Mercedes-AMG E43 2021 63 s 4matic+

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S review

The quintessential 'Hammer' has received a facelift and some other tweaks. Is the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S still the ultimate executive road weapon?
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Back in the mid-1980s, a team of artisans and engineers at Mercedes-Benz and AMG created a car that was so brutal in nature it was simply called, the Hammer.

The Hammer was a menacing, black, W124 E-Class sedan with a monstrous 270kW (360HP) 5.6-litre V8, black monoblock wheels and at the time, it held the accolade of being the fastest saloon car on the planet.

As it was German, I’m sure there were board rooms, presentations and flip charts involved in the creation of this machine, but by its name alone, the Hammer conjures up images of hand-worked metal, impossibly hot forges and lots of banging.

Like its namesake, the Hammer was a tool that, in near anyone’s hands, could deliver a strong and uniform amount of force right where you wanted it.

The car set the tone for what was to come. Ultra-fast, hugely powerful AMG-fettled Mercedes-Benz executive sedans were in vogue, and now, even more than three decades later, Mercedes-AMG are still at it.

In that sense, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S is also a hammer, albeit a more dynamic and modern one. Yes, it will smash a nail as good as any, but as I discovered, perhaps the true strength of the E63 S is more of a philosophical one.

Priced from $253,900 before options and on-road costs, the refreshed ’63 asks $5665 over its predecessor (and interestingly, $3500 over its initial ‘pre-sales' price announcement), but delivers a handsome new look, and updated interior.

As per Dan's note in the comments below it is worth clarifying that the range has dropped the non-S model and will sadly not include the long-roof E63 S Estate.

The toothy Panamericana grille fronts the muscular nose, which receives new, slimmer LED headlamps, revised air intakes and aerodynamic vanes. The fat arches, that extend 27mm wider than a regular ‘E still feature, and give the car that menacing and purposeful stance that has become synonymous with the AMG badge.

At the back, the new horizontal tail lamps replace the rear-quarter 'blobs’, and for now allow the ‘E to be easily differentiable to the ‘C. There’s a small Gurney-lip spoiler on the boot-lid and a revised rear diffuser too, but sadly still no flex or pump on the rear wheel arches.

The car sits on 20-inch wheels; 9.5-inch at the front and 10-inch rear.

No doubt about it, it’s a good looking machine. The update has worked very well with the big-but-not-huge footprint of the E-Class and has managed to modernise and enhance the car from any angle.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S
Engine configurationV8 twin-turbo
Displacement4.0-litre (3982cc)
Power450kW @ 6500rpm
Torque850Nm @ 2500-4500rpm
Transmission9-speed AMG Speedshift
Drive typeVariable torque-split all-wheel drive
Power to weight ratio219.4kW/t
Fuel claim (combined)12.3L/100km
Fuel use (combined)15.2L/100km
Turning circle12.5m
Main competitorsBMW M5 Competition | Audi RS7 | Mjolnir

The updates to the interior have also been exceptionally well integrated.

The W213 ‘E introduced the wide-double-screen Mercedes-Benz dashboard, but up until now, it has still been running the older COMAND interface. Given the twin 12.25-inch LCD hardware was there, the implementation of the new MB/UX operating system is near seamless.

As per other recent Mercedes-Benz and AMG models, the infotainment software offers a dizzying array of features and personalisation options, and now includes the ‘Hey Mercedes’ virtual assistant and MercedesMe telemetry package.

What hasn’t worked so well is the updated twin-horizon steering wheel and the broader use of the ‘thumb swipe’ pads. I found them less accurate than on other Mercedes-Benz models (like the long-term GLS) and much more susceptible to greasy or oily fingers where they simply wouldn’t work at all.

On the upside, the new rotary selection dials feature an improved interface and overall tactility.

Interior finishes are top-shelf, with judicious use of Nappa leather and DINAMICA fabric around the cabin. The seats themselves are comfortable and offer both adjustable and dynamic bolstering, so they not only keep you snug but also cuddle you around corners.

In all, it’s a very well sorted change to the E63.

Something that hasn’t changed though, is the brilliant twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 and variable torque-split AWD driveline.

The hot-inside-vee turbo positioning and 450kW power and massive 850Nm torque outputs are still as they were, which isn’t a bad thing at all. For the uninitiated, this power unit can propel you and your large, comfortable four-door sedan from 0-100km/h in just 3.4 seconds. Hammer indeed.

Even with all that power tickling away beneath though, possibly the most usable feature of the E63 is the ease at which it can surge forward with a mere squeeze of the throttle. No need for SPORT+ modes or manual shifts, just decide to be somewhere else and rotate your ankle.

Response, across the rev range and in any gear, is yours. The wide peak torque band between 2500 and 4500rpm gives the car an elastic flexibility that only hints at the untapped power available in reserve.

When accelerating from a standstill, there’s a sensation of extra boost as the car winds back it’s front-wheel mitigation of traction slip and forces more power to the rear rollers. There’s no letup in delivery all the way around the tacho as you push to the 450kW power zenith at 6500rpm.

