We all know Mercedes-Benz has some pretty amazing technology but there's no way they could read my mind, right? And yet the facelifted E-Class, and the E63 AMG in particular, seemed to have addressed any doubt I'd ever had about the brand.
Cards on the table; I'd previously felt Mercedes could improve its steering feel and weight, handling balance and composure, plus the overall sportiness of its sedans. And would you believe the 2014 E63 AMG has addressed each issue!
Until our drive was cut short by police intervention (see Editor's Letter in this issue), I was enjoying the experience enormously. With the 4MATIC all-wheel drive fitted standard to all US cars, the E63 was far more composed than before. And while it's not quite the wheel-spinning traffic light champion it used to be, the greater control and hard launches were greatly appreciated. In fact, we rarely saw the traction control light even flicker, which will be a novel experience for owners of the RWD E63.
It uses a 33/67% front/rear bias, making it essentially RWD for better balance but with a sniff of power oversteer to keep it entertaining.
The new E63 has more power than before and can be identified by its redesigned front-end with integrated star, A-wing grille plus larger ducting to aid cooling. This applies to both the Sedan and Wagon, so we took an E63 AMG Wagon for a spin because we love the cargo-hauler's proportions. It'll only be available in North America in the "S" specification, which means you'll pay a little more but we suggest it's worth the money.
The enormous luggage area makes the Wagon incredibly flexible and has only one drawback - it weighs a whopping 4508 lb (compared to the 4276 lb Sedan). This dulls the 0-60mph sprint by only 0.1sec, so in the real world it has all the performance of its sibling. In fact, we bullied our way past several Sedans on the tight roads around the Montserrat region, feeling no detrimental affects.
What we noticed during such maneuvers was the overall stability and lack of body roll. It definitely carries itself with poise, thanks in part to a standard five-point IRS set-up with airbags that's used across the entire E63 AMG range.
Despite this, the E63 AMG driving experience is totally dominated by its biturbo 5.5-liter V8. In this new guise it boasts 550hp and 531 lb-ft (up from 518hp, 516 lb-ft), which is close to the optional Performance Package offered with the previous E63. However, the new S model takes even that to a stratospheric 577hp at 5500rpm and 590 lb-ft at 2000rpm, thanks in part to 14.5psi boost pressure rather than 13.1psi on the regular E63.
In addition to the power hike, the AMG S gets a limited slip rear diff, red calipers, ten-spoke grey wheels, interior contrast stitching and alcantara on the steering wheel. It can also have an optional carbon engine cover and exterior styling, forged wheels and B&O sound system, among others.
The S model definitely gives Mercedes customers the opportunity to increase their bragging rights and one-up M5 owners who "only" have 560hp. Let's see if BMW responds with a 590hp M5 M... That's a power struggle we'd enjoy.
Along with more power, the E63 has nicely weighted steering and a good-sized, flat-bottomed steering wheel with large paddle shifters behind. Our only complaint was that the transmission wouldn't always respond instantaneously to a tug on the paddle, but it did offer rev-matching on downshifts, allowing the pant-wetting exhaust to be heard.
Another small complaint was the brakes: Admittedly the six-piston front calipers squeezed the 14.2" drilled rotors hard, but didn't always seem to offer the retardation we needed. Of course, we were hammering through mountain roads, and possibly our selection of the heavier E63 AMG Wagon was the reason, but we'd have liked a little more bite at times to match the grip from the big Pirelli P Zeros.
These are minor observations when driven exceedingly hard, yet the E63 remains an awesome machine. It's sheer size and sound is intimidating enough, but the aggressive styling is a genuine left-lane clearer. In fact, the German market will get slightly revised aerodynamic pieces to tone down the body language, while the American market gets this hot sauce version when it arrives in August 2013.
It's not a brute, though. Like all E-Class the E63 boasts a suite of new technology that make it safer and more efficient than ever. In addition to a raft of infotainment equipment, it has full LED lighting plus Attention Assist and the Euro NCAP-awarded Collision Prevention Assist as standard. The latter warns of potential collisions using radar, and can boost the brake assist to optimise stopping distances.
We enjoyed a demonstration of the optional Active Lane Keeping Assist, which uses radar and stereoscopic cameras to detect when you leave your lane. If oncoming traffic is detected, it's able to gently apply the brakes on one side of the car to safely return you to your lane.
But the best demo involved the new Parking Assist, that offered both parallel and perpendicular parking. All you do is identify the parking space by driving across it. Once it signals it's ready, all you do is select drive or reverse as instructed, and it parks perfectly. It's not something anybody reading this magazine should need, but you have to love the technology. Now all I need to do is verify they're not reading my mind.
2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG 4MATIC
Layout front-engine, AWD
Engine 5461cc 90? V8 32v biturbo direct injection, variable timing drivetrain seven-speed AMG Speedshift MCT transmission with launch control, 4MATIC all-wheel drive
Brakes 14.2" drilled two-piece rotors f & r, six piston f, four-piston r calipers in silver with white AMG lettering
Suspension AMG three-link independent front with coil springs, five-link independent rear with Airmatic, sways bars f & r, AMG Adaptive damping
Wheels & Tires 19x9" f, 19x9.5" r ten-spoke AMG wheels painted titanium gray, 255/35 R19 f, 285/30 R19 r Pirelli P Zero tires
Exterior steel body, aluminum front fenders, doors and hood, composite trunk, silver-chrome AMG "twin blade" radiator grille, body color "A-wing", chrome-framed front air inlets, color-matched splitter, flared fenders, black flics on side air inlets, rear diffuser with black mesh, chromed dual tailpipes
Power 550hp at 5500rpm
Torque 531 lb-ft at 1750-5250rpm
Top speed 155mph
Weight 4276 lb