THE NEW E-CLASS is a great car, but to be honest it makes me feel, well, slightly old. Although I’m creeping closer to the profile age, I still feel 21. I’ve learned to ignore that jowly dude with the grey hair and wrinkles staring back at me every morning when I shave. But if there’s one car that will reconcile the physical reality of getting older with a youthful spirit, it’s the slightly mental Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG
It’s like the Dennis Hopper of the motoring world, waving a middle finger at the notion of slipping quietly into the twilight. Why tread quietly when you can go roaring, banging and blatting into the sunset with a V8 rocketship strapped to your backside?
Even though it’s utterly and completely pointless, the fact that this big saloon has a Race Start function endears it to me. It says something about the bunch of lunatics at AMG who conceived and build these cars. Who said the Germans have no sense of humour?
They start off by cramming the world’s most powerful normally aspirated engine, a whopping 6.2-litre V8, under the bonnet. We’re talking about an engine that was voted Performance Engine of the Year in 2009, a beast that churns out 386kW and 630Nm of torque. It will do 0-100kph in 4.5 seconds and top out at a restricted 250kph, all accompanied by one the most spine-tingling soundtracks on earth.
Start it and the revs flare briefly before settling into a steady gurgle at idle. It will turn over menacingly at low revs, a throbbing reminder of the monster that lies beneath. Unleash it, push the revs past 6000rpm and it winds up like a Gatling gun, ripping and barking as it smashes through the air. According to Mercedes-Benz you’ll only use 12.6 litres of petrol on the combined cycle. There’s that Germanic sense of humour again. I suppose it’s possible but only if you use your little toe on the accelerator, which will defeat the whole purpose of owning a car like this. It would be like listening to Bohemian Rhapsody on the best surround sound system in the world, but only playing it through one speaker and not turning the volume past level one.
There used to be a time where motoring writers reviewing AMG’s would say something along these lines: Awesome in straight line. Avoid corners. That’s simply not true anymore. Adjustable dampers (three-stage in this car’s case) have made a huge difference to modern AMGs. Even in the Comfort setting, where the ride soaks up bumps and undulations in the best Mercedes-Benz tradition, body control is still good. Shift to Sport and the suspension firms up noticeably. Save Sport Plus for those special moments on an immaculately surfaced and deserted mountain pass.
It’s a car that has many faces and facets. You like comfortable? It can do that. You like hard and fast? With pleasure. Choose your gearshift settings on the seven-speed AMG Speedshift transmission accordingly. Once again there’s a C for comfort (smooth and early in the rev range), S for Sport (it now shifts 20% higher up the rev range), Sport Plus and our personal favourite, M for manual.
Now you’re the boss. Use the paddles mounted on the steering wheel and each shift only takes 100 milliseconds. It will stay in gear even if you hit the limiter.
The steering is light but accurate and the big car is easy to set up through sweeps and in tight corners. My only gripe is that I would have preferred a bit more meat, a bit more weight at the helm to engage me more.
The cabin itself is sober Mercedes-Benz angular, metallic and businesslike instead of warm and comforting. It’s still premium and well built with all the techno bits your heart can desire, way better than the previous generation E-Class. Great leather sports seats and a chunky steering wheel, plus the occasional AMG insignia and a different instrument cluster, remind you that this is no ordinary E either.
The same goes for the exterior. The faithful love the design of the regular E, but for us the jury is still out. There’s no doubt that the AMG kit improves the looks. Daytime running lights, bigger and unique alloys, AMG side sills as well as a more aggressive front and rear apron add much needed menace.
This is a car I could grow old in, yet still remain young at heart. It will do the comfortable family cruiser duty with ample room in the back and huge boot to call on. And it will definitely do performance rocket as long as you’re up for it. It’s not your grandfather’s car. And if it is, you’ve got a pretty cool grandfather. Like you, he has real petrol in his veins. Ask him to remember you in his will.