Before we open the taps on the 450kW, 850Nm twin-turbocharged V8 under the bonnet of the Mercedes-AMG E63 S, it’s worth recapping the changes that have been heralded by this facelifted model.
The E63 S sedan is the only variant available in Australia, where some markets get a wagon and the option of a non-S model with 420kW and 750Nm. Power outputs are unchanged at 450kW and 850Nm, which puts it slightly beyond the Audi RS6 (441kW, 800Nm) and kind of line-ball with the BMW M5 Competition (460kW but 750Nm). As with the Audi and BMW, the AMG uses all-wheel drive to deploy the full beans.
At first glance you’ll notice the use of more rounded multibeam LED headlight units, alongside AMG’s now-trademark Panamericana vertical-slat grille, and a perhaps a somewhat less-aggressive overall design. As before, the front wheel arches have been widened compared to those of the standard E-class to accommodate a 27mm wider track, while larger intakes feed the intercoolers of the twin-turbo V8.
At the rear, sharper tail light units extend into the bootlid and you’ll find redesigned trapezoidal exhaust tips, a lip spoiler and a new lower diffuser finished in gloss black. A handful of new paint shades are also available for the exterior, including the matt Brilliant Blue Magno previously exclusive to the AMG GT range.
Under those swollen arches sit a set of 20-inch wheels. Behind them are 390mm six-piston front and 360mm single-piston rear brakes – an optional 402mm front, 360mm rear carbon-ceramic upgrade is also available and is fitted to our test car.
Inside, Mercedes has upgraded to the latest MBUX infotainment system, paired with a new AMG Performance steering wheel. Previewed in the E-class facelift last year, it can be had in leather, Dinamica microfibre or a combination of both. As you’d expect, it comes equipped with integrated buttons for media controls and even screens for switching drive modes.
Other high-specification inclusions are Nappa leather trim on the seats, Instagram-worthy ambient lighting, twin-12.25-inch displays – one for the instrument cluster and the other for the central screen.
John Lennon sang that love is all you need, but in the case of the Mercedes-AMG E63 S, fourth gear is all you need. With 450kW and 850Nm from the E63’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, fourth gear will take you from walking pace all the way to, well, it takes you a long way around the speedo.
From low speed and low rpm, the engine’s fury rumbles softly like a distant storm, but the force of nature gathers in intensity as the turbochargers awaken and shove a hurricane of air into the engine from around 2500rpm. The spec sheet says that the 850Nm peak has arrived by 2500rpm, but the engine is still building to its full fury.
By 4000rpm, the storm is on your doorstep and the engine is on top of the ratio – fourth is 1.64:1, while sixth is direct and seven, eight and nine overdriven. The 4Matic all-wheel-drive system and broad Pirelli P Zero rubber have found total traction and the speed feels like it’s doubling every few seconds. Somewhere around 5000rpm, my brain finds an equilibrium and I no longer feel as though I’m just a passenger along for the wild ride. It’s hardly the eye of the storm, but I’ve time to appreciate the acceleration, the hardening note from the mighty engine and the rock-solid body control as the E63 hammers down the road at eye-widening speeds. Then, at around 6000rpm, the engine roars again, searing through the last thousand revs before red line and eating through the remainder of fourth gear. And this sensation marries up to the boast of the official power figures that says the full 450kW is delivered from 5750-6500rpm.
That the bruising super sedan has a total of nine forward ratios seems crazy when fourth offers so many rewards. And don’t think that the road needs to be arrow straight for fourth gear to work its magic. Though tasked with controlling 2019kg and vast 20-inch wheels (with staggered 265/30 ZR30, 295/30 ZR20 Pirelli P Zero rubber), the chassis, though always firm, manages to find traction and grip to deploy the brawn of the engine even when there’s lock applied.
We had four seasons in one day when we tested the brute from Stuttgart. We also covered over 600km on some of NSW’s most demanding roads; many the same stretches of tarmac on which we tested the BMW M5 Competition and Audi RS6. Fog and misty rain tempered the pace through the first 200km of the day, with only exploratory toe-pokes hinting at the E63’s latent potential. But this gave us an opportunity to ‘live with’ the AMG as it cleared Sydney’s sprawl.
The first thing that you notice is that the ride is never anything but firm, even in the softest of the three suspension settings. It’s not crashy, at least in comfort mode, but there’s a pitter patter of feedback from the surface with only a slight filter applied to the bigger road imperfections. Beyond that however, the E63 S does a very fine impersonation of an upper-luxury saloon – it certainly feels closer to an S-class than it does to a C.
With Sydney long in the rear-view mirror, clearing skies above and drying roads below, it’s time to explore the E63’s chassis in detail. Fourth gear is the killer gear, but with so much torque from the engine, you can easily carry a gear or two higher everywhere. One particularly challenging set of switchbacks usually requires second, third, fourth, but in the mighty AMG, fourth will do it all but we even found ourselves riding the torque in fifth and sixth.
In the lower gears, the engine overwhelms the parameters of the ESC and traction control systems any time you get into the meat of the engine’s delivery, but the longer ratios of fourth to sixth allow you to explore more of the throttle travel and apply it earlier and more forcefully. Driven this way, you can really work the E63 into a rhythm, flowing it between corners and placing it with accuracy. Of course, you can also point and shoot with the AMG, but that style will eventually wilt the otherwise heroic carbon-ceramic brakes.
Facing renewed competition from its traditional rivals, the updated Mercedes-AMG E63 S remains a force to be reckoned with.