Driving the Mercedes-AMG E63 S in Faro, Portugal
Unveiled in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Mercedes-AMG E63 is the most powerful E-Class sedan ever made. So on a rainy morning in Faro, Portugal, we jumped at the opportunity to get some time behind the wheel of the even more aggressive S variant, which is powered by a hand-built 4.0-liter V-8 engine fitted with a pair of twin-scroll turbochargers that cranks out 603 hp and 627 ft lbs of torque—enough to propel the 4,145-pound midsize sedan from zero to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds. (The standard E63, by comparison, generates 563 hp and 553 ft lbs of torque and has a tenth-of-a-second slower zero-to-60-mph time.)
Derived from the latest-generation E-Class (which benefitted from a major redesign last year), the E63 line keeps much of the base car’s looks, but it has a unique front-end design from the A-pillar forward, including a more muscular hood, bigger front air intakes, a sport front grille with integrated three-pointed star, and a front splitter. In the rear, the E63 gets a decklid spoiler and a rear diffuser with integrated exhaust tips.
On the road, the E63 S’s adaptive sport suspension—derived from a version of Mercedes’ air suspension—is always firm but never uncomfortable. Also present are the typical driving modes found on other AMG models: Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual. There is also Race mode, which is specific to the E63 S. Each of these varies suspension settings, steering feel, throttle mapping, exhaust sound, and shift points—the latter of which comes courtesy of a new nine-speed transmission that forgoes the traditional torque converter for a wet start-off clutch, resulting in faster, smoother shifts and greater fuel efficiency.
On the track, the car is surprisingly agile. Not only does the biturbo V-8 shoot us down a relatively short front straight at speeds of 140 mph in practically no time, we also are able to achieve maximum grip and exit speed around corners thanks in part to a new 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system that can continuously vary the percentage of torque sent to each wheel. A new “drift mode” turns the E63 S into a pure rear-wheel-drive machine, although Mercedes engineers were wise enough to disable it on our drive day.
While boasting all that power and speed, the E63 S is also a comfortable cruiser, fitted with the same semi-autonomous driving features found on the standard E-Class models. It is also the first AMG model to use cylinder deactivation, and it can run on only four of its eight cylinders to save fuel as long as it stays in Comfort mode.
As usual, Mercedes does a superb job with the interior of the E63 S. As with the newest E-Class models, the E63 S sedan gets a pair of wide panoramic display screens that can be controlled by thumb pads on the steering wheel. Glossy carbon fiber trim surrounds Mercedes’ classic round air vents, and ambient lighting can be displayed in any of 64 colors. Sport seats with adjustable side bolsters pin you snugly in place, and while smaller drivers felt secure, some larger drivers around us complained they felt tight—perhaps a side effect of ever-enlarging front seats not quite keeping up with ever-enlarging bodies.
Pricing and U.S. fuel economy stats have not yet been announced, but deliveries of the 2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 S are expected to begin next summer. (mbusa.com)