Mercedes-AMG E 63 review
Flagship Mercedes E-Class is the world’s best performance saloon
With a price tag just shy of £80,000, the Mercedes-AMG E 63 saloon isn’t what you’d call cheap. But when you’ve developed a reputation for building one of the world’s most capable performance saloons, you can almost name your price.
It’s based on one of the most accomplished and intelligent executive saloons on the market, with AMG’s magic creating the most powerful E-Class of all-time. In range-topping S guise, it packs a 604bhp punch, with 850Nm of torque available at 5,750-6,500rpm.
With the new all-wheel-drive, 600bhp BMW M5 still on the horizon instead of in showrooms, the E 63 has the floor to itself, especially with the Audi RS6 no longer available as a four-door saloon. That said, the 597bhp RS7 Sportback has the potential to give the Mercedes a bloody nose.
The AMG brand dates back to 1967 when two engineers, Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher founded ‘Aufrecht Melcher Großaspach’, laying the foundations for one of the worst’s greatest performance brands.
AMG’s backstory is laced with automotive icons, including the 300 E ‘Hammer’, C 63 and SLS AMG. The new E 63, especially in S spec, joins the list of all-time greats and redefines what is expected of today’s super-saloon.
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Car group tests
This third generation Mercedes-AMG E 63 was launched in 2016, with the range kicking off with the 4Matic+ at just under £80,000, and the more powerful S 4Matic+ available for £88,500. The flagship S 4Matic+ Edition 1 weighs in at around £107,000.
The E 63 4Matic+ features AMG Ride Control, Air Body Control air suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, silver brake calipers, dual twin-pipe exhaust system, mechanical limited-slip differential, front sports seats, Nappa leather interior and a pair of 12.3-inch screens.
The E 63 4Matic+ adds 20-inch alloy wheels, an electronic limited-slip differential, red brake calipers, dynamic engine mounts and further interior upgrades. The flagship Edition 1 boasts black 20-inch alloy wheels, a unique paint finish and a host of other interior and exterior cosmetic upgrades.
An E 63 estate is also edging its way onto Merc’s UK price lists, with figures starting from £81,000. Mechanically identical to the saloon, the estate versions boast 640 litres of boot space with the rear seats upright, extending to 1,820 litres with the seats folded down.
Finally, after years of trying, Mercedes-AMG has created a four-door saloon with enough power and poise to knock the BMW M5 from its perch. The monumental performance is kept in check by four-wheel drive and a host of safety devices, while cylinder deactivation makes it surprisingly efficient. Opt for the S model, engage Drift mode and you’ll think you’re driving a naturally aspirated, rear-wheel-drive AMG. A super-saloon in every sense.
Engines, performance and drive
Cutting to the chase: this might be one of the best all-round performance cars in the world. There’s a sense that AMG has garnered all its experience of the past 50 years to create a thoroughly modern interpretation of a V8 four-door saloon.
In range-topping S guise, as tested here, the E 63 offers explosive, almost fearsome pace – arguably too much for Britain’s tight and congested roads – and yet it can tip-toe back from behaving badly on a B-road and nobody will bat an eyelid.
For the first time in the UK, the E 63 is underpinned by Mercedes’ 4Matic+ four-wheel drive system, which continuously adjusts torque to the axle as required. But any fears that the 4Matic+ might be as welcome as a wasp at a picnic are soon forgotten in the E 63 S.
Select Race mode, kill the traction control and pull the shift paddles towards you and Drift mode is engaged. All of a sudden the nine-speed automatic transmission stops being automatic, putting you in charge of the gear changes and removing the ESP safety net.
Talent, space, nerves of steel and a budget for new tyres is required, but far from being a gimmick, Drift mode proves that a big German saloon can let its hair down once in a while.
This truly is a performance car for all seasons and every occasion. There’s a variety of driving modes – Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race and Individual – each one tweaking the engine mapping, suspension, gearbox shift speeds, the response of the differential and ESP, and even the exhaust note.
In our view, the Sport setting provides the optimum experience, with the stiffer suspension delivering a degree of tautness to the body control. The way in which this two-tonne saloon changes direction and devours corners is simply breathtaking.
But our biggest compliment is this: when you’re truly on it, the E 63 feels like a naturally aspirated, rear-wheel-drive AMG of yesteryear. It’s a digital remaster of a classic album; it truly is that good.
In ‘standard’ guise, the E 63 AMG’s 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine produces 563bhp and 750Nm of torque, enabling it to sprint to 62mph in 3.5 seconds, before hitting a top speed limited to 155mph.
By the E 63 S is the true powerhouse and is likely to be the most popular model. It delivers 604bhp and a colossal 850Nm of torque, taking the sprint time down to 3.4 seconds. The top speed is limited to 155mph, but in both cases an optional AMG Driver’s Package (£765) will unlock a top speed of 186mph.