The 9-speed AMG Speedshift transmission is also unchanged from the previous car and continues to manage ballistic missile-like delivery with ease. You can leave it in an automatic or change yourself with the paddles on the wheel, with either setting dealing well with the brutal power delivery of the car.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S
Ground clearance130mm
Weight (tare)2051kg
Boot volume540L
Wheels/tyres265/35 R20 (front) / 295/30 R 20 (rear) - Pirelli

But every hammer needs an upswing, and when off the boil, it is as though the anger was never there. The big ’63 can settle easily into a burbling road pace with other traffic, with its ferociousness well concealed.

When you do get a chance to wind it out (again), the straight-line capability is only bested by its dynamic prowess, where on turn-in, the adaptive engine mounts brace the big V8 under the bonnet, so your weight transfer is far more predictable.

Even accelerating out of bends, in SPORT+ setting the car will give a hint of wiggle from the rear, but the torque split system simply guides you to a true and fast exit.

However capable it is though, it certainly communicates.

The ride is reasonably compliant and the body control excellent, but you know about every surface change, imperfection and stick, rock or bug on the road. Even in the most ‘luxuriant’ COMFORT setting, the message through the steering wheel is as incessant as teenagers texting.

It never upsets the car mind you, just provides your hands with a braille-like transcript of what is passing beneath.

On smoother roads, at a cruise, the chattering stops somewhat, but on coarse chip tarmac, the road noise is far more amplified than I would have expected in a car like this.

Sure you can chew up the miles easily and comfortably enough (massage seats are standard), and as an impressive party trick, the big V8 will deactivate a bank of cylinders and run reasonably leanly in the process.

We managed an average of 10L/100km on the freeway, which for a muscle car like this is quite impressive.

If you find a lovely piece of freshly laid asphalt, it’s a very pleasant private-jet cabin, but just know that unexpected expansion joints and potholes will ruin your serenity each and every time.

Worth noting too, at very low speeds around parking garages and the like, the E63 will almost push on its wide front rubber as the combination of fat tyres and all-wheel drive seem to struggle with the mundane normality of trolling for a car spot at Woolies.

The transmission here too, that works so well at warp-9, can feel a bit sharp or lurchy at low speeds. The wet takeup clutch engages drive so sharply, that on a number of occasions the car leapt forward in first gear much more than I had expected.

Arguably though, if this is your grind, an E300 may better fit the bill, as in reality driving the AMG E63 S in Australia is like keeping a racehorse as a pet, you simply cannot explore the capability of this machine on regular roads.

The nifty up-up-kick-kick-left-right-punch sequence needed to initiate Drift Mode is more of a party-trick flex than a usable feature. Irrespective of your skill level, this is not something for public roads.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S
ColourGraphite Grey
Price (MSRP)$253,900
Options as tested$1300 (innovation pack)
Servicing 3yr$4300
Servicing 5yr$7050
ANCAP safety ratingFive-star (2016)
Warranty5 years/unlimited km

It’s a little cliché to say this car is too much for Australia, but I’d almost go as far as to say we don’t deserve a car like this in Australia. Poor roads, poor rules and poor training do not a 600-horsepower Captain-of-Industry sled, reward.

Even on a near-deserted drive through some winding mountain roads just out of Melbourne, you have to manage your pace to stay on the left around tight, blind corners, and even when the road opens up, the sheer speed at which the AMG builds more pace leaves you little time to head beyond third gear before you have to jump on the brakes (390mm front, 360mm rear) and wash off speed for the next bend.

Aurally, from the car’s quad pipes, it’s a case of rraaAAARRR.. snapcracklepop, rrraaaAAAARR… snapcracklepop. Fun, sure. But hardly a reason to slap 5078 pineapples on the counter of your local AMG dealer (I’m assuming you could negotiate on-roads for paying in cash).

No, for me, the allure and appeal of the E63 S is perhaps a little more intangible.

Forget the pumped arches and magnificent engine, ignore the quad pipes and plush interior and focus your appeal on the badge.

The E63, like the E55 before it and the Hammer before that, signify a car that you have made an informed but personal decision to buy. It’s the same price as a GLS 63 S, but the E commands so much more respect from other road users and passers-by.

Mercedes-Benz has a legacy of success-driven badges, most notably 500SL (or SL500 depending on your era), and the E63 S moniker is just the latest in the line.

When you see an E63, your mind goes back to that primal image of hot-forged steel and banging metal. You know it’s good for two dollars and change all day long on the Autobahn, so you don’t need to see it. The appeal and capability of the car is driven by the badge.

That buyer made a choice to drive this car. They want to make a statement of power and success, and they don’t need to do it by churning the Pirellis into smoke.

The 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S might still be a professional fighter in a Zegna suit, but it carries itself now with more class and presence than it did before. The technology updates have worked particularly well, but the sharp ride and frustrating interface on the steering wheel would both take a bit of getting used to as you saunter about town.

It’s a challenge, sure. But I’m here to take it.

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