Over the past 60 years, Mercedes-Benz has sold some 10 million E-Class models worldwide. That is a milestone few luxury cars attain. Of the various models available, none is as alluring as the mighty E63 AMG. It’s not so much its bolder body kit (the front fender bulges are 17 millimetres larger) or wider front track (56 mm), nor is it the LED daytime running lights or the oversized wheel/tire package. No, it’s not even the fact that a brave driver can actually turn off the electronic overseer. The highlight — and the reason this car is what it is — boils down to its hand-built AMG engine. The 6.2-litre V8 pushes no fewer than 518 stallions (up 11 horsepower) and 465 pound-feet of torque through a new transmission to the road through P285/35R18 rear tires. As a combination, the powertrain is nothing short of spectacular.
Tromp the E63’s loud pedal and things happen in a hurry. The high-revving V8 (it redlines at 7,200 rpm) spins up to speed quickly as the exhaust tone changes from purposeful to ferocious. It takes all of 4.5 seconds to warp 1,840 kilograms of leather-lined luxury to 100 kilometres an hour, and the big E turns the 80-to-120-km/h passing trick in 3.5 seconds.
In fact, the rate of acceleration begins to tail off only as the car nears its electronically controlled top speed of 250 km/h. Remarkably, this engine posts these very quick times while sipping 12% less fuel than did the previous engine.
The powertrain’s other highlight is the AMG Speedshift MCT (Multi-Clutch Technology) seven-speed automatic transmission. The key to its livelier feel is that the traditional torque converter has been replaced with a mechanically more
efficient multi-plate wet clutch. The transmission also offers four distinctly different driving modes and a launch control system.
In the comfort mode (called Controlled Efficiency), the transmission pulls away in second gear and upshifts as early as possible, which promotes fuel economy. Selecting the sport (S) mode holds each gear a little longer and cuts the time to complete a shift by 25%.
In the sport-plus (S+) mode, the shift time is cut to just 100 milliseconds, which is half that of the comfort mode. There’s also a true manual mode, which lets the engine hammer on the rev limiter until the driver initiates the shift. In the end, the S+ mode proved to be so proficient it all but negated the need to go manual.
The best bit, at least in terms of the fun quotient, is the Race Start function. After completing a number of steps, the
driver presses the brake pedal, mats the gas and waits for the light to change. Lifting off the brake launches the E63 AMG like a Formula One car — occupants will feel as though they have just been shot from a cannon. Mercifully, the six-piston front calipers and two-piece, cross-drilled rotors are fade-free even when pushed to the extreme.
Speed is nothing without the ability to carve corners. Here, the E63 succeeds yet again. The AMG Ride Control sports suspension uses steel springs up front, AMG-tuned air springs at the back and electronically controlled dampers at both ends.
As with the transmission, the driver can select different modes (comfort, sport and sport plus), each of which progressively sharpens the drive by reducing the amount of unwanted body motion. Comfort is as advertised, while sport plus is exactly that. Factor in the speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering and its faster ratio (22% quicker than the regular model) and the car goes exactly where the driver points it. If things start to come unglued, a sophisticated electronic stability control system is waiting patiently. The AMG version has normal, sport and off modes. It takes a braver man than I to switch the nanny off as only the traction control side remains active, which quells the inevitable wheelspin.An option worth considering is the AMG Performance package. Among other things, it firms the suspension, adds larger 19-inch wheels and a limited-slip differential. It also eliminates the electronic speed limiter.
The car’s interior touches complete the go-faster theme. The 14-way sport seats deliver impeccable lateral support, the steering wheel, complete with paddle shifters, puts some heft in the driver’s hand and there are brushed stainless steel pedals (something I could live without). Other highlights include the 610-watt, 14-speaker, harman/kardon sound system and the hard drive-based navigation system with a seven-inch high-resolution screen. It goes without saying that those relegated to the rear seat will find comfort and plenty of space — credit a 20-mm stretch in the wheelbase and a 22-mm increase in shoulder room.
The first AMG-tweaked car to taste success was the 300 SEL that won its class and finished second overall at the 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps in 1971. The latest E63 AMG is another ’bahn burner of the first order. It is incredibly fast, it handles like the dickens and it certainly qualifies as more than luxurious. The fact it’s a spacious four-door sedan tops things off. For a driver with family commitments, it is the ideal set of wheels — family friendly and race track ready.