Let’s get the numbers out of the way first, just to underline the point. With 450kW and 850Nm this is the most powerful E-Class yet made. Under the hood is the same 4-litre twin-turbo V8 as in current AMG GT and C63 models, but here thumping out power levels not yet seen in any other 63 variant.
It’s also the fastest E-Class ever with a quoted 0-100km/h time of 3.4 seconds, but on our test track the monster Merc outdid factory claims with a best run of 3.35 seconds. That’s right, 3.35 seconds. This is proper supercar territory, but in a four-door sedan dripping with luxury modcons. More on those later.
It also crossed the quarter mile in 11.36 seconds, thereby slotting itself into fifth place overall in our Quarter Mile Kings list. Ahead of it are three McLarens (including the P1) and a Porsche 911 Turbo. For reference, the next quickest saloon over the strip is a Panamera Turbo at 11.6, and after that it’s Audi’s RS7 at 11.9. The E63’s closest natural rival, BMW’s M5, crosses the quarter-mile line a full second later, but we’ll have to wait until next year to see how the latest, more powerful, all-wheel drive version fares.
The key to the E63’s brutal acceleration is its 4Matic all-wheel drive system. This is an enormous amount of power to lay down without traction from all four paws, and it seems Mercedes (and BMW) have come to their senses and followed Audi’s lead with drive to both axles in their latest performance variants. In a way, all-wheel drive has come out of pure necessity in the so-called ‘power wars’, as without it things would be getting a bit slippery. Not to mention downright dangerous.
But fear not fans of fried rear rubber, this Merc comes with a Drift Mode (how very un-German) and after a special sequence of button clicks and paddle pulls it’s possible to lock the centre differential to send all drive to the back axle only. I’m not sure why, or when, a driver with 450kW underfoot would need this feature unless they’re filming an episode of Top Gear, but hey, it’s there nonetheless. Our test car’s Drift Mode function seemed to be disabled, and I’m perhaps a bit thankful for that. So were the car’s 20-inch Pirellis.
Some credit for the E63’s claim-beating dash must go to its nine-speed gearbox. As with previous AMG seven-speeders it’s a multi-clutch unit (no dual-clutch or torque converter here), and even if it’s not quite as sharp or synapse quick as BMW’s M-DCT it makes up for it with smoothness and robustness.
In Comfort modes it silkily ticks up and down through ratios, and in Race mode it’s happy to leap off the line with launch controlled starts time after time with no complaints from temperature sensors or electronic preservation nannies. This thing is happy to take a pounding. Mechanical sympathy, pah!
At a shade under two tons this is one heavy barge, but AMG’s worked some magic in cloaking the weight. It’s remarkably agile for such a large car and it flits from corner to corner with surprisingly light steering feel.
But it’s the standard-fit air suspension system that’s most responsible for hiding the heft. It rides on a literal cushion of air that can be altered for firmness in four steps, and though it’s never really as ultra-plush as an S-Class, it’s amazing how engineers have made a high performance vehicle handle so well and ride so softly at the same time.
Even the most tech-savvy users will suffer some brain glitches at first sight of the dashboard’s widescreen displays.
On start-up this huge monitor (it’s actually two side-by-side screens) comes to life with an animated showreel, and from there it settles into a customisable colour smorgasboard of vehicle settings and readouts worthy of fitment in a jumbo jet’s cockpit.
I can normally jive with these complex systems, and often set up parameters to my liking at the start of week long road test, but even after seven days this Merc had me puzzled when it came to the finer intricacies of its various menus. Change from radio to USB input, no problem. But search for a song within my iPhone’s playlist, impossible.
Even more frustrating is that there are so many ways to manipulate the content. Rotary dial, touch-sensitive pad, hard buttons, voice recognition and steering controls - none of them very user friendly.
It all makes for quite a theatrical exhibition though, and if you enjoy wowing mates with sheer flamboyance the E63 will be hard to beat. Ambient lighting can be set to any colour of the rainbow, glossy carbonfibre inlays adorn nearly every interior panel, and the instrument cluster can be personalised with various graphics and background colours.
Did I mention heated, cooled and massaging seats, an IWC watchface in the dash fascia, Burmester sound systems with retractable tweeters in the door panels, and the perfume dispenser that can be set to waft through vents at different intensities?
The E63 S 4Matic+ does it all, in and it does it in a hurry. All hail the king.
Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic+
|Engine:||4-litre, V8 turbopetrol|
|Power:||450kW @ 5750-6500rpm|
|Torque:||850Nm @ 2500-4500rpm|
|0-100km/h (tested Gauteng):||3.35 seconds|
|Quarter mile (tested Gauteng):||11.36 seconds|
|Top speed (claimed):||250km/h (opt 300)|
|Price:||R1 878 318|
|Maintenance plan:||6-year/100 000km|
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