Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+ review

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The Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+ continues to shake up the established order amongst executive super saloon and estate models. Jonathan Crouch reports on the revised version.

Ten Second Review

The Mercedes E-Class has never been sexy. Except in the pumped-up, slickly-finished form of the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+. Here is a car that can make some of its rivals look a little one-dimensional. With a 612hp power punch, it's devastatingly quick and you can expect a soundtrack that'll be utterly addictive. Choose from either a saloon or an estate bodystyle.

Background

Traditionally, if you wanted the best executive super saloon or estate, you always bought a BMW M5. That was the way it was - until this current generation E 63 arrived in 2017. Prior to the launch of this car, Mercedes-Benz had made some hot versions of the E-Class down the years, but they were often all go and no subtlety, heavy, uncommunicative things that didn't reward the skilled driver. Yes, they worked well if you had an autobahn to crack along, but they seemed the automotive equivalent of a flat track bully. That changed with this E 63.

Its creator, AMG, the go-faster division of Mercedes, has come good in recent years. It has engineered tactility and subtlety into its products and nothing shows this off better than the transformation of this AMG-branded E-Class. This latest version features a smarter look with an upgraded cabin and remains the car that the rest of the class has to measure up to.

Driving Experience

It still might be hard for long-time E 63 buyers to accept the fact that a big normally aspirated 5.5-litre V8 no longer beats beneath the bonnet of this car. You still get a V8 though - just a smaller, more efficient 4.0-litre turbocharged one. And a unit that puts out more power than before. Mercedes now only offers buyers in our market this car in uprated 'S' form, which means you get 612hp. 62mph from rest with this variant takes 3.4s en route to 186mph flat out. And of course there's 4MATIC+ 4WD to help get all that torque to the tarmac. There's plenty of it too - 850Nm in the 'S' version.

As for transmission, well Afalterbach has developed a special 9-speed AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT auto transmission for this car. The 'S' model also offers a 'drift' mode as part of a 'Race' programme you can select using the gearshift paddles. Dynamic engine mounts, AMG Sport speed-sensitive steering, AMG air suspension and an AMG high-performance braking system are all included. So is the AMG DYNAMIC SELECT drive programme system so that you can set the car up to suit the way you want to drive. Expect the result of all this technology to be utterly addictive. The E63 has long tried - and failed - to offer a class-leading alternative to BMW's M5: in this form, the Merc may just have pulled it off.

Design and Build

The E 63 doesn't major on in-you-face brashness. When you run down the list of exterior changes compared to a standard E-Class, there's quite a few of them but the end effect is remarkably subtle. As before, there's a choice of either saloon or estate bodystyles. As for the changes made to this revised E 63 model, well the central cooling air inlet in the completely restyled front section is significantly larger then before and now also bears an AMG-specific radiator grille with twelve vertical louvres and a central star which is also larger. Together with the flatter all-LED multibeam headlamps, this model's characteristic wheel arches flare further outwards and the rounded-fit bonnet with powerdomes is also different. At the rear, flatter tail lights now extend into the boot lid, where they're visually linked with a trim strip in high-gloss chrome on the top. On the Estate, this trim strip extends even further up to the end of the outer rear lamps.

Inside, the cabin has been thoroughly enhanced, primarily with the adoption of Mercedes' 'Widescreen Cockpit' dash format, which uses a pair of 12.3-inch screens, one for the instruments and one for the centre-dash infotainment display. These feature new AMG-specific functions and displays. Customers with a passion for motorsport will be pleased to note the RACETIMER feature for recording lap times on closed-off tracks. And it all works with the brand's latest MBUX infotainment system and its improved "Hey Mercedes" voice control functionality. There's also a new AMG Performance steering wheel in a twin-spoke design. As before, the E 63's cabin features grippy sports seats with plenty of lateral support, plus luxurious black nappa leather and DINAMICA microfibre trim.

Market and Model

If you think in terms of needing an £100,000 budget for your E 63 S, you won't be too far out. That's certainly not an insignificant amount but next to, say, a Porsche 911 Carerra, the E 63 AMG looks a lot of car for the cash. There's a premium of £2,000 to find if you want the estate model, rather than the saloon.

The standard spec list is very long indeed, but anyone wishing to personalise their E 63 S 4MATIC+ even further will be able to order numerous options from the AMG Performance Studio. The Night package, attractive wheel alternatives and two Carbon-fibre packages can be used to customise the exterior specification. In the interior, the Performance steering wheel in nappa leather/DINAMICA microfibre and the Performance seats, which are available for the first time, aim to reinforce the sporty character. Carbon-fibre trim parts or glass-fibre elements in matt silver round off the possibilities.

Cost of Ownership

You won't be expecting a car of this kind to be very efficient. You might be surprised. The E 63 S puts out 277g/km of WLTP-rated CO2 in saloon form - and 283g/km as an estate. And 23.2mpg combined (22.8mpg as an estate). That's not bad for a super saloon of this calibre. So, how has AMG done it? A key reason lies with this V8 engine's cylinder deactivation system which works when the driver selects the 'Comfort' transmission program. In the partial-load range, cylinders two, three, five and eight are deactivated, which crucially lowers the fuel consumption.

The set-up is available over a wide engine speed range from 1,000 to 3250 rpm. The AMG main menu on the instrument cluster informs the driver whether the cylinder deactivation system is in use and whether the engine is presently operating in the partial or full-load range. The transition from four to eight-cylinder operation is immediate, fast and imperceptible, so that the passengers do not experience any loss of comfort.

Summary

This improved E 63 remains right at the top of the executive super saloon class, a really credible alternative to a BMW M5 Competition. It looks good and rides brilliantly for such a focused car, thanks to its sophisticated AMG air suspension.

The interior now even more beautifully finished, with much improved media screens, some of the best sports seats you'll ever encounter and a quality of materials that you'd hope to find in a car that carries this sort of price tag. As long as you can afford the running costs, the E 63 is a car that can do virtually every task without ever appearing to be a master of none. It's hard to see how Mercedes could have pitched this one better.

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