Driven: 2010 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG

By Matt Davis

July 02, 2009

The range-topper of the new E-Class has a lot going for it and we just jumped out of the driver’s seat, so we ought to know.

—Stuttgart, Germany

Boy, has the E-Class Mercedes ever come a long way from being the world’s taxi cab. This latest W212 four-door E-Class is a proper executive sedan filled to the gills with technology, luxury, and style. What is already an edgier base model E-Class goes to the edgy-looking extreme here in the 518 horsepower, E63 AMG and you either mind that or you don’t. We do feel the edge is a little overstated, but it’s certainly not heinously so.

This tune of the M156 6208cc big-bore V-8 engine, built from scratch by AMG, is pulled straight from the SL63 AMG that has preceded it. Not only do horsepower and torque numbers look the same between the SL63 and the E63, but the E63 also benefits from the seven-speed AMG Speedshift MCT sports transmission. Besides taking these good parts from the SL, the E-Class also gets a similar front axle overhaul as first tried and loved on the C63 AMG.

Between the surer footing and steering in front and the fresh wet-clutch tranny sans power-sapping torque converter, this E63 comports itself in aggressive ways that we would never have thought possible just a couple of years ago. The 14.2-inch compound lead brake rotors ventilated and perforated all around do great stopping services—so we’d stay away from the optional carbon ceramic discs (15.8-inch in front). That is,  unless you were wanting to track-drive the E63 with the Sports Package and delimited motor going as high as 186 miles per hour, supported by a more rigid sports suspension calibration.

If the new E63 AMG were to follow European pricing patterns, this new four-door rocket ship should cost around $98,000 when it hits our shores in mid-November—over twice the asking price for the E350 base North American model. We trust this won’t happen, however, since it would be a badly timed price jump over the current E63’s $88,575 MSRP.

Whereas the C63 has been by far the best selling AMG car worldwide over the past 18 months or so, AMG spokespeople are certain that the E63 will take over the leader’s spot in short order. We do like the C63 an awful lot though and it looks better as a complete package design-wise, naturally also driving better with its smaller dimensions and less weight. But typical Mercedes customers with cash will always want bigger and a tick softer feeling than, say, the typical BMW aficionado, so we’re pretty sure the AMG experts are right.

Given that the acceleration from zero to 62 mph is estimated at 4.5 seconds with the new transmission, that’d put a 60 mph dash on our continent at 4.4 seconds or better, working out overall to one-tenth of a second faster than the outgoing W211 E 63 AMG with the previous version of the seven-speed transmission. Which makes the E 63 AMG just plain fast everyday. Steering is more responsive as well due to 33 percent greater steering column stiffness and a 22 percent tighter ratio of 14:1. Couple these bits with the 2.2-inch wider front track and you’ve got yourself a handler.

This fresh transmission has the center console rheostat knob that shows C, S, S+, M and then RS. Whereas the C no longer stands for Comfort but Controlled Efficiency nowadays, the RS is the Race Start setting. These modes effect only the transmission and throttle, with all suspension changes in the AMG Ride Control (Comfort, Sport and Sport+) having their own console button. It all works swell, but the perceived differences in the standard hydraulic suspension’s three levels are not that great and AMG ought to look a bit at the Volkswagen Active Chassis Control or Audi/Ferrari/Corvette/Cadillac’s magnetorheologic two-mode system.

What’s new and good with the MCT 7 transmission is that on downshifts we get automatic rev-matching as on the SL63, but we also now get a subtle form of cylinder deactivation on upshifts to keep the shifts seamless and quicker. This involves both fuel injection and the ignition process being choked off down to just two cylinders at that upward shift moment. The strategy works wonders is all we know and even hotting it around on the Swabian hills and dales in Manual or Sport+ we felt like shifting kings and missed nary a beat into and out of and between the hundreds of curves. Our optional five-spoke forged 19-inch wheels were just the ticket on these days’ bone-dry and clean roads, too. All of this matched with the new Sebring performance exhaust just put the cherry on top as our driving energy was echoed through the hills with the four new chromed tips.

So, this former global taxi now has a class leading performance version that retains a couple of soft edges for old times’ sake. Nothing old about the added sophistication nor about the interface with all that tech in the luxury cabin.