Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division is always coming out with new models. Well, almost new. Its latest creation is the E 63, an E-Class ready to tackle the best sports cars head-on. This is not the first time that AMG is putting its stamp—and its horsepower—on an E-Class, but it is the first time in this generation. This speed demon comes in two versions: the E 63 and the more powerful E 63 S. Mercedes-Benz Canada will only import the E 63 S, whose official name is the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+, leaving the regular 63 for other countries.
How do you tell an AMG E-Class apart from an ordinary E-Class? It’s actually pretty easy. From the front bumper to the A-pillar (the one between the windshield and the front side windows), the AMG has a unique, more confident style than that of its kid sister. Add to this several aerodynamic features, different exhausts and meatier tires.
In the cabin, we noted the sport seats and, for those who get their kicks playing with the dashboard’s numerous menus, the special gauges that display the kind of information that’s essential in a high-level sports car: engine and transmission oil temperature, power and torque delivery speed, turbo pressure, and tire pressure and temperature.
There’s also a graphic that shows lateral and longitudinal accelerations, a perfectly inappropriate gadget for spirited driving when your eyes should be glued to the road and not to a screen. G forces are meant to be felt, not seen.
You can never have too much
The AMG’s specialists really went to town under the hood. The E 300’s modest 241 horsepower is replaced by—hold on to your hats—603 horsepower. That’s two and a half times more! As for the torque, it jumps from an ungainly 273 lb.-ft. to a more dignified 627 available between 2500 and 4500 rpm. Going from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo to a twin-turbo, 4.0-litre V8 really makes a difference!
The AMG SpeedShift MCT (Multi Clutch Technology) gearbox features nine speeds, optimized for a sporty ride, but we’ll come back to that. Between this gearbox and the wheels, there’s the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system, but it’s been updated by AMG and bears the official name of AMG Performance 4MATIC+. The Germans really like to complicate things.
The fact is that the usual 4MATIC varies the torque between the rear and front wheels at a ratio of 45/55 or 50/50 depending on the version. The one in the AMG E 63 S can vary the torque from the rear to the front, from zero to 100%. Also, in the rear, the torque can shift from left to right, adjusting to your needs in real time, and depending on the driving mode selected.
If the mountain won’t come to you... Oh no! It’s coming, and coming fast!
On a highway, this AMG is just a prestigious logo and an E 300 would perform just as well—minus the sound of the V8. But that doesn’t stop it from taking curves with extraordinary poise, even in Comfort mode and despite its 1950 kilograms. The power is still there, ready to move the mountain as though it were a grain of sand.
In Sport and Sport+ modes, the accelerator is hyper-sensitive and the slightest touch will send the engine roaring. The steering becomes even livelier, to the extent that at the first change of direction, you’ll probably overdo it. No harm done though, the lateral support offered by the front seats is perfect and the brakes are there to slow down poorly controlled increases in testosterone.
There is, however, one small problem. The E 63 S units that we test drove at the launch were equipped with the optional sport exhaust and carbon ceramic brakes that are just as optional. For the moment, Mercedes has not released the price of these options, but I assume that you’ll be able to buy a Civic for the same amount. What’s more, the price of this E-Class is as yet unknown. It will be announced a bit before its arrival at dealerships at the end of the spring.
In Sport and Sport+ modes, the automatic gearbox responds with rare speed for both up and downshifting. And I’d be willing to bet that it’s faster when you leave it on the “D” than when you shift gears yourself.
We had the chance to test drive this E-Class on a racetrack, where it revealed its very sharp, if not violent, character. Thanks to its superbly calibrated suspension and dynamic Pirelli P Zero tires, I—Sunday driver that I am—found myself taking corners at speeds beyond all logic, especially for such a heavy sedan. I would like to tell you that I pushed the car to its limits, but instead it was the car that found mine.
Put one aside for me
If you want to have some fun, activate Drift mode. It sends all the juice to the rear wheels, but I have a hard time imagining an E 63 S in a perfectly controlled skid with smoke coming off the rear tires. Sure, the car can do it and some drivers can control the lateral thrust, but very few will be able to exploit the full potential of this grand sports car.
Of course, the same underuse goes for most sports cars, including the BMW M5 (just 560 horsepower), Audi S6 (450 measly horsepower) and Cadillac CTS-V (okay, 640 horsepower). Ah, the sin of pride...