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Does it work? Mercedes-AMG E63 S's drift mode tested

Published: 16 June 2017

► AMG E63 S's drift mode tested
► Merc's big bruiser can still go sideways...
► ...which means regular tyre replacements

Bought yourself a Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic+? Good. It might be all-wheel drive now, but you can still make it go sideways. Drift modes are the in-thing these days after being made famous of late by the Ford Focus RS. However, Merc's system promises to be a bit more sophisticated than Ford's offering.

So how do you engage it? Select Race mode. Then select ESP Off; as if you'd ever have that on. You'll also need manual mode for the automatic gearbox, but, of course, you're already in that. Then pull both the paddles towards you, and, in the best tradition of computers, you'll be asked if you're sure. One more tug of the right paddle replies yes and has a clutch in the transmission decoupling drive to the front wheels for Drift mode. Do that and all 604bhp and 627lb ft of torque is sent to the rear axle and it's goodbye tyres.

Genius is close to insanity, and that's particularly true when applied to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Clever enough to all but drive itself, it's stuffed to its luxurious headliner with all Merc's latest driver and safety aids, as well as connectivity you didn't know you needed. And that's before you get to the AMG versions: still very clever, but now nuttier than squirrel poop.

Up to a point, the formula's familiar from other AMGs – that's to say everything starts with a surfeit of power, via a big, noisy V8 engine. In today's E63 S (which has 41bhp more than the non-S version) 604bhp from its thunderous 4.0-litre biturbo engine.

Even Mercedes-AMG recognises that 604bhp and 627lb ft is a lot, which is why the E63 comes with 4Matic+ four-wheel drive. Ever since the four-wheel-drive-only E63 was first rumoured, AMG's boss Tobias Moers was on the defensive. It'd still be a true AMG, he said. Repeatedly. He wasn't lying, either, as it's exactly that, because you can switch off all-wheel traction, its trick 4Matic+ system allowing 100% of the drive to be diverted to the rear by disengaging a clutch to the front. AMG calls it Drift mode. How wonderfully juvenile.

Mercedes-AMG E63 S drift mode dials

Although engaging it requires a bit of menu browsing and paddle pulling, it's not too testing for those brought 
up putting cheat modes into their 
PlayStations. Clever stuff, if for silly results, Drift mode turns the already tail-happy, tyre troubling E63 S into an unruly, expensive, smoke machine.

Looks great in magazines and on 
YouTube, but of questionable relevance if you pay for your own tyres and petrol. But then you could say that about a 604bhp saloon regardless of Drift mode.

So pop your friendly tyre fitter as a favourite contact in the infotainment, buy some shares in a rubber firm and bribe the corner marshal at the trackday to turn a blind eye to your 
silliness. It's mad, it's fun, and it works, though AMG trusts you to be clever enough not to use it on the road.

Did the Mercedes' drift mode work?

Yes. Adding the screaming of tortured tyres to the engine's guttural roar is an absolute cinch in Drift mode. Select it and the E63 S can be driven around with tyre smoke pouring out of the rear wheelarches and as much corrective lock as you like. You just need space, and a bit of talent, too, as, really, everything's off.

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