Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Review
Gut reaction, off the bat: This thing is a thug in a suit. You’ve seen beautiful, even graceful cars. This E Class mit AMG go-fast treatment definitely isn’t one of those. It’s the bouncer outside the nightclub, with a bull neck wider than his head. It commands respect. Makes you decide to be on your best behaviour – otherwise, you know it’s going to hurt.
You sit in. Nudge the starter button. Keyless-go, naturally. The naturally aspirated 6.2-litre AMG V8 kicks. Mental note: There’s still no defensible reason to call it a ‘63’. It displaces 6208cc. Blame the marketing department. Ditto blame for the 300 AMG logos – it’s hardly as if you’ll forget.
The start is, however, memorable – automatic throttle blip says: still a thug in a suit.
Select ‘D’. Ease into traffic. Behave. Indicate. Speed limit. Check. Get seat right. Play with dynamics settings. Whip everything around to ‘brutal’. Slide – okay, bounce – through peak hour Adelaide, which doesn’t take long.
You have to wonder, at this point if the Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG isn’t – maybe – just a fat car with a big, highly strung engine and a lofty ($235k, thank you very much) price tag. And we all know how disappointing that can be. Can’t tell yet. Ease up into the Adelaide Hills. Put finger in ring, pull pin. Three-count. Toss grenade.
Fat-car theory explodes. Jaw on the floor time - the other versions of this car are big, fat business saloons; this thing's an athlete. It moves like Barishnikov; punches like Ali. Manual mode: Accelerate, redline – 7200rpm – machine-gun backfire on overrun. It jams you into the next corner, scary-fast. You get there, like, yesterday. Brake, late. Turn. The seat bolster moves to oppose the lateral load. (Neat trick.) You have to pull your head upright. ESP flashes yellow. Off. Accelerate, hard. Repeat.
Steering response, feedback and – especially – brakes: magnificent. Brutal. Heavy-duty engineering plus absolute A-grade refinement and feedback.
Seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Thumping, race car-like upshifts; brilliant downshifts. It’s all paddles – your hands never leave 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock on the wheel. Race start mode – love that. Have it wrapped and sent to my suite. Zero to 100 in 4.5 seconds, every time.
It takes full concentration to stay on top of this car’s game. It’s the kind of test where getting 100 per cent is the only option. There’s not even a guardrail on some of these Classic Adelaide stages. If it all comes unglued there won’t be an ‘afterwards’.
Afterwards, doing the tosser bit with a macchiato, al fresco: It’s got me monumentally stuffed how they got this car, which at 1840kg puts it just shy of the E 350 Estate and is the same weight as a Holden Commodore, to be this agile. Because it simply does not feel heavy when you’re up it for the rent. Ditto the un-killable brakes, and heroic mid-corner grip. I’m sure the 255/35 (front) and 285/30 (rear) tyres – on forged 19-inch AMG alloys – have something to do with it. But it’s more than that. It’s extremely well set up for hard punting.
The E 63 AMG comes with all the kit, and all the cred. All the ‘… 63 AMG’ cars I’ve driven have been very special. None of them have been beautiful. They’re all thugs – this one being the most thugly of the lot. If you’re looking for a solid, if gratuitous, way to turn petrol into 386kW and 630Nm – plus water and (Who cares?) CO2 – then a car ending in ‘… 63 AMG’ certainly is a credible, satisfying place to start.
We Aussies even have a disproportionate thirst for the AMG badge, per capita. And if you get into one of those, you’re a member of an exclusive club – the performance car nut-with-money club. You can argue the toss with your rivals in M-division cars, and those into the four rings with ‘RS’ subscript – over bottles of Grange, presumably. It’s just HSV versus FPV dressed up in Boss and Prada.
Those arguments will involve specifications, undoubtedly. What’s a good car argument without the specs? The V10 BMW M5 makes ‘only’ 373kW and 520Nm. But the twin-turbo V10 Audi RS6 – line ball on price, meaning the price difference is about the same as the cost of an Hyundai i20 – is good for a mind-bending 426kW and 650Nm … albeit via forced induction.
It’s academic stuff, given the limitations imposed by the road rules. On a twisty mountain road, the fastest of the three will probably boil down to individual driving ability and enthusiasm rather than any inherent advantage by one over the others (although in the wet the Audi will almost certainly have the upper hand thanks to its AWD quattro system).
The fact is, they’re all beautiful, elite cars. It’s the thug-in-suit factor that will probably get you over the line on the big, bad Benz, however (the other pair look considerably less volatile – which is either good or bad, depending on you).
Another factor to consider here is the future – the 63 AMG engine is eventually going the way of the dodo, and it’ll be a sad day when that happens. It’s not just the performance – it’s also the magnificent sound, the backfire on over-run, the proper atmo-inducted V8 sound that all petrol-heads, no matter how wealthy, love.
Sure, the new 5.5-litre biturbo AMG engine promises 420kW and 800Nm. Nobody has a problem with those stratospheric outputs, I’m sure. It also offers significantly better fuel consumption. (Who cares? Hands up AMG buyers who claim to care about fuel consumption – fraudsters.) You just really have to wonder if it’s going to sound as tremendous. (I love atmo V8s generally, and that one in particular.)
I guess the other essential thing to consider, if you have a cool quarter million dollars burning a hole in your trust fund, is whether the whole AMG thing is really what you’re looking for. On paper, it’s certainly the ultimate E Class – most expensive, most powerful, quickest, etc. And it is excellent to punt hard. Meanwhile, however, back on earth, where you drive in traffic most days, an AMG car really isn’t so nice. They’re brutal things, even with the suspension wound right back to ‘limp’. (To do this: ESP mode, damper control and transmission settings are all just to the right of the transmission selector. The AMG button there also gives you one-button access to adopt your favourite combination quickly, without having to twiddle all three dials individually.)
What I’m getting at is: you might be in love with the idea of the AMG, but you might actually enjoy being in the E 500 more as a daily driver (it’s less the thug in the suit and the better comfortable business sedan with more than adequate dynamics). It’s worth considering, because you really don’t want to end up hating all those things I loved about the E 63 AMG – you’ll be in it for the long haul, whereas I was in one for, all up, for about a week. There are a lot of cars like that in the marketplace, especially expensive ones - the reality of owning one is markedly different to the idea. You'd have to be pretty hardcore to live with this car.
Also, I can’t tell you a thing about the sound system. Turning the audio up in a car that sounds like this would be a travesty.