Car reviews - Mercedes-AMG - E63 - S
Intimate connection and raw character maintained, newly polished dynamics, epic performance, luxurious and high-tech cabin
Room for improvement
Suspension not as smooth and cabin not as ergonomic as Audi RS7 Sportback, tiring road noise, ESC Off required for rear drive
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17 May 2017
YES is the simple answer to the question posed on the previous page. For Mercedes-AMG fans, or E63 S enthusiasts, there is no need for delayed gratification.
The latest fast E-Class takes the four-door sedan concept of old, and with a new platform boasting the freshest Benz-derived technology, elevates it to a new level. The same could be said for many succeeding generations of performance – or mainstream – models, but with this particular vehicle there is one major difference and (high) distinction.
From the outside the E63 S looks like a larger C63 S, sharing with it the blacked-out alloy wheels and mirror caps that also distinguish it from the $30K-cheaper entry-level E63 that wears silver and body colour on those respective parts.
Inside the S-only AMG Performance seats have hard side bolsters, gripping a thin-figured torso tightly and those of a medium build like a wrestler’s hug.
An AMG Performance steering wheel in Alcantara-like trim is also added to the S model only.
Such items are an early indication of a near-constant tension between hardcore sports performance and silken luxury with the E63 S. The sweeping horizontal dashboard trim includes black-ash woodgrain panelling surrounding several elegant circular centre air vents. Along with the high-resolution widescreen displays, it all looks like the real luxury deal – even if some trim parts, such as the thinly covered door handles, feel as though they are more C-Class than S-Class in value.
Like every E-Class, the E63 S can park itself remotely, steer itself within a freeway lane, connect to a smartphone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, crank up digital radio tunes, or dial in a satellite navigation address. Only some ergonomic messiness – there are far too many buttons and dials, some of them double-ups – lets it down.
Thumb the starter button, however, and when the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine fires into life, the 5.5-litre version it replaced will likely not be missed. There is a crispness and purity to its sound that is amplified by the (S-only) switchable sports exhaust that crackles away without sounding try-hard – unlike in the four-cylinder Mercedes-AMG models.
Full-throttle acceleration is stunning, almost brutal, with the nine-speed automatic transmission barely keeping up with how quickly the more-boosted-than-C63 iteration of this engine revs.
While there are fixed Comfort, Sport and Sport+ mode settings, an Individual mode thankfully allows the drivetrain, suspension, exhaust and electronic stability control (ESC) settings to be separately mixed and matched.
Comfort works well for the Airmatic air suspension, which is new to the E63 S.
Around town the rumble and slight thump of the 20-inch wheel and tyre package never really escapes attention, and this setting is certainly no soothing option. It does allow slight intrusion and slight body movement that is better tied down for Australian country roads in Sport – while Sport+ can be left for the track.
Ultimately, a rival Audi RS7 Sportback is smoother and quieter in most situations.
However, for the best connection with the drivetrain, Sport and Sport+ are particularly needed. Even in the most aggressive latter setting, the nine-speed can occasionally incorrectly second-guess its driver during sportier driving.
It is very good, but the alternative manual mode that activates the steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters proved a quick (literally) fix for that slight issue.
It is telling, because the latest E63 S revels in spirited cornering. With the previous-generation model, the front-end could be considered blunt while the (driven) rear could feel uneasy unless extreme restraint was given to turn-in cornering speed and application of throttle on exit to a bend.
The new all-wheel-drive system actually delivers 100 per cent of power to the back wheels unless slip is otherwise detected. The sportier the mode, the more the electronics resist sending drive forward as well, but a driver must select a separate Race mode, then disable the ESC, then activate automatic manual mode in order to then switch on Drift Mode – which is rear-wheel-drive-only.
While it is destined for track use only – and we did not test the E63 S on a racetrack at its national media launch in the Yarra Valley, Victoria – it is disappointing that rear-drive can only be activated without any ESC intervention. Perhaps some drivers dealing with 450kW between 5750rpm and 6500rpm, and 850Nm from 2500rpm until 4500rpm, would still like a safety net.
The ESC also comes with a Sport Handling Mode, and on Australian country roads with suspension in Sport and drivetrain in Sport+, the result is an unashamedly raw and connected large sedan. Here lies the distinguishing feature, because the E63 S also delivers new-found precision and panache on turn-in to a corner, teamed with limited bodyroll through it and lovely rear-driven balance on exit.
The highlight – and contrast among luxurious surroundings – is that the steering is sharp, communicative and fizzy with feel missing from most rivals, such as the RS7 and BMW M5. Throttle response is excellent, too, and it enables the driver to more clearly connect with an obviously more enhanced chassis than before.
On first impressions the latest Mercedes-AMG large sedan appears the ultimate representation of eating your cake without not putting on weight.
Driven sedately it remains a roomy sedan now packed with greater technology, comfortable enough but without being plush. Yet the way this new model can push the performance and dynamic envelope, while trapping the lovable engagement of old models, seems like engineering high art.
And it ultimately results in a high distinction here.
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