2017 Mercedes-AMG E 63 S review
The E 63 is back, and it’s remarkable, with the broadest range of abilities and performance it has ever had
The Mercedes-AMG E 63 S comes a long time after the wider world had its first Lotus Carlton moment. I wonder if it will have another, when will it sit up with a start and say: “A 600bhp, 190mph family saloon car? Are you completely mad?”Anyway, here is a 600bhp family saloon. There are so many new cars. So many new Mercedes cars. You’d almost be forgiven for patting it on the head gently, knowingly, as it passes. Another new AMG. Welcome to the world, son, we know your brothers: dominated by their engines, lots of tyre smoke, that sort of thing. Sit yourself in that little niche over there, the one marked ‘hot rod’.Well, don’t. This car isn’t like other recent AMGs. Well, it is, but it’s not only like other AMGs. There’s a bit more to it than that.Mechanically, there’s a fair degree of what you know. The basis is the latest-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class saloon. The design has been given the expected tweaks: it’s subtle, muscular, more pumped up in the wheel arches, where it’s 11mm wider to accommodate a wider track and 265/35 front and 295/30 rear 20in tyres. There’s a diffuser, big exhausts and a lip spoiler on this saloon. An estate will follow late next year.Under the resculpted bonnet is the latest iteration of AMG’s 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8. New for this E 63 is that the ‘hot’ turbos, which sit within the vee rather than down by the sides of the cylinders, where the centre of gravity would be lower, are twin-scroll units. So they have two tubes through them, each one putting air to two cylinders. So yes, while the centre of gravity is higher (bad) and the air perhaps hotter (also bad), the paths from turbo to cylinder are much shorter, which makes for improved throttle response times (good). It keeps the engine more compact, too. There are also two power outputs: 563bhp as standard, or 603bhp in the S version.The V8 drives through a nine-speed automatic gearbox, the first time Mercedes’ nine-speed ’box has been engineered to cope with this much torque. And if the E 63 S makes a lot of anything, it’s torque: 627lb ft of it, from 2500-4500rpm. It’s an automatic transmission rather than a dual-clutch unit, but instead of a torque converter, it gets a wet clutch.In right-hand-drive versions of the last E 63, power went only to the rear wheels, but in other markets the car was mostly four-wheel drive; in fact, globally, 90% of all E 63s sold drove through all four wheels. This time they all will, even the right-hookers. At the back of the gearbox is a clutch, through the middle of which runs a propshaft to the back wheels. In everyday mooching, the E 63 is rear-wheel drive. But as the clutch starts to engage, as much as 50% of the power will go to the front. Theoretically, were the rears tyres on ice and the front tyres on fly paper, all power would go to the fronts, but practically, 50/50 is the maximum split.At the back, meanwhile, there’s a limited-slip differential, which is mechanically controlled on the non-S variant but electronically controlled on the S. There are also a number of drive modes, culminating in Race, after which you can switch out the stability controls to either Sport mode or all off, and after you’ve done that you can enter Drift mode, which basically always disconnects the front wheels, to let the E 63 do what AMGs have been doing for years: smoking up tyres.Other things to note, before we move on? The bodyshell has been stiffened with the addition of a couple of braces. AMG won’t say exactly by how much; apparently it’s not as simple as that, because it depends where you measure it. And there are air springs all round. Prices won’t be announced until early next year, but an S is likely to be around £83,000.