New Cars + New Gear + New Technology

First Drive

Some of you grousers might still hang on to the thought that AMG was better off before Mercedes owned the company whole back in 2005. It wasn't. Truth is that there weren't really too many AMG cars to fall madly in love with between the famous "Hammer" 300E sedan in 1986 and the moment the now Mercedes-owned tuner finally started delivering its very own V8 engine in 2007, the M156 6.2-liter good for over 500 horses and gobs of torque.

This hot unit has transformed AMG overnight into a real threat to BMW's almighty M, while it outright humiliates the Audi RS franchise. While the C63 AMG has made a most impressive impact on us all, it's the bigger luxo E63 that bowls me over with its newfound dance moves backed up with all that adrenalin.

Regardless of your opinion on the family looks, the W212 E-Class sedan (much moreso than the sexy but disappointing coupe) is perfectly executed as a middling sibling between the C- and S-Classes. In E63 trim, the 16-foot sedan inherits the other new AMG exclusives: the wider and nimbler front axle with steel-spring suspension and greater negative camber, and the latest 7-speed multi-clutch automatic with four-mode AMG Drive Unit. Additionally, it gets a posh rear suspension scheme supplied by Sachs with a high-end adaptive scheme that makes the tail hard or soft depending on what you want the car to do.

On the road, the new E63 shows only a little of its former body roll tendency and only in the tightest curves, while any understeer has been pleasingly minimized. For the normal day to day, the driving is sublime under all circumstances. The latest seven-speed MCT tranny and its software modes of C (controlled efficiency), S (sport, duh), S+, and M (manual), all represent well, S being the best all-rounder if I'm solo, C being right if Mom's a passenger. Three-mode ESP-on, ESP Sport, off-makes for another cool menu depending on your mood. As ever, Mercedes still won't let "ESP off" actually stand for "wholly off," but this becomes an issue only at the track, and sensors prevent the system from locking up completely if you're stuck still.

I got to witness the E63 at its extremes in northeast Italy. Imola is a perfect layout for racing touring cars and this best-of-all E really had a good time out there on two perfect days. Whereas the former E63 with the old seven-speed was best left in S and using the paddles, this new brew is equally sensational left in S+ and just gripping the steerer or switching to M for "I decide" shifts. The track days being as ideal as they were, I went with M mode and ESP (mostly) off. Set up this way, the big E did just about everything I had in mind when I had it in mind. When it didn't, it was a matter of either my braking harder and in a truly straight-on position before the curve, or learning a better and generous line through the curve to account for the momentum this thing carries along.

For these self-improvement purposes, luckily the 14:1 steering via the 2.2-inch-wider new front axle is sensational, the large compound brakes are solid (though I'd go for the optional huge ceramic discs), and the 518 hp and 465 lb-ft are handled well by the 19-inch Pirelli P Zeros. In the end, at the declared 4,050-pound curb weight, each horse under the E 63 hood hauls around 7.8 pounds, which isn't half bad for a highway-bombing sedan. And the four-tip Sebring exhaust system is typically throaty V8 in character, making pretty get-what-you-pay-for noise. The sound wave warping effect off the concrete walls along Imola's main straight is worthy stuff.

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