/30 rear), the ride is firm but compliant enough to be comfortable on a tour, and responsive enough to offer that superhuman grip through undulating and uneven surfaces.
For a large sedan, it really is an impressive machine.
The sweetener to all of this?
Even with all the extra performance, equipment and dynamic ability up its sleeve, the $239,900 E63 S is more affordable than the model it replaces (2016 W212 E63 S was $250,540). There’s a whole $10,640 left over in the transaction to perhaps spend on some extra carbon-fibre goodies or perhaps the Burmeister 3D surround sound system?
And let’s not forget the forthcoming E63 ‘non-S’ which arrives later in the year, a little lighter on power and equipment but still a formidable machine. At $209,900 it bridges the gap between the ‘S’ and the six-cylinder Mercedes-AMG E43.
But while it may have comparative value on its side, for most of us, anything with a sticker that starts north of $200,000 will remain an aspirational pipe dream.
At least, for those aspiring to the 2017 Mercedes-AMG E63 S, that dream comes with plenty of raucous reality.
And yes Virginia, there is a drift mode, where 100 per cent of the torque is sent to the back rollers. But no we didn’t feel that tight, blind corners on the roads around Warburton were the right place to try this out.
Plus haven’t even touched on the adaptive engine mounts or variable steering ratios, or new composite alloy brakes or a whole bunch of other goodies both in, on and under the E63.
In fact, there is so much more to explore with this car, that we will need to do so on the safer and more limit-friendly environment of a race track.
As to ask where to go from here, that really is the only place.
Because in terms of on-road ability and performance, wrapped in a usable package, the E63 is as good as it gets.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser and James Ward.