New Mercedes E63 AMG

15 Feb, 2013 11:45am Tom Phillips

Can the uprated 549bhp Mercedes E63 AMG outpunch the established BMW M5?

Verdict

4
The facelifted E63 AMG is mightily powerful and remains a very impressive super-saloon that’s a genuine alternative to the BMW M5. However, the power gains do highlight the rear-wheel drive chassis’s limitations, particularly when dealing with the UK’s bumpy roads and unpredictable weather. It’s a shame that the four-wheel drive model will be left-hand drive only.

Mercedes AMG customers are a demanding bunch. And with the arrival of the 542bhp BMW M5, AMG had no choice but to up the output of its flagship E-Class model’s 5.5-litre V8 to an astounding 549bhp.

The base-spec version of the facelifted E63 AMG is effectively the same as the previous-generation car with the optional AMG Performance Package selected. That means power climbs by 31bhp and torque rises by 20Nm. If that’s not enough, a new AMG S-Model has been introduced, which boosts power to 577bhp and 800Nm.

The star of any AMG car is its engine, and the 5.5-litre V8 is fantastic, offering effortless low-down response, thumping acceleration and an addictive soundtrack. When driving hard, it’s best to select the manual mode, allowing you to change gear freely with the simple flick the steering wheel paddle. However, given the power available, and the flexibilty of the engine, third gear is often all you need on a twisty back-road.

There’s a sport mode for the traction control, which gives you a good amount of leeway before it intervenes, while the Sport+ setting for the dampers gives a firm ride but decent body control. It also weights up the steering but as a result feels a bit artificial and over-eager to self-centre. The standard steel brakes are powerful, but can wilt a little after a few high speed stops – a carbon ceramic brake upgrade is on the options list, and one that’s worth considering.

The engine’s mighty power is impressive, but it feels like the new powerplant pushes the rear-wheel drive chassis quite close to its usable limit on the road. It’s telling, perhaps, that Mercedes has introduced a four-wheel drive E63 AMG to left-hand drive markets this time around. What’s more, it’s actually more satisfying to switch the rear-drive car’s gearbox and dampers back into their comfort settings and soak up the E63’s excellent GT-car credentials, while being safe in the knowledge that all that power is there should you need it.

There’s still a pleasing burble from the exhaust when you accelerate, but that quietens on the motorway, making hushed conversation easy at 70mph. In fact, despite AMG’s efforts to make the new E63 more hardcore, it remains at its best at seven tenths, with the lighter steering in comfort mode flowing a little more easily than in Sport or Sport+.

When cruising, the gearbox shifts up early and makes the most of the engine’s burbly low down torque. The stop-start system adds a nice touch of refinement around town too, giving you silence at the lights – with the added bonus of the rumble from the engine as it blurts back into life.

Although it has extra power, the E63 is a little less aggressive than before. Its gaping air intake and standard fit all-LED headlights make the new car’s nose a little rounder and softer than before. That said, the big brakes, huge wheels, and trademark quad exhausts still hint at the performance potential lurking underneath.

Disqus - noscript

Lovely car! I just can't choose between this and the M5.

Key specs

  • Price: £73,320
  • Engine: 5.5-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol
  • Power: 549bhp
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 4.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy: 28.8mpg
  • CO2: 230g/km
  • Equipment: 19-inch alloys, sports seats, Harman Kardon stereo, LED lights
  • On sale: Now
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