Car reviews - Mercedes-AMG - E63 - S
Momentous and burbling V8 engine, classy interior, comfortable ride for an AMG, masses of tech, subtly mean exterior styling
Room for improvement
Could use more down-low power, stop-start transmission niggles, rough-road tyre roar, fiddly touchpad
Brawny Mercedes-AMG E63 S super-sedan is a vehicular bodybuilder in a tuxedo
22 Feb 2021
WHILE Australia once had its own hotly contested performance sedan segment with the likes of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon, and later their HSV and FPV derivatives, the local family bruisers have never really held a candle to their German counterparts.
Offering increased performance and genuine luxury, the likes of the BMW M5, Audi RS6/RS7 and Mercedes-AMG E63 have long been considered some of the best four-door performance options on the market.
Following on from the arrival of the updated E-Class range in October, the halo E63 S variant has now arrived on Australian shores underpinned by its monster 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8.
Does the E63 S have what it takes to come up trumps in the battle of the German super-sedans?
First drive impressions
Mercedes designers were quite restrained when updating the styling of the refreshed E-Class range, slightly tweaking the headlight design, boot lid and some other nip/tuck changes to body panels.
However restraint is a good thing, the new E63 S looks muscular, luxurious and understated at the same time, clearly identifiable as an AMG with its quad-exit exhaust, 20-inch AMG alloys and Panamericana grille, but without the lairy body kit elements like a wing spoiler or aero fins as found on other AMG offerings.
Equal parts aggressive and classy, the high-quality impression given by the E63’s exterior design is continued inside the cabin, with a roomy and comfortable interior befitting of a large luxury sedan.
Premium materials abound with soft perforated leather seat upholstery, lovely open-pore wood trim and silver trim detailing, with some minor elements of soft plastic making for the only surfaces not covered in a premium material.
The dashboard is dominated by the now-familiar twin 12.3-inch displays comprising the MBUX infotainment system and digital instrument cluster.
Unlike on the A-Class and C-Class where the dual screens look as though they save simply been stuck onto the dashboard tablet-style, the screens are far better integrated on the E-Class, thanks to shelf-like cap on top of the dash that surrounds and shields the screens, making it feel better integrated while providing added light protection.
The MBUX system itself is fairly easy and intuitive to use with all the necessary shortcuts either available on buttons or via the steering wheel, however we aren’t fans of the touchpad used for system navigation, which can be fiddly an imprecise, often leading to the driver diverting their attention from the road more than should be necessary.
Nevertheless, MBUX is a slick system, with one of the most intuitive voice control systems on the market, some particularly nifty features like the augmented-reality sat-nav and a decent level of customisation for the instrument cluster.
There is no mistaking the sporting nature of the E63’s seats, which offer a great deal of customisation and massive amounts of side bolstering, however more portly drivers might struggle with the side bolsters which hug the driver tightly even at their widest setting.
The extensive bolstering of the seats is understandable when you fire the car up and get underway, with the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 under the bonnet providing plentiful reasons for extra stability.
In E63 S guise, the ubiquitous AMG bent-eight is tuned to produce a hearty 450kW at 6500rpm and 850Nm from 2500-4500rpm, driving all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission.
While its 450kW doesn’t quite match the 460kW output of the BMW M5 Competition, its massive 850Nm peak torque output trumps both the M5 (750Nm) and the RS6/RS7 pair (441kW/800Nm).
Like it should in a large super-sedan, the AMG’s engine feels big and burly, packing a wallop when the accelerator is depressed while being accompanied by the typically loud and emotive AMG exhaust system.
When low down in the rev range, the big V8 actually takes a moment to really get up to speed, with a slightly muted response before it spools up and hits its stride.
However when it does, all 850Nm come on strong with power delivery that allows the E63 S to pull and pull seemingly forever, at no point showing signs of slowing down.
With the engine sitting at or above 2000rpm, power delivery feels instant and massive, leaving no doubts about the engine’s enormous outputs.
We would have liked its power delivery to be a little more flexible with a broader range of available grunt, however in the scheme of owning an E63 S it should rarely be a problem.
The nine-speed auto shifts quickly and keeps revs low for highway driving, being well-suited to high-speed driving with razor-sharp gear changes.
Around town the transmission is mostly well-behaved, however in slow, stop-start traffic it does suffer from bouts of jerkiness, occasionally shunting along at low speeds as it tries to deal with the huge amounts of power being fed through it.
Speaking of stop-start traffic, the parking sensors also tended to be a little overzealous, often beeping when the car started to move with other vehicles around its sides and front.
Otherwise the E63 S is pleasant to drive around town, with a user-friendly character that allows it to provide the classic comfortable and refined drive experience expected of an E-Class.
One hallmark of a luxury large sedan is a comfortable ride, and while AMGs often prove too stiff on Australian roads, the E63 S does a good job of providing a nicely calibrated suspension tune befitting of the E-Class name.
The one exception to its E-Class-like ride however is when on coarse-chip bitumen roads, especially while travelling at high speeds, where a massive amount of road noise comes up through the cabin, creating an uncomfortable din.
As expected of a super-sedan, handling is sharp and direct, no doubt aided by the 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system, transferring its prodigious torque between the wheels well, allowing the E63 S to accelerate out of corners with speed and precision.
The size of the E63 S can be felt when transferring its weight through corners, however it is still immensely capable in the twisty stuff for a car of its sizeable dimensions.
Like other AMGs, steering feel is on the heavier side which provides greater feedback and response, and is light enough that around-town driving does not feel like a chore.
The E63 has developed a reputation over the years as a big bruiser that can effortlessly mix performance, luxury and comfort, and the updated E63 S is no exception.
While not the most flexible of engines, the prodigious 4.0-litre V8 offers massive power and torque that can turn a set of tyres into rubber chips in no time, all while the driver sits in a cabin fit for a king.
While it is hard to declare one of the E63 S, M5 Competition and RS6 Avant as superior, we know that there is no real wrong choice for the boardroom executive with a penchant for country back-roads.
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