Mercedes-AMG E63 first drive: The luxe lunatic
There are only handful of car buyers in this world that require their daily drive to develop 604bhp, pack the latest semi-autonomous driving functionality and boast enough room inside for four business associates.
It’s a dilemma that most of us normal folk will never have to deal with, but what if you have a spare £85,000 burning a hole in your pocket and want the performance without compromising on practicality?
Well, you’re in luck, because BMW is readying its potent new M5, while Mercedes has just unleashed this: the new E63 AMG. Capable of tearing up the world’s most arduous race circuits before wafting its occupants in the lap of luxury to their intended destination, it’s one serious beast.
Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic+: Powerfully penned
The visual impact of the new Mercedes-AMG E63 ultimately depends on how crazy the customer goes with the spec sheet, as it’s just as happy lurking in menacing matte gunmetal grey as it is cruising the streets of Kensington in an understated metallic blue.
Regardless of personal tastes, the model features a new front end, which brings it in line with the range-topping E63 S AMG, as well as a widened track and muscular rear end, complete with boot-lip spoiler.
It’s a handsome beast, especially when admiring it from the rear, but one that won’t draw too much attention. The Audi RS6, for example, has a more intimidating road presence, but at the expense of hugely flared wheel arches and other such racy flourishes.
In the E63, Mercedes designers seem to have struck the ultimate balance of performance and opulence: a car that can travel from a Grand Prix circuit to the Grand National without causing a stir.
Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic+: Thrills as standard
You may have noticed that the model nameplate has become rather long and convoluted. That’s because this new version comes in two distinct flavours: a standard variant, which sees the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 develop 563bhp, or a feisty S variant, where power increases to 604bhp.
The 4Matic+ bit refers o the fact that all new E63 models will come with the marque’s all-wheel-drive system – a fact that will horrify those who loved the unhinged, tyre-munching nature of previous, rear-wheel-drive-only models.
But don’t judge too hastily, because the engineers at AMG are never ones to disappoint the petrolhead purist. Granted, the all-wheel-drive system now cleverly distributes torque to all wheels when at maximum attack, but that doesn’t mean the Incredible Hulk has chilled out.
The addition of a Drift mode sees the system send power to the rear wheels only, which fundamentally creates an awesomely competent power-slide machine. Again, only a handful of mentalists will want to pull the sort of smoky donuts and drifts this system affords, which leaves the rest of us mere mortals to enjoy the fantastically grippy driving experience.
The thought of piloting a near two-tonne, 604bhp machine around the tight and twisting roads of southern Portugal would typically strike fear into the heart of many motorists but the E63 S makes it all so simple.
Flick the AMG Dynamic Select rocker switch to Sport Plus and the sheer drama of the exhaust kicks in, the suspension firms up, the steering becomes heavier and more precise, while the throttle response is set to its most sensitive.
But never does it feel like it’s going to hurl you into the nearest tree. Instead, the 4Matic+ system gently guides the car around corners, without mollycoddling too much.
Fear not, though, as there’s still enough traction-breaking goodness to have hairs firmly standing on end.
Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic+: The luxe lunatic
It’s arguably a sentiment that’s repeated too often in today’s era of utterly capable machines – but the way the new E63 S transforms from deranged race machine to comfortable cruiser is nothing short of staggering.
Again, flick that AMG Dynamic Select rocker switch to Comfort and the engine suddenly becomes silent, the suspension breezes over potholes and the steering eases into in its most relaxed setting.
This is a Mercedes-Benz, so it’s arguably one of the most intelligent cars on the road. That means adaptive cruise control, lane assist functionality, semi-autonomous parking and a plethora of other drive-assist tech comes part and parcel.
The interior is beautifully appointed too, with liberal use of leather and carbon fibre trim, a punchy Burmester audio system and bags of room in the rear for three adults to sit comfortably.
Driver and front passenger are treated to low-set, deeply bolstered sports bucket seats, to ensure internal organs remain in place when the right foot gets trigger-happy.
Overall space up front appears to have increased too, thanks in part to the new dash layout, which sits further back with many of the buttons and dials cleaned up in favour of two pin-sharp TFT displays.
The high-res screens replace the typical analogue instrument binnacles and can be setup as the driver wishes, with performance-related read-outs on offer (circuit maps, anyone?), as well as classic fuel range and trip information.
Better still, the infotainment system syncs with a smartphone to record lap times and upload footage from a GoPro to social media accounts via a new AMG Private Lounge in-car app.
There’s no escaping the astronomical price tag attached to this car, but this sort of capability and quality craftsmanship doesn’t come cheap. In fact, as an everyday all-rounder, it’s very difficult to fault.
Where the E63 was once a straight-line, drag-racing bruiser, it is now a much more refined offering, with the ability to deliver the goods on a race circuit, as well as proving luxurious and comfortable on the road.
The release of BMW’s new M5 will provide very interesting competition but, for now, we’ll say the Mercedes-AMG E63 S is arguably the most sophisticated and capable super-saloon currently on sale.
Oh, and there’s very little that sounds as good as this 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 at full throttle. Quite simply it’s dangerously addictive.