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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - E-class - E63 AMG sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Understated looks, acceleration, superb exhaust note, steering, handling, quality, silky auto
Room for improvement
Rear spoiler looks like an afterthought

Mercedes-Benz logo22 Sep 2006

By NEIL MCDONALD

MERCEDES-Benz says its E63 AMG is the most powerful E-class it has ever built.

We’ll take their word for it because this hot E-class is certainly not wanting in any area, particularly not absolute power or performance.

The 6.2-litre V8 deploys its 378kW at 6800rpm and still manages, even in a normally aspirated form, to deliver 630Nm at 5200rpm compared to the old supercharged 5.5-litre E55 AMG sedan, which produced 350kW and a staggering 700Nm of torque between 2650rpm and 4500rpm.

Okay, first thing’s first.

Torque is down and performance buffs may wonder if this has taken the edge of this hot sedan. We think not and considering you’ve got the 373kW/520Nm BMW V10 M5 as a direct competitor, it is a brave German car-maker to ease off the torque curve even just a little bit in the interests of all-round driving ability.

According to Mercedes, the reason torque is down is to facilitate the fitting of the 7G-tronic seven-speed automatic, which does not have the ability to cope with the 700Nm of the old engine.

Despite this, the loss of torque has not had too much, if any, effect on the car’s performance.

This big Benz will still hit 100km/h in 4.5 seconds and sail on to an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. It will also rev well beyond 7000rpm before changing up with the quad exhausts bellowing their song.

Mercedes must be reasonably confident that buyers will not mind because this engine-transmission combo is destined to pop up on other AMG models.

Indeed, a CL63 AMG will be unveiled at this week’s Paris motor show.

But our focus must return to the E63 AMG.

Our experience with the previous-generation E55 AMG was constrained to the Phillip Island race circuit in an AMG drive day, but one thing was clear about the latest AMG bahn-stormer it sits on the road far better, is more communicative and there is little float at speed than an E55 AMG.

Importantly too the changes to the steering have delivered a meaty amount of feel. The car turns in with pin-sharp precision.

The mid-range urge of the newer car may not throw you into the seatback as savagely as the E55 AMG but the V8 feels more linear right through the rev range.

It’s a small thing but the differences between the two V8s is minimal when it comes down to blasting through winding mountain roads or perfecting a rapid overtaking manoeuvre on the highway. I reminds you that any AMG is going to be quick.

The refined Airmatic suspension offers three-modes – comfort, sports 1 and sports 2 – and overall the system delivers a good balance between ride comfort and outright suspension precision.

Obviously, the sports modes stiffen the suspension but apart from a firmer ride, there is no harshness associated with the change in suspension character. It works wonderfully well.

And as befits the E-class range-topper there’s a suitable amount of discreet performance modifications to distinguish this beast from the rest of the newly revised range.

There’s a more heavily contoured front spoiler, body skirts, chrome-surround foglights and not-so-discreet "63AMG" lettering on the front mudguards.

At the back there are four purposeful-looking exhausts and a subtle lip spoiler that Mercedes says reduces rear axle lift by 30 per cent.

Apart from the visual aerodynamic aids, bigger ventilated and perforated composite disc brakes are a given and the re-worked Airmatic air suspension is designed to provide more high-speed poise.

The E63 AMG sits on bigger 18-inch AMG five-spoke alloys with 8.5-inch wide front and 9-inch wide rear tyres to ensure Velcro-like grip. Likewise, the brakes are huge and haul the big sedan up without drama.

Inside the AMG sports wonderfully comfortable and cosseting sports seats with nappa leather and alcantara inserts, a new steering wheel, and paddle shifts.

The new AMG instrument cluster has a speedo graduated to 320km/h and red needles. The AMG menu display shows the currently selected gear as well as an upshift prompt in pseudo-manual mode as well as a race-timer device which enables the driver to measure lap times when they are doing AMG track days.

Like the rest of the E-class range it also offers standard pre-safe system, active neck-pro headrests, more pronounced V-shape to the front end with a 30mm higher chrome grille, revised tail lights and revised exterior mirrors.

Experience an AMG Merc sedan and several things are clear – you can have your performance cake as well as convey the family too and from school.

It seems like many Mercedes-Benz buyers reckon so too because the AMG livery is growing every year in Australia as up-scale buyers combine Mercedes performance with a bit of personality. The CLS AMG for example, has sold particularly well.

So is the normally aspirated E63 AMG better than the supercharged E55 AMG? Is bigger better even without a supercharger?

In this case, absolutely. And it comes in a wagon variant.

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