Letting things slide

The inclusion of drift mode makes the new Mercedes-AMG E63S sound like a super sedan with a hooligan streak, but the reality is far more complex than that

WORDS MIKE DUFF

DONíT laugh, but the new E63 has a drift mode. Going sideways was never a problem in previous generations of AMG-fettled E-Classes, of course Ė sometimes even without intent as their less-advanced stability control systems fought to keep their V8 engines in check.

But the all-new W213 version now runs all-wheel drive and therefore no longer wants to smoke its rear tyres. Hence the arrival of the hoon function, only accessible from Race mode, although I doubt its inclusion in this quarter-million-dollar super sedan will cause anything like the level of tabloid outrage it triggered in the Focus RS.

Drift mode aside, the new E63 has grown up, but itís definitely not slowed down. Power comes from a retuned version of the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that weíve already seen in the C63 and AMG GT, with new twin-scroll turbochargers boosting output to 450kW in the brawniest E63S Ė more even than in the AMG GT R. That makes it the most powerful factory E-Class ever, with more than twice as much power as the 207kW W210 E36 mustered back in 1997. Thereís also a fractionally less brawny 420kW non-S version, but thatís unlikely to come to Australia.

While other manufacturers struggle to maintain excitement levels in the face of downsizing, AMG has no such problems.

The new engine delivers entirely brand-appropriate amounts of sturm und drang, pulling from the basement to the penthouse and with straightline urge thatís almost guaranteed to fill the cabin with laughter when enthusiastically deployed. Mercedes claims a 3.4-second 0-100km/h time, a number that feels entirely credible after just one full-throttle blast. Yes, thereís some lag if you go looking for it Ė in a low gear with under 2500rpm showing thereís a distinct pause as the boost builds Ė but left in Drive itís never an issue, the new nine-speed autobox kicking the turbos into life whenever required.

It sounds great, too Ė from gentle V8 burble at low speeds through to an Affalterbach-appropriate level of theatre as the engine closes in on its 6800rpm limiter.

Itís not long since you bought the engine of an AMG and effectively got the rest of the car for free, but the new E63 is a proper all-rounder, albeit one focussed on high-speed comfort rather than white-knuckle dynamics. Being based on the E-Class gives it the best possible start, with a beautifully designed cabin thatís finished as well as its lesser brethren and the promise that Australia-bound versions will have kitchen-sink standard spec.

Ride quality on the standard air suspension is noticeably firmer than in the regular car, but not by enough to put off anyone looking for a sports sedan. In Comfort mode itís pliant and well controlled, and lowspeed compliance is actually better than the standard E. Even moving the dynamic mode to its firmer Sport or Sport Plus settings doesnít make it excessively harsh and itís still possible to have more aggressive powertrain or traction control settings with the dampers in their softest setting.

The launch was in Portugal, so there was no chance

assess its autobahn abilities, but the lashed-down chassis and exceptional cabin refinement means it feels like a car thatís been designed for life north of 200km/h.

Itís not all praise, though. Something has been lost in the transition to all-wheel drive.

The last E63 was available with an all-paw option in left-hand-drive markets (the front power take-off was incompatible with a right-hook steering box), and more than 90 percent of those buyers chose it. So thereís clearly market demand. But for those of us forced to stick with the rear-driver, it never lacked excitement when you started to push, a surfeit of power and deficit of driven wheels giving it a brutish character that suited it perfectly. It was happy to waft, but required respect when pushed hard. Thatís lacking in the new E63; itís much faster and carries vastly higher speeds through corners, but for the most part it just grips and goes, never feeling rear-driven despite sending majority of its torque rearwards whenever Mercedes laid on the race circuit at Portimao some more high-speed experimentation, with track loadings demonstrating the need to ding the it can. imao for th higher get the E63 turned into corners before getting hard on the power as otherwise thereís a surprising amount of understeer when really pushing it. This can be cured by switching into Drift Mode, of course, which completely uncouples front drive, deactivates the stability control and turns the AMG into a tyre-frying monster, but itís definitely not a function for road use.

Thereís no official word on price yet, although weíre assured that the new car wonít carry much of a supplement over the outgoing E63 and will come with much more standard kit, including a full battery of safety and assistance systems such as the semiautonomous Drive Pilot. Figure a price around the $250,000 mark for the E63S, with Mercedes still trying to decide whether to also bring in the standard 420kW model for a modest saving.

Given that AMG buyers tend to head straight for the fastest and flashiest, donít be surprised if that one doesnít make it here (especially given the arrival of the Ďentry levelí V6-powered AMG E43 for those looking for lesser thrills on a saving.) As AMG has long since proved, nothing succeeds like excess.

Model Mercedes-AMG E63S Engine 3982cc V8 (90į) dohc, 32v, twin-turbo Max power 450kW @ 5750-6500rpm Max torque 850Nm @ 2500-4500rpm Transmission 9-speed automatic Weight 1955kg 0-100km/h 3.4 sec (claimed) Economy 9.1L/100km (EU) Price $250,000 (estimated) On sale July

Powertrain

The E63 is the first AMG product to have a nine-speed gearbox, this one beefed-up appropriately to handle the peak output. Instead of a torque converter, it gets an electronically controlled wet clutch to speed responses. Under gentle use, the E63 is 100 percent rear-drive, with an electronically controlled clutch torque to the front (fully locked it gives split). Although hardly eco warriors, it also cylinder deactivation, V4 under (very) gentle n pack diverting t axle as required es a 50:50 ardly a car for so has selective ion, becoming a entle use.