Mercedes-AMG E63 S: Rewriting the rulebooks

The first time I got behind the wheel of the E63 S was when the videographer asked if anyone would take the wheel of the AMG saloon and generate some action footage for Best Cars of 2018 shoot. It didn’t require much persuasion but what transpired in the next half hour over some tight, twisty trunk roads left me in awe but also slightly terrified, this after spending the best part of the morning shuffling between a Lamborghini Urus, Ferrari 812 Superfast and Aston Martin Vantage no less.

The encounter brought back memories of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX which I last drove some 10 years. I know, it’s a curious juxtapose, the E63 S is a different class and size, but the sensations were raw and invasive, just like how it was in the Japanese rally special. The very act of driving the AMG in anger felt as if you’re committing a sin; it makes you wonder what the Mercedes-Benz chiefs were thinking when they signed off this beast of a saloon?

AMG of the ferocious kind

I can only surmise that they were plotting world domination; 612hp and 850Nm from a straight-laced E-Class saloon is excessive but it’s the manner which the E63 S deploys all that muscle to such a high degree of potency that makes worthy of the super saloon label. It is also a stark departure from past AMG cars that were cherished for their symphonic V8, creamy power delivery and cosseting luxury, they were fast too of course, but not necessarily furious.

Underneath the docile-looking cover lies a beast a V8 worthy of 612hp and 850Nm.

The W213-generation E63 S is a different kettle of fish altogether, the M177 V8 with dual twin-scroll turbo isn’t nearly as melodious nor as smooth as past V8s, the theatre being centred on a boisterous exhaust system blaring pops and bangs and rude-sounding overruns. No, this 90-degree V8 isn’t here to entertain, it’s on a mission to bludgeon the competition to a pulp, aided and abetted by a fully variable all-wheel drive system and an electronically controlled rear diff. It’s a wicked concoction, and you can even decoupled the front diff and summon rear-wheel drive only ‘drift’ mode, sans stability control, if you dare.

RWD at the core, but only if you dare to summon it. Note that ‘Drift’ mode also disengages stability control.
Muscle car with finesse

The E63 S’ effortless ‘race starts’ and dragstrip exploits are well-documented in countless YouTube videos (trumping the likes of the M5, RS6, even the Panamera Turbo), but it also points to the fine job AMG had done in calibrating the 9-speed multi-clutch Speedshift transmission to produce crisp gear changes to complement the prodigious traction, resulting in a 1.9-tonne saloon capable of hurling itself from idle to 100km/h in 3.4 seconds – a benchmark which will take some beating for years to come, at least for internal combustion engine rivals.

Price of admission is just over one million ringgit for the E63 S.

I appreciate the candidness of the E63 S for it doesn’t pretend to be anything but a highly-strung machine centred on laying down power and reining in any wayward body motion. The ride is unsurprisingly taut even when the air suspension is in ‘Comfort’ and it only becomes firmer in more aggressive drive modes, your spine will confirm this, though the ride does get smoother with speed.

Prodigious traction aided by Michelin Pilot Sport 4S.

It’s similar with the steering, which comes across as almost too quick and little nervous at first, but as the speed picks up, the weighting and response feels just right. To describe the E63 S as planted in corners is stating the obvious, the level of adhesion is incredible for something this size, but it’s the traction out them that pins you to the buckets and makes you marvel at the technology that’s allowing this to happen. Oh, the poor tarmac.

Edition 1 looks sinister, Darth Vader approves.
This or the BMW M5?

It’s inevitable that this question would crop up, and debating it does crystalise what the E63 S really stands for. After all, Roger Federer wouldn’t be as great if he never fought a nemesis as fearsome as Rafael Nadal, and vice versa. For decades, the BMW M5 has been the shoo-in for keen drivers, but it isn’t so clear anymore now that the W213 E63 S is around – this alone is in many ways an achievement for AMG, but that’s not the conclusion here.

The buckets are not for show, you’ll need the lateral support.

For a car that’s more at ease over different surfaces and occasions by virtue of a more compliant ride, the M5 is the easier to live with and the easier car with which to extract its performance. The E63 S on the other hand demands your utmost attention (and no small amount of courage) before you’re allowed to unlock its potential. The M5 is transparent and welcoming, the E63 S wants you to take liberties before showing its hand, but the latter’s experience is that much more intense and palpable – which is whole point of forking out a million-ringgit for either of these super saloons, isn’t it?

So, at least for me, the E63 S shades the M5, it certainly isn’t the AMG we once knew (long live those 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8s) but Mercedes-Benz’s reign at the top didn’t come about because they played it safe.

Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4MATIC+
: RM1,068,888  Engine: 4.0-litre V8, twin turbo, AWD  Output: 612hp / 850Nm  Transmission: 9-speed multi-clutch auto  Performance: 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds; top speed 250km/h (300km/h w/ AMG Driver’s Package)  Wheels/tyres: 265/35 R20 | 295/30 R20 Safety: 7 airbags, Electronic Stability Control  Warranty: 4-year/unlimited mileage