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In most cases, luxury carmakers tend to launch with a regular model, followed by a more powerful version for those that simply want ‘more’ and are willing to pay the premium. But not AMG – it likes to do things differently. The reverse of what might seem logical to you or I.
The rationale is simple enough, as it turns out. AMG buyers – of which there are plenty – like to grab the new range-topper straight upon its release. But there are those buyers looking to step up from, say, an E43 AMG into the big league, yet for a cheaper entry price. The price variance is 50 grand between it and the AMG E63, whereas with the E63 S it blows out to 80 large.
Mercedes-AMG launched its monster-powered E63 S in June 2017 – a new-generation car armed to the teeth with a fire-spitting twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 producing a herculean 450kW and 850Nm of tarmac-shaking torque.
Six months later it launched the standard non-S version, the E63, but let’s be honest, there’s nothing regular about the latest Mercedes-AMG E63. Nothing at all.
That’s because the instant you loosen its leash, all hell breaks loose as you’re catapulted towards the horizon at a zillion-kays-an-hour and feeling a little on the queasy side. That’ll be your brain and body playing catch-up with the significant G-forces at work here, as all four tyres hook up with zero wheel-spin thanks to the E63’s 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system.
This is a seriously fast car. Faster than any road-legal four-door family sedan of such size and heft has any right to be. And here’s the thing – if you didn’t know there was an ‘S’ version, you’d be none the wiser and 100 per cent satisfied with your luxury super-saloon.
It still generates a whopping 420kW and 750Nm of industrial-grade torque, and will blast from 0–100km/h in a supercar-like 3.5 seconds – at least that’s the factory claim. But after trying more than a few launches, we'd be surprised if the correct number wasn’t closer to 3.3 seconds, such is the E63’s sheer ferocity out of the blocks – and time and time again, we might add.
And what’s more, there’s nothing to it. No need for racing licences or learning complex launch sequences here. Just mash the brake pedal with your left foot and flatten the throttle with your right and, boom, you’re gone. And I mean gone.
So devastatingly quick is this thing out of the blocks, we’d be quietly confident of our chances at the Wednesday night drag sessions at Sydney Dragway.
Officially, the Mercedes-AMG E63 only gives away one-tenth of a second to its pumped-up ‘S’ sibling (3.4secs), but at the same time the E63 S asks for a 30-grand premium. While that might seem a bit steep, it does include key performance componentry like an electronically controlled rear differential lock over the standard mechanical diff, along with dynamic engine mounts. Both systems combine to offer more precision at the limit – most noticeable during high-speed track sessions only, we’d suggest.
The one thing you can always rely on with anything from an AMG-built V8 is a whole lot of noise, and the E63 belts out the biggest bass in this regard. Even on start-up it sounds like a fully-fledged battle tank at idle, but open it up in Sport Plus and you may as well be trackside at one of those monster truck events. It’s simply intoxicating.
Okay, the E63 S is louder again, but unless you’re driving them back-to-back with the throttle pinned to the firewall, and decibel meter in hand, you’ll be none the wiser. The stock E63 is plenty loud enough to stir the senses and make you feel like you’re piloting a full-blown GT3 racer.
AMG’s nine-speed auto is another technological masterpiece: quick-shifting, super-smooth and highly perceptible to changes in driving style. Its ability to downshift three gears in a split-second while hard on the brakes into a corner is extraordinary, if not pure aural bliss.
And that’s without so much as a single pull of the paddle shifters. Remarkable stuff, really.
Cycle through the various drive modes and you soon welcome the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of the E63. There are huge reserves of torque available from very low in the rev range, so even cruising along at 80km/h in seventh, a light prod of the throttle is enough to wake the beast and thunder past slower traffic – effortlessly. And that’s in Comfort.
Scrolling through to the more intense settings clearly brings significant urgency to each change in gear ratio. However, the cogs themselves shift with an unusual level of refinement during what is nothing short of brutal acceleration from almost anywhere across the rev range.
And as much as we might be fans of those beautifully crafted metal paddle shifters, you simply don’t need to use them in this car – at all – unless you’re on the racetrack. This transmission is just too good to bother with them.
What’s more, the E63 is a big car – just shy of five metres in length and nearly two metres wide – with a kerb weight of 1875kg, so it should be a handful in the twisties, right?
Remarkably, no. The grip level for a high-performance car of such large proportions and weight is extraordinary. A big part of that is due to the fat Michelins down the back, but there’s also an awful lot going on under the skin. That includes the new fully variable torque distribution system on both front and rear axles, which allows you to exploit grip and traction to the very limits of physical adhesion. In some ways it defies physics itself, given the cat-like directional changes that are possible in this car.
The E63 is capable of carrying big cornering speeds, yet taut body control keeps the car dead flat at all times, to the point where your confidence swells and you start pushing even harder. There’s some proper weight to the steering too, but best of all it's precise with pin-point accuracy, allowing you to place the car exactly where you want it on the road.
It’s not a car that feels big behind the wheel. In fact, the harder you push, the smaller it feels, thanks to some black magic when it comes to chassis balance.
You need some big braking power to pull this thing up in a hurry, and while massive 402mm carbon-ceramic units are available, the standard 360mm brakes are more than up to the task. And, importantly, pedal pressure is linear and inspires further confidence.
Ride comfort depends on what mode you’re in, but with the multi-chamber air suspension, drivers are able to dial up a good spread between Comfort and Sport Plus settings. Though it must be said, there’s always underlying firmness to the ride that lets you know you’re driving one of the world’s most powerful sedans.
The E63 doesn’t particularly like broken road or sharp edges, but even so, it still holds its line and feels remarkably planted, even during mid-corner hits. But it’s this car’s agility that will have you scratching your head – almost in bewilderment – given its mass.
We’d prefer more compliance in the least aggressive mode, but even blasting along a poorly maintained country back-road, it’s not something you'd give a second thought to because you’re having too much fun.
There's plenty of safety kit too, and not just the usual suspects. The E63 benefits from the standard E-Class active tech that includes a full suite of partial vehicle autonomy, making it one of the most technologically advanced cars in the world – according to Mercedes-Benz. There’s radar cruise, lane assist, blind-spot monitoring, pre-crash preparation and autonomous braking at the ready.
But with any full-strength AMG model, the monster engine and performance parts tend to overshadow the rest of the car, so it’s easy to forget about the spectacular cabin with its showy blend of wood, metal and the very latest in technology.
The twin widescreens will take your breath away with their crystal-clear clarity and sheer size. They practically consume the entire console. The Nappa leather sports seats are firm but with enough cushion to be classed as luxurious, yet not quite in the way those in the S-Class are. It’s the bolster that counts more in this car, and the fact that the seat and driving position can be adjusted to the nth degree.
If money is no object, you’ll more than likely go with the full-blown E63 S, but if you’re coming out of something more modest, the stock E63 makes a whole lot of sense. It’s still a mega-quick V8 monster that also ticks the family car box – kid seats and all.