2014 MERCEDES-BENZ E-CLASS REVIEW
What’s Hot: Colossal thrust, wonderful steering, outstanding brakes
What’s Not: More expensive than its competitors
X-FACTOR: For luxury, speed and engagement factor, it’s difficult to look past the E 63 AMG S
Vehicle Style: High performance large luxury sedan
Engine/trans: 430kW/800Nm 5.5 turbo petrol 8cyl / 7sp twin-clutch auto
Price: $249,900 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 10.0 l/100km
When the local arm of Mercedes-Benz began reviewing the specs of the updated E-Class range, they had a problem.
Their two AMG models, the E 63 AMG and E 63 AMG 'with Performance Pack', could 'only' muster power outputs of 386kW and 410kW respectively.
Those numbers, while bone-crushing in almost any company, were not considered enough to really take on the might and power of the latest crop of large luxury performance cars like the BMW M5, Audi RS6 and even the HSV GTS.
But then came their replacement, the E 63 AMG S. With huge outputs of 430kW and 800Nm, it was "problem solved".
Although all-wheel-drive in Europe, here, RWD would have to do. But no matter; AMG’s local sales figures suggest that not having AWD is not necessarily a black mark.
Making the E 63 AMG S the only E 63 offering in Australia also helps streamline the range; with the majority of E 63 owners optioning their car up to a higher standard than that of the base model, it also made sense for the "S" to become the default.
So what does the E 63 AMG S have to offer us? A lot.
A hell of a lot.
The E 63 AMG S might be brutish under the bonnet, but it’s incredibly civilised everywhere else.
Cabin comfort is superb. The active seats are snug but adjustable enough for a wide range of body types, and when put in Dynamic mode they inflate individual bolsters to help keep you in place.
Turning hard right? The left side bolster will pump up instantly. It’s an eerie sensation, but it adds greatly to the experience.
There’s more AMG-specific features, of course. Things like the black headliner, the alcantara-clad and flat-bottomed steering wheel, silver seatbelts and of course the E 63-specific centre console shifter and array of buttons for the AMG Drive Unit controls.
Refreshingly, the default trim choice is dark polished wood rather than the typical strips of carbon fibre.
And there’s no shortage of toys. Seat heaters, seat ventilators, rear sunshade, auto-park feature, dual-panel sunroof… they’re all there.
Added to that list are full LED headlamps and tail lamps, Distronic radar-assisted cruise control, a 360-degree camera system, navigation, tri-zone climate control and a digital audio tuner - as well as the usual luxuries like keyless entry and ignition, USB inputs, sat nav and the like.
ON THE ROAD
What an engine.
The 5.5 litre bi-turbo AMG V8 has been in the E 63 since 2011, but in E 63 S form it’s something else.
430kW of power and 800Nm are numbers that command the deepest respect, and if you don’t treat this powertrain with caution, it will bite you.
We found that out during the E 63’s local launch in regional Victoria, where the state's fickle weather conspired to put as much rain in our path as possible.
While this made for a thorough test of the stabilty control’s effectiveness, it limited the opportunities for full-throttle acceleration.
Use a smidge too much throttle on corner exit and the back would step out before being caught by the electronic safety net.
Even when the front wheels were pointed straight, the rear tyres would be easily overwhelmed. This is a monstrous motor, and we can now appreciate why Mercedes pairs this engine with all-wheel drive in markets other than Australia.
But when the road was less soggy, oh what an experience it was to floor the accelerator.
Response is near-instant. Having 5.5 litres of displacement means turbo lag is almost completely banished, and 800Nm of forced-induction torque pushes the E 63 AMG forward at a dizzying rate.
On a dry road and using the E 63 AMG S’ launch control function, this big German will rocket to 100km/h in a dizzying 4.1 seconds.
Redline is at 6500rpm, but you’d rarely need to access it. There’s simply an overwhelming amount of torque from idle upwards, and that renders big revs unnecessary.
At 110km/h in seventh gear, the engine barely brushes 1900rpm. Now that’s relaxed.
The seven speed twin-clutch AMG Speedshift MCT transmission flips ratios with lightning speed, though on a few occasions it paused on the 1-2 gearchange when in manual mode.
In Sport+ mode it’s perfect when pushing hard, ably predicting the demands of the driver and sensing when rapid deceleration necessitated a downshift. In Comfort mode, it’s as comfortable and refined as any hydraulic slushbox.
The chassis features adjustable suspension, which can be cycled through three settings - soft, medium and hard.
In any setting it’s wonderfully compliant yet well controlled, but for our money we found the softest mode to be the sweetest out on Victoria’s B-roads.
Roll suppression is excellent, and the E 63’s steering is one of the best we’ve experienced in a performance sedan.
On-centre response is excellent, but not overly sharp. Weight builds progressively the further you wind the wheel too, and it’s a delight to steer the big E 63 through a corner.
On some of the narrower roads on the drive route it felt like we were trying to thread a whale through the eye of a needle, but the E 63’s rock-solid handling and reassuring steering authority inspired confidence.
The brakes are another highlight, and given the E 63 AMG S tips the scales at 1870kg when empty, they sure get a workout.
But they’re fantastic stoppers. There’s zero slack in the brake pedal, but it’s not grabby near the top of its travel at all. There’s just a linear progression in braking force the further you push it, and it results in a head-spinning amount of decelerative force if you really sink it into the carpet.
Mercedes offers a carbon-composite brake package for the E 63 AMG, but considering how powerful the standard steel system is we doubt anyone would ever need them.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
It has the most torque, the finest steering feel and a universally-appealing interior. You pay more for the Benz, but in our opinion it’s well worth it.
Its weight makes it a bit of a blunt instrument, and the lack of AWD is an obvious handicap in the wet - just as it is for the M5 and GTS.
But the way in which it just surges ahead and eats up the miles is... thoroughly addictive.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- E 200 - $79,900
- E 220 CDI - $82,400
- E 250 - $97,400
- E 250 CDI - $99,900
- E 300 BlueTec Hybrid - $109,900
- E 400 - $129,900
- E 63 AMG S - $249,900
- E 200 - $86,900
- E 250 CDI - $107,700
- E 400 - $137,700