Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - E-class - E63 AMG S
Bellowing V8 soundtrack, lots of standard equipment, understated design, brake pedal feel, steering and chassis composure
Room for improvement
Occasional slow transmission reaction, more expensive than rivals
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16 Sep 2013
Let’s cut straight to the chase: the Benz E63 AMG S has the torque of four 2.0-litre Ford Focus hatchbacks but weighs in at about 1900kg. Performance is, as you would expect blistering.
A quoted zero to 100km/h time of 4.1 seconds and a (limited) top-speed of 250km/h is entirely believable, with even part-throttle delivering neck-snapping acceleration.
The thumping forced induction V8 is a point of excellence and the balance of power is exceptionally good with mammoth power coming in right at the end of the peak torque range.
The result is an engine with no obvious sweet-spot and relentless power delivery which can provide eye-watering performance from idle right up to the redline.
A turbo or two may have a positive effect on engine performance and efficiency but a muted and softened exhaust-note is often the price paid.
Mercedes has clearly put considerable effort in to avoiding this common problem because the sound produced by the E63 AMG S can only be described as tectonic and thunderous.
At very low rpm the full throttle note is guttural but refined, clear and deeply satisfying – not unlike rumble of a large truck’s compression-brakes.
Further up the rev-range the sound turns to a slightly less rewarding but still pleasant bark and, if gear-changes are picked at the right time, the four raucous tailpipes can be provoked into emitting a very addictive crackle.
While many manufacturers are turning to technology which sends synthetic engine noise through to the passengers via the stereo system, Mercedes has stuck with a more honest approach.
What you hear is all natural.
AMG’s Speedshift seven-speed automatic transmission is charged with the task of delivering all that V8 grunt to the back wheels, and it has four different modes.
Comfort mode offers super-smooth changes lower down the rev range, while sports settings increase the aggressiveness of the shifts and keeps the revs higher.
A full manual mode allows the gears to be selected with the steering-wheel paddles, and the transmission program will stay out of your business even when the smooth-cut rev-limiter has been reached.
While the gear-changes were lightening fast, commands from the paddles seemed to result in a slight delay and this meant sometimes unintentionally hitting the limiter which could further hamper progress.
The active suspension also has selectable modes and the three settings are used to change the nature of the ride.
While the more sporty settings provide impressive handling with minimal body roll, comfort mode would keep even the most enthusiastic driver happy for a majority of driving conditions.
The sportiest mode couldn’t be described as uncomfortable but the very firm damper-rate could cause the suspension to crash over imperfections.
The driver also has a few decisions to make with the traction control.
Sport mode allowed some wheel slip and oversteer for the adventurous pilot, but the normal mode dealt with the power intuitively without ever cutting torque completely.
In wet conditions full power was impossible, with traction control intervening in first, second and third gears. However, with gentle throttle application, good pace could be made through even tight corners thanks to the foot-wide rear tyres.
When the roads eventually dried out however, the power was sent down to the asphalt with surprising consistency and the rate of progress was intoxicating.
For those of a red-blooded disposition, the traction control system can be switched off completely. Good luck…All driving dynamics switchgear - including an AMG button which can be pre-programmed with you favorite setting - is nicely positioned next to the gear selector and imparts a sense of importance to the subtle buttons.
The interior of the E63 AMG S is a very pleasant place to be with a combination of Alcantara, wood and leather covering almost everything in sight.
The front seats have an almost infinite number of adjustments to find the perfect position, and if that isn’t enough, then heating, cooling and massage functions add to the comfort.
Active side bolsters act during fast cornering to prevent occupants rolling out of the front seats but the second, more active setting could be a little too enthusiastic, sometimes responding to slight undulations in the road.
The interior is appointed with all the expected classic AMG style and quality without being loud or obnoxious, while a full length sunroof prevented the predominantly black interior becoming claustrophobic.
The huge AMG decorated calipers scrubbed speed as easily as it piled on and the pedal feel had concrete solidity with bags of progression.
With such confidence-inspiring anchors the considerable performance was all the more enticing.
For a princely $28,000, the brakes can be upgraded to track-grade carbon/ceramic composite discs but given the impressive performance of the ‘standard’ fitment, we would be very surprised if any are ordered.
We managed fuel consumption figure of 16.5 litres per 100km but the winding Victorian country roads were certainly not designed with fuel economy in mind.
On the contrary, a sinewy rural road with long stretches between fast corners is exactly the environment an E63 AMG S feels most at home in.
With a light foot, Mercedes claim the mighty Merc can return a combined figure of just 10.0l/100km – quite respectable when you consider what is going on at the wheels.
Ultimately the Mercedes Benz E63 AMG S does exactly what a hi-po E-Class is supposed to, delivering refined sporty looks, excellent comfort and autobahn-devastating performance.
You may think that the stratospheric output generated by Mercedes’ magnificent 5.5-litre engine would be too much for just two wheels to handle, but a combination of utterly predictable power-delivery, refined traction control behaviour and calculated chassis tweaks have resulted in a very accomplished and usable car.
The specially made Australian two-wheel drive E63 AMG S is not just a late hand-me-down from the northern hemisphere with more grunt than traction.
It works admirably in an Australian environment, and with a 70kg weight advantage over the 4MATIC, Australia could have the better end of the deal.
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