Mercedes E63 AMG S 4MATIC (2013) review

By Ben Pulman 06 February 2013

By Ben Pulman

06 February 2013

This is the facelifted Mercedes E63 AMG, and inevitably it’s got more power than ever before. But now, thanks to four-wheel drive, it’s also got the hardware to deal with 577bhp and 590lb ft…

Hang on! What’s all this nonsense about a four-wheel drive Mercedes E63 AMG?

Far from being a wild rumour, those tyre-frying folk at Mercedes’ AMG tuning division have gone all sensible and decided to fit the revised E63 with four-wheel drive. It won’t be a niche seller either: AMG reckons over 50% of E63 sales will be the 4MATIC variant. Plus, in left-hand drive markets (i.e. most of the world) the new range-topping E63 S model will only be available with the 4MATIC system, and in the USA all E63s will be sold in 4MATIC guise, regardless of whether you go for the non-S or S.

We’ve seen four-wheel drive AMGs before, in the likes of the ML63, but the company has been musing over four-wheel drive saloons, estates and coupes for the better part of a decade, and admits that the proliferation of Audi’s RS models with Quattro four-wheel drive has heavily influenced customer opinion. In the likes of the USA buyers have questioned why lesser E-class models have 4MATIC but the E63 doesn’t.

That’s changed now, with AMG’s adoption of Mercedes’ 4MATIC four-wheel drive system. There are AMG-specific changes, of course, with the torque split set at 33:67 front-to-rear, and a torque vectoring-type system that can brake individual wheels when the ESP’s halfway house ‘Sport Handling’ mode is selected. All the extra hardware adds 70kg to the kerbweight, and marginally worsens the mpg and CO2 figures.

And I can get a four-wheel drive E63 AMG in the UK?

Only if you really want it. The packaging limitations of the E-class platform mean the four-wheel drive system can only be engineered for left-hand drive models, so if you want a 4MATIC E63 AMG you’ll have to ask your dealer nicely to import one specially.

The upshot is that the UK is one of the few markets that’ll get the full-bore 577bhp S model in rear-wheel drive guise. It remains a very good car, but the 4MATIC model is great…

Really?

Yes. With four wheels distributing the torque instead of two the E63 S 4MATIC spends much more driving forward rather than flashing a warning light and cutting power. With the front wheels pulling you through it feels keener on turn-in than the rear-drive non-S model, and you can apply the throttle much sooner in the corners too. On tight, twisty and undulating Spanish mountain roads it’s not only reassuring, but also more fun as you can better exploit all 577bhp and 590lb ft.

On the smooth Spanish Tarmac the standard AMG Ride Control system can be switched to the stiffer Sport and Sport+ damping modes without any real deterioration the ride quality (it won’t be the case in the UK) and overall it feels a much more cohesive set-up than a rock-hard Audi RS. AMG’s nailed the four-wheel thing straight out of the bag.

We also drove a non-S E63, in rear-wheel drive guise, but unless you live on burnouts and booting the throttle out of junctions, it’s the 4MATIC model you want.

So presumably the E63 AMG 4MATIC has a lot of power to deal with?

It was 15 years ago that BMW shocked the world when it launched the 394bhp E39-spec M5 and trounced Merc’s 349bhp E55 AMG; jump forward to the present day and the revised E63 AMG has a mad 550bhp. It almost calls for an exclamation mark!

That’s 32bhp more than before, and as much as a pre-facelift E63 optioned with the £6495 AMG Performance Package. Torque is up too, from 516lb ft to 532lb ft, but that figure is short of what the Performance Package offered.

The new Performance Pack-equipped E63? Discontinued, and replaced by the E63 S, as customers wanted a standalone model with styling tweaks and extra badges to signal they’d spent the extra cash. Its engine output? 577bhp and 590lb ft, thanks to a little tweaking of the two turbocharges. Together with the four-wheel drive system, the E63 S 4MATIC will smash through the 0-62mph sprint in just 3.6 seconds. Suddenly the new RS6 Avant’s 3.9sec time looks a little tardy.

You might notice the difference in performance between the non-S and S in the UK, but back-to-back in Spain there’s little to choose between the rear-drive 550bhp model and the 70kg heavier 577bhp S – if the roads are smooth. If not, the extra traction of the S will see it waltz away.

Regardless, the twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 is a great engine. We love AMG’s naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8, and although this bi-turbo V8 doesn’t rev quite as high, it’s got loads more torque, and now the 4MATIC system means using it all isn’t a problem. Despite the blowers, this V8 sounds nearly as good too, with a meaty rasp when started, a deep rumble that builds to sharp bark as you rev it, a cacophony of pops and bangs on the overrun, and a lovely crackle as you upshift. Makes you wonder why the new BMW M5 sounds so bland.

If only the MCT transmission wasn’t quite so slow-witted – we like the big steering-wheel mounted paddles, but the ‘box is sometimes hesitant to upshift, and won’t drop a couple of cogs even when you know it’s got the requisite spare revs.

Anything else?

The exterior styling revisions mean the E63 has adopted the same softer and smoother headlamp treatment of the revised E-class, but the AMG-specific bumpers means there’s a hint of BMW’s 4-series concept at the front.

Inside all facelifted E-classes have adopted the slimmer air vents of the CLS to make the cabin feel more special, and AMG touches include buttons and dials to control the gearbox, suspension and ESP, all your favourite settings can be saved via the AMG button.

The 4MATIC gubbins are also now available in the E63 Estate, and the CLS63 and CLS63 Shooting Brake, but again only in left-hand drive. However, this is just the start of four-wheel AMGs: up next will be the four-wheel drive A45, CLA 45 and GLA 45 AMGs; the next AMG S-class will be 4MATIC; and the company is currently evaluating whether its take on 2014’s new C-class should include four-wheel drive. As for the next E-class, we’re promised the UK won’t miss out on a four-wheel drive AMG variant.

Verdict

At a stroke Mercedes’s AMG division has made the E63 even better, the four-wheel drive system meaning you can cruise comfortably in this brilliant super-saloon, or attack your favourite country road – and not worry about the weather and how ridiculously overpowered it is. The only downside is it’s not coming to the UK.

 

Statistics

How much? £83,740
On sale in the UK: Not in the UK
Engine: 5461cc 32v twin-turbo V8, 577bhp @ 5500rpm, 590lb ft @ 1750-5000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed MCT automatic, four-wheel drive
Performance: 3.6sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 27.4mpg, 242g/km CO3
How heavy / made of? 1865kg/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)?

Ratings

Handling 4 out of 5
Performance 5 out of 5
Usability 5 out of 5
Feelgood factor 5 out of 5
CAR's Rating 5 out of 5

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  • Mercedes E63 AMG S 4MATIC (2013) review
  • Mercedes E63 AMG S 4MATIC (2013) review
  • Mercedes E63 AMG S 4MATIC (2013) review
  • Mercedes E63 AMG S 4MATIC (2013) review
  • Mercedes E63 AMG S 4MATIC (2013) review
  • Mercedes E63 AMG S 4MATIC (2013) review
  • Mercedes E63 AMG S 4MATIC (2013) review
  • Mercedes E63 AMG S 4MATIC (2013) review
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