The sports sedan. It’s a format forged by German automakers and now adopted by everyone. What does that make a sports sedan with over 600 horsepower and moves like an exotic? A supersports sedan? An übersports sedan? Mephistopheles?
The new 2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 and E63 S are built on the latest E-class platform which, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing. But this car is largely about the engine. Former E63s were powered by a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 worth a maximum of 577 hp. Thanks to higher turbo boost pressure and software, the new 2018 E63’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 tops the power chart here with a max of 603 hp in the E63 S (a bump from a mere 563 hp in the non-S). This is, by the way, the same engine in other AMGs, including the exotic AMG GT R sports car.
Let’s pause here and reflect on 603 hp, shall we? Twenty years ago, the Dodge Viper made 450 hp. The very limited-production Ferrari F50 of the same year –with an engine based on that of a Formula 1 V12 racing engine –did a bit more, at 513 hp. Even the E63’s progenitor, the E55 of 1999, made just 349 hp. Don’t let anyone try to convince you that high-performance internal combustion engines are dead. Unnecessary for some, perhaps, but certainly not dead.
Over the past couple of years, many V8 and V6 engines from several manufacturers have moved to a “hot V” concept, where the heat-producing shenanigans of combustion – chiefly exhaust, turbochargers, catalysts, etc. – are moved from the sides of the engine to the middle, in the valley of the V.
The latest Mercedes V8 engines place their hottest appendages there, too. This allows better harnessing (and isolation) of heat and the shortening of plumbing for turbos, all of which help to reduce laggy throttle response. Likewise, the intake valves and their inlet plumbing are relocated to the outboard positions of both cylinder heads.
To put it bluntly, the E63’s engine is an all-conquering powerhouse. It steams toward the 7,000-rpm redline as if on cocaine. It never fails to churn out The Torque of the Gods at low engine speed. And its Wagnerian “Ride of the Valkyries” crescendo (or Metallica “Master of Puppets” thrash, depending on your musical proclivities) hollers at quadruple forte. Yet, it also trundles around town at trolling speeds with a mere whisper.
The result is a 4-door family sedan wherein mom or dad can settle arguments in the back seat with a new weapon. Rather than reaching back to swat the little darlings fighting over the iPad or gummy fish allocation, a mere prod of the 600-hp throttle awakens the hibernating bear under the hood and pins junior and sis back in their seat with race car torque. (Your results may vary; worked for me.)
Mercedes beefs up its 9-speed automatic transmission to handle the huge 627 lb.-ft. of torque from the S version’s V8. There’s also a wet multi-plate clutch in place of the old torque converter, enabling both smooth, docile starts and racer-minded launches.
By the way, all this basic sedan goodness and hot rod weaponry is also available in wagon form, too.
The existence of the AMG E63 S wagon proves two things: The people making decisions at AMG not only have families, they have a sense of humor.
Also – and proof that some station wagons still have a place at the automotive dinner table – the E63 wagon offers 35 cu.-ft. of cargo space behind the rear seat, while the larger and assuredly less fun GLE SUV offers just three more, at 38.2 cu.-ft. (Full disclosure: there is also a GLE63 AMG SUV. It is nowhere near as dynamic and agile as the E63, though.)
As is common practice now, multiple driving modes from Comfort and Sport to Sport+ and Race make progressively more rapid shifts and aggressive throttle response (and also change the suspension parameters). However, as a pretty experienced driver and racer, I will never understand why anyone would want a more rapidly responding throttle in an aggressive driving program. When hoofing a car around canyon roads or a racetrack, you actually want every opportunity to have smoother inputs, rather than abrupt ones. A throttle that opens more rapidly earlier in its travel is a poor instructor for the smooth manner in which you must drive when piloting quickly.
Mercedes lists an official zero-to-60-mph figure of 3.3 seconds for the E63 S, though that’s using the revised and simplified Launch Control by applying the brake hard with your left foot, flooring the accelerator, and then releasing the brake pedal when ready for the police to arrest you. Translated: it’s bloody fast.
And I haven’t even gotten to the chassis yet.
All-wheel drive is damn-near required for this level of power. The E63’s 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system can shift power delivery fore/aft from 50/50 to 0/100.
Meanwhile, the suspension uses air springs with three different chambers that can be softened or stiffened, plus continuously adjustable shocks. The aforementioned drive modes of Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Race also progressively stiffen spring and shock settings. Dialing up Sport, Sport+, or Race stiffens the springs, the damping rates tidy up a bit, the steering loses a little bit of power assist, transmission shifts quicken, and engine noise is amplified through the audio system’s speakers.
Flogged around a racetrack, the E63 S clearly reflects the character of the company: mad scientist engine masters who figured out handling even more quickly than they figured out combustion. The E63 S is no lightweight, at a seriously porkadelic 4,515 lbs., but the heft is masked. There’s no chance you’ll think you’re driving a Miata, but given that weight, the E63 S feels downright lithe. It negotiates even very slow corners well, something heavy metal sedans should not like at all. Fast corners are gobbled up and smoothed out by the constantly adjusting suspension working overtime, but it never feels overtly contrived or compromised like a few other übersedans. The example I drove had the optional carbon-ceramic brakes, which never faded at NCM Motorsports Park.
But it is also highly unlikely that anyone forking over $105,395 for a family sedan (or wagon) will bring that rolling retirement account to the racetrack. They could, though, and they’d never be embarrassed by Porsches, Corvettes, and Ferraris. Which fits into the long-standing AMG performance and luxury credo of offering shocking performance, yet always remaining a poised Mercedes.
To this, thine own E63 self, is true.
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