The engine is so much more than a tweaked version of the motor found in the C 63 S. Twin-scroll turbochargers are used for the first time, the pistons are new and the air intake and charge air cooler have been optimised - and that’s all before AMG set to work with the engine software.
The nine-speed AMG Speedshift automatic transmission has been mated to a wet start-off clutch, which replaces a torque converter to save weight and improve response times. The result: lightning-quick and seamless up and down changes.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
Fuel economy isn’t going to be high on the list of priorities when buying a Mercedes-AMG E 63, but today’s performance car must at least tip its hat to fuel efficiency.
For the first time in a turbocharged Mercedes-AMG, cylinder deactivation is used, with cylinders two, three, five and eight deactivated during partial load. In Comfort mode, deactivation is available from 1,000 to 3,250rpm, with the dashboard informing the driver when four cylinders have been shut down.
The result is an impressive 31.7mpg on a combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 207g/km. This results in a first-year ‘showroom tax’ of £1,200, followed by five years of £450, which includes the £310 supplement for cars above £40,000.
Unsurprisingly, these are not cheap cars to insure, but the supercar-taming performance doesn’t quite equate to a supercar-style insurance group. The E 63 is Group 46 and the E 63 S Group 47, while the Edition 1 is Group 48.
Mercedes-AMG products aren’t known for their rock-solid residual values, and depreciation can be eye-wateringly brutal. Buy new and you might lose the cost of a good supermini within a matter of months.
Interior, design and technology
The new E-Class is deceptively attractive, looking every inch the junior S-Class, which will appeal to buyers of premium executive cars. The AMG is suitably discreet, almost stealth-like in its appearance.
Note the V8 Biturbo 4Matic+ badge on the front wings, the sculpted bonnet and colour-coded lip spoiler on the boot. More obvious changes include the flared wheel arches, AMG-specific grille and bumpers, and four trapezoidal tailpipes.
The interior has superb fit and finish, with AMG lettering on the the centre console and AMG start-up logo in the central screen to let you know you’ve climbed aboard the range flagship. The AMG sports seats are delightfully supportive and supremely comfortable, but the ‘performance’ seats in the S model offer even more lateral support.
All models get a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel and a 12.3-inch display with AMG-style displays and a racetimer. You’ll be in no doubt that you’re in a Mercedes-AMG, but it’s not too OTT.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The infotainment system is a familiar Mercedes-Benz system, with a few AMG trinkets thrown in for good measure. These include different instruments and performance-focused information, such as g-force and gearbox temperature.
Opt for the S model and you can enjoy the AMG Track Pace system, enabling lap/sector times and videos to be recorded and analysed. This is available on Apple iPhone via an app downloaded from the App Store.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The E 63 is a proper practical performance car, with space for five adults, even if the transmission tunnel restricts room in the middle back seat. The AMG front sports seats – upgraded to ‘performance’ seats in the S – are supremely comfortable on long journeys.
At 4,988mm in length, 1,463mm height and 1,907mm width (excluding door mirrors), the E 63 is slightly longer, taller and wider than the standard E-Class saloon, reflecting its beefier and pumped-up stance.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Legroom is excellent, while the roofline ensures that adults will find plenty of headroom in the back. That said, the rear bench is best reserved for two adults, as three abreast is a bit of squeeze. The transmission tunnel also impacts on legroom for the central rear passenger.
With 540 litres of luggage capacity, the E 63 saloon offers the largest boot in its class, on a par with the Jaguar XE and 10 litres more than the BMW 5 Series and A6. It’s well shaped and offers excellent access for a saloon car.
If that’s not enough, there’s always the E 63 Estate, which offers 640 litres of space with the rear seats in their upright position, extending to as much as 1,820 litres with the seats folded down.
Reliability and Safety
The E 63 shares all of the active and passive safety systems with the regular E-Class, making it one of the safest performance cars you can buy. Active braking assist, multiple airbags, attention assist, emergency braking and a tyre pressure monitoring system are just some of the standard features.
For the ultimate protection, a Driving Assistance Plus Package is available for £1,695, which, in short, will do everything it can to keep you on the straight and narrow. Active braking, steering and lane keeping are included, along with preventative measures in the event of a side or rear collision.
The E-Class was awarded a maximum five-star safety rating by Euro NCAP, scoring 95 per cent for adult occupants, 90 per cent for child occupants, 77 per cent for pedestrian safety and 62 per cent for safety assist technologies.
Mercedes-Benz didn’t perform quite so well in our most recent Driver Power Survey, finishing 21st out of 27 on the list of best manufacturers. A score of 88.92 percent meant that only Renault, Vauxhall, Land Rover, MG, Citroen and Dacia finished below the German marque.
The Mercedes-AMG E 63 comes with a three-year unlimited-mileage warranty and up to 30 years of anti-corrosion cover.
Mercedes-AMG offers a Service Car package, allowing you to spread the cost of servicing a new car. On E63 models, the price works out at £45 per month, based on two services taken over 24 months or three services over 36 months. Other options are available.