Merc E63 AMG a mink-coated missile

By Denis Droppa Time of article published Apr 12, 2012

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A fuel-saving idle-stop system seems strangely out of synch in a car that can race to 100km/h in less than five seconds, and roar like a wounded bear while doing it.

In the Controlled Efficiency transmission mode this Merc’s engine meekly switches off when the car comes to a standstill, saving both money and icebergs (with the reduced consumption and C02 emissions).

But super-sedans such as the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG are by necessity a discordant dish that, on the face of it, seems about as likely a mix as steak with chocolate chilli sauce. One minute the car’s a civilised limousine purring along to the next business meeting. The next it’s a roaring, angry beast that’s dicing with Lamborghinis - all determined by the amount of pressure you place on the throttle.

EXTRA MUSCLE

In November the E Class became the latest recipient of AMG’s new-generation 5.5-litre V8 biturbo engine, which replaces the former normally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8. Power outputs in the latest E63 have risen from 386kW and 630Nm to 386kW and 700Nm, while the optional AMG Performance Package hikes this to 410kW and 800Nm.

Apart from the extra muscle (and maintaining most of it at all altitudes), fuel consumption in the smaller engine is said to be 22 percent down compared to the old 6.2, with or without the Performance Package.

An important contribution to this frugality is also made by the AMG Speedshift 7-speed auto transmission, and the abovementioned idle-stop system. The 14.8 litres per 100km achieved by our test car in a town/freeway mix isn’t too bad considering all that power, although some way off Merc’s optimistic 9.8 litre claim.

IMPRESSIVELY BALLISTIC

But the more important numbers (to most E63 buyers) relate to acceleration figures and here the Benz proves to be impressively ballistic. The factory’s claimed sea level figures are 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds (one-tenth quicker with the AMG Performance package), and our test car - with the standard 386kW ‘neath the hood - achieved a best time of 4.6 seconds at Gauteng altitude.

That’s some serious horizon-chasing pace, and when driving in full banzai mode it’s delivered with a raunchy roar that warms the heart-cockles of any genuine petrol head, without being intrusively vocal when the car’s driven normally.

Just to settle those inevitable around-the-braai discussions we’ve compared the Merc’s figures with the BMW M5 we tested a few weeks ago and, as you can see in the performance comparison table, the Benz has almost identical acceleration times as its Bavarian arch rival. No clear winner in the sprint stakes.

UNLEASH THE CAR’S DARK SIDE

Apart from the weight of your right foot there’s some electronic trickery that helps morph the E63 from comfy commuter to foam-at-the-mouth sports-car. By default the car operates in Controlled Efficiency transmission mode but Sport, Sport plus and Manual can be selected to unleash the car’s dark side with shorter response times and more spontaneous gear changes. The engine management system also briefly interrupts fuel supply for faster gear shifts and an emotive acoustic effect.

Also, an electronically controlled damping system automatically softens or firms-up the suspension depending on driving conditions, or you can stiffen it manually by pressing a button.

In addition there’s a three-stage stability control system while the electromechanical speed-sensitive sports steering features a more direct ratio than its predecessor, and variable power assistance that adapts according to the suspension mode.

For improved handling the new E63 AMG has AMG Ride Control sports suspension with a front axle that’s 56mm wider than other E-Class cars. While you’re aware it’s a rather large and heavy car, it never feels wallowy or aloof.

The grip, steering sharpness, and lack of body roll all make for a composed corner-clinger.

The suspension in comfort mode feels firmer than regular E Class models but, except on very bad roads, the car doesn’t jar uncomfortably. The ride height isn’t particularly low either, which makes the E63 a practical daily commuter.

Visually Mercedes has adopted a stealth strategy with this AMG car, with a subtle makeover instead of being souped up like a boy racer’s Saturday night ride. Apart from the E63 AMG badge, the car gets unique ten-spoke 18” AMG wheels, a quartet of chrome-plated tailpipes, and slightly beefier bumpers and side sills to indicate its head honcho status in the E Class range.

Inside, the AMG three-spoke steering wheel (flattened at the top and bottom a la racing car) is the sporty focal point of an otherwise subtly-enhanced interior. For extra money you can spruce things up with optional items like carbonfibre/black piano lacquer trim, and illuminated AMG door panels.

DROWSINESS DETECTOR

Apart from its standard nine airbags, ABS brakes and stability control, the top-of-the-range E Class comes with numerous optional active safety features, the best of them being the Distronic Plus system which automatically keeps a safe following distance to the car in front. Night View Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist are extra-cost options too, while an Attention Assist drowsiness detector comes standard.

Lack of cabin stowage space is my major bugbear in this car. There are just two cupholders between the front seats, and most of your junk has to slide around in the door pockets or cubbyhole.

VERDICT

The Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG is a mink-coated missile that, whilst capable of Ferrari-like performance, is also a refined, sophisticated and comfortable daily ride. It sells for R1 257 000, and R82 000 extra for the optional performance package. - Star Motoring

PERFORMANCE COMPARISON: MERCEDES E63 AMG / BMW M5

0-60km/h:2.5 seconds / 2.7 seconds.

0-100km/h:4.6 seconds / 4.6 seconds.

Quarter mile:12.8 seconds / 12.9 seconds.

Overtaking acceleration:60-120km/h: 3.5 seconds / 3.5 seconds.

Tests conducted at Gerotek using Racelogic Vbox timing equipment.

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