It’s fast and fantastically powerful, but it’s not perfect
Here it is – a four-door performance saloon car with more than 600 horsepower. This is supercar power, from a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine installed in the normally more straight-laced and exec-friendly Mercedes-Benz E-Class; AMG models have always exceeded our expectations and this new E 63 S 4Matic+ does that and then some.
It has air suspension, all-wheel drive, a ridiculous set of performance figures plus, on top of it all, the promise of even greater comfort and refinement to keep the car’s traditional customer base happy. You can get it in an estate as well as a saloon, and a regular 563bhp form as well as this 604bhp S model, but how could our first UK drive be in anything but the daddy?
Performance is ridiculous. 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds is breathtaking, as is the sheer violence and authenticity of the engine itself. It’s not all about peaky power, either – pulling power from just 2500rpm is staggering, and for added kudos, clock the fact not even the Mercedes-AMG GT R runs a version of this V8 engine with more power.
Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic+
Engine: 4.0-litre, V8, twin-turbo, petrol
Gearbox: Nine-speed twin-clutch automatic
Top speed: 186mph (limited)
CO2/tax band: 207g/km, 37%
You don’t need the skills of Lewis Hamilton to launch it off the line with all-conquering alacrity. Simply engage the Race Start function and, after the tiniest of split-second pauses, it’s exploding up the road to leave your palms sweaty and your licence at mortal risk unless you lift off pretty much as soon as you started. It’s utterly intoxicating.
Don’t think it’s some sort of untamed beast in everyday use, either. You can pootle along at low revs yet still feel pleasure from its throbby surge, meaning this is a performance car that’s enjoyable even if you don’t want to chase the ferocious performance it’s capable of. People will buy this car for its engine alone, and they won’t be disappointed.
But they may be, just a touch, by the handling. In moving to four-wheel drive and upping the suspension’s capabilities to cope with all this power, some of the balanced tactility of the old E 63 has been lost. The air-suspended ride is pretty firm and although you have a choice of Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race, you’ll find even Comfort doesn’t isolate you well enough from the road – the other settings will be tolerated for a mile or so, no more.
Brave the bumps in Race mode, though, and the E 63 S 4Matic+ has a few tricks up its sleeve. Turn off the ESP and set the nine-speed gearbox in manual model, and there’s a ‘Drift’ setting there for the taking. Which basically turns this four-wheel drive car into a rear-wheel drive monster.
Find yourself on a racetrack and its hilarious. It’s ludicrously powerful but, surprisingly, benign and very controllable. You also may have the time and patience to go through the faff of engaging it: you won’t on the road, where you’ll also be left musing on why this ferocious car can’t also be just a bit more fun to drive, can’t transfer across a bit more of that racetrack charisma.
The engine alone should make it brilliant, but the loss of purity from the chassis means it’s a qualified thumbs up for the new E 63 S 4Matic+. It’s a car that’s improved in every way, but something has also been lost. It’s enthralling, but truly absorbing? Not on British roads, not yet anyway. Time to get tweaking, AMG.