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Merc's new E 63 AMG driven

2009-11-10 10:28

Lance Branquinho

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Mercedes-Benz
Model E 63 AMG
Engine 6.2l V8
Power 386kW @ 6 800r/min
Torque 630Nm @ 5 200r/min
Transmission Seven-speed MCT
Zero To Hundred 4.5 seconds
Top Speed 250/300km/h limited
Fuel Tank 66l
Fuel Consumption 12.6l/100km
Weight 1 840kg
Boot Size 540l
Airbags Seven
Tyres F: 255/40 R 18, R: 285/35 R 18
Front Suspension Three-link with coils
Rear Suspension Multi-link with air-spring bellows
Warranty 2 year
Price R1 150 000
Rivals Jaguar XFR, Audi RS6, BMW M5
When you're talking high performance four-door motoring, Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class range occupies a position of particular significance. No, really, I am serious.

A proud V8 high performance history

Even before Merc took a controlling share in AMG during the late 1990s, the E-Class range featured a rather special performance version with impeccable sleeper credentials.

The car I am referring is the Porsche-fettled W124 500 E.

It looked like a garden-variety E-Class, yet featured a revised suspension and a raucous 5l V8 that barely allowed enough room in the engine bay for the ancillaries to function.

It also gave E34 M5 owners tailgating company in the fast lane of Germany’s autobahnen

By 1999, AMG (by now a full subsidiary of Mercedes) was commissioned to engineer an E-Class sedan that would obliterate any accelerative performance credentials BMW’s E39 BMW could claim at the time.

AMG obliged by attaching a Lysholm-type supercharger (manufactured by IHI) to its hand-built 5.5l V8 and by 2002 the family-burdened driving hooligans of the world had option on a 350kW/700Nm four-door family sedan, the E55 AMG Kompressor.

AMG's socially irresponsible, but hugely lovable, W211 E 55 kompressor. With 350kW on tap it opened the German four-door sedan power floodgates.

Audi responded with the first generation RS6, BMW followed up with an impeccably sophisticated E60 M5 and today, well, you now what kind of four-door German hyper sedan insanity is on offer as 2009 draws to a close…

So, the question arises – does the latest E 63 AMG pay homage to its E-Class performance heritage or has it been placated by a world in financial turmoil and a regulatory environment obsessed with emission controls?

Traditional AMG strengths

Mechanically the new E 63 is not a radical departure from AMG's current performance formula.

The neatly oversquare 6.2l (yes, we’re calling it a 6.2 no matter what Merc says) engine has been remapped to produce an additional 8kW, which pegs the venerable AMG V8 as the world’s most powerful naturally aspirated production engine.

Yes, a gaggle of Ferraris, Lambos and Astons are more powerful, but nobody produces as many 386kW engines as AMG does yearly – except if Audi’s R8 V10 production capacity increases exponentially soon…

MCT transmission, which does without a torque converter and boasts a wet-start up clutch instead, can shift in 100 milliseconds and double-declutch on downshifts. Missing that third pedal in the footwell? Neither are we…

Unlike most AMGs, the E 63’s drive selector is an old-fashioned shifter between the front seats instead of a stalk on the right-hand side of the steering column.

A collection of buttons (and one dial) are arranged on the driver’s side of the transmission shifter gate, all of which are able to extract a significant level of entertainment from the E 63 package.

The large dial closest to the centre-console is the four-stage AMG transmission mode selector, which features comfort, sport, sport+, manual and race start settings – all of which are pretty self-explanatory.

AMG’s race start setting (selectable only when the engine is at 81 degree-plus operating temperatures, with the front wheels straight) is a bit much of muchness.

I mean, how many E63 owners are juvenile traffic light racers, really? It will get you off the line with a minimum of 285mm rubber marks and a high level of vectored urgency though.

Trailing the AMG drive unit rotary switch are three buttons.

The first one controls the ESP (which can be completely disengaged for those brazen enough to live with the consequences), the second, E 63’s adaptive damping and a third button stores personal preferences for the aforementioned two functions. Neat.

The E 63 cabin is executed in Elegance instead of Avant Garde trim. This means it’s much more in line with classic E-Class comfort and subtle detailing than contemporary AMGs - and all the better off for it.

For R29 000 you can have carbon-fibre bits littering the cabin and for R48 000 Merc will cover nearly every surface inside (bar the windows of course) with Nappa leather or Alcantara.

Mellow looker…

Merc’s W212 has been one of the company’s least loved styling renditions of recent times. It’s especially the extraordinarily bland rear view which leaves much to be desired.

From the front, particularly in E 63 trim, it cuts an intimidating presence. The larger air ducts cut into that AMG front apron and those 17mm wider fenders flesh out the W212 shape appreciably.

Despite the presence of an AMG-sourced rear apron and those dual twin-exhausts the W212 rump remains wholly uninspiring – which is disconcerting, as it’s the view most people will get to see of E 63…

...mental go

Mercedes did the sensible thing when launching something as rapid as E 63 and set us about Kyalami in it.

Intermittent Highveld thunderstorms ensured the track was potentially lethal (especially in a 386kW rear-wheel drive car) and I had my reservations about the entire exercise. How remarkably unfounded they proved to be.

The 56mm increase in front wheel spacing over the stock W212 E-Class, augmented by adaptive dampers at all four corners, ensures E 63 has epic poise. Dial up the sport+ damper setting only on perfect surfaces though, as it enacts severely limited bound and rebound parameters.

You can fit AMG's R80 000 performance pack which has 19-inch wheels, even sportier suspension and a 40% locking open rear differential for dexterously controlled slides...

Coil-over cover

E 63’s cleverest bit of engineering kit is actually quite a simple idea, but superbly executed.

Up front it has steel springs instead of air-suspension, whilst air-pressure actuated bellows ensure the aft axle ride height is expertly controlled.

The result? Old-school coil-over spring turn-in accuracy and feel with tremendous rear-axle tracking fluidity.

Sure, you can powerslide the E 63 on a whim with the ESP disengaged and injudicious use of those 386kW at your disposal, but, if you’re neat, it’s very, very rewarding.

Through turn two, Sunset, the Mineshaft and even the last second-gear corner onto Kyalami’s pit straight, the E 63, despite being 110kg heavier than C63, displayed none of the smaller AMG’s idiosyncrasies.

It doesn't float the rear or quell steering feel at inopportune times due to the burden of weight above its front axle - the adaptive damping and rear air-suspension system control weight displacement brilliantly.

I love the E 63’s understated styling, its classic cabin architecture and trim. The completely improper performance credentials and acoustic resonance are hugely endearing too. It’s not cheap though, yet it was never meant to be.

It’s hardly slow either, especially if you specify the R21 000 driver’s pack – which adds some improved cooling and bumps up the speed governor to 300km/h.

An E-Class which has to be governed to 300km/h – have you ever heard of such an absurdly wonderful thing?


E 63 AMG R1 150 000


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