2010 Mercedes E63 AMG: First Drive

Jekyll and Hyde

2010 Mercedes E63 AMG: First Drive

Mercedes-Benz’ latest rapid executive sedan heralds exciting times. The new-for-2010 E-Class itself is already a huge leap forward in terms of design and performance. The template obvious: brighten things up on the outside while moving closer to the targets set by BMW and Audi for driving dynamics.

FAST FACTS

1. A 6.2-liter V8 engine with 518hp and 465 ft-lbs of torque powers the E63 AMG.

2. 60 mph comes in just 4.4 seconds.

3. One reason for the car’s more sinister look is a wider body, with flared fenders to house the 2.2-inch wider front track.

However, the ultimate E-Class remains the E63 AMG, an excellent blend of muscle-car sounds, supercar thrust and luxo-car appointments. At the global press launch at AMG headquarters in Affalterbach, Germany, Kai Marten, the director of AMG operations likened it to “Jekyll and Hyde.” “It’s a blend of a business sedan and a high-performance sports car,” he continued. “[The E63 AMG] has what it takes to outperform the original Hammer,” recalling AMG’s most recognizable machine from the ‘80s. Those are big shoes to fill.

SUBTLE, BUT SERIOUS

Take one look at the new generation E63 AMG and it is obvious where the work went. The front fenders are flared 17 mm to better house the 19-inch wheels and 14.2-inch brake discs. The front and rear aprons and side sills are massaged to add aggression, while the quad pipes from the AMG sport exhaust look set to play a sonorous tune. AMG fettled with the fully independent suspension, fitting new coil springs up front, and tweaking the air suspension system in the rear. Both ends get AMG-tuned electronically controlled dampers with three settings. The front track is widened by 56 mm (2.2-inches) to ensure sharper reflexes.

Open the door, and the changes are more subtle. There are new sport seats and a four-spoke steering wheel to better connect you to the car. The instrument cluster is also unique, featuring AMG logos and bright gauges. The center console contains what the company calls its AMG Drive Unit, which features controls for adjusting the suspension, transmission shifts and stability management. The standard walnut trim is the biggest indicator that the E63 AMG is not just some stripped-out road rocket, but a performance machine that you can commute in quite easily.

AMG 6.2-LITER V8 TUNED TO 518 HORSEPOWER

The E63’s main motivation comes from the familiar bark of the hand-built 6.2-liter V8, now producing 518 hp at 6800 rpm and 465 ft-lbs of torque at 5200 rpm. This outguns both the current BMW M5 (500 hp) and Audi S6 (435 hp) for German bragging rights, although the Cadillac CTS-V’s 556 hp is still top-dog in this category.

Since manual transmissions are anathema to the three-pointed star, the company’s tweaked seven-speed automatic transmission first seen in the SL63 AMG makes an appearance. It features a wet clutch rather than a traditional torque converter, which allows the monster motor’s power to shine. Flatten your right foot on the accelerator and the E63 AMG jumps from 0-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. Keep it there, and it’ll eventually bump into its electronic speed limiter at 155mph in no time. Possibly more amazing is how nicely the car rides close to the electronically-limited top speed.

THIS POWERHOUSE IS ALSO BUILT FOR THE TWISTIES

The benefits are not only limited to straight-line performance as the big Merc enjoyed being hustled along the German back roads around Stuttgart. The magnesium steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters give satisfying clicks when pulled, accompanied by the wonderful rev-matched roar of the V8. In-gear thrust is almost frightening because it’s instantaneous: you don’t need to shift down to dispatch those pesky cars in front of you.

Fortunately, the E63 AMG’s safety systems cover the whole gamut of technology, from the basic ABS/BA/EBD/DSC and seven airbags to optional intelligent high-beams, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Assist and a night-view camera. Tin-hat wearers will surely skip the check boxes for Speed Limit Assist and Attention Assist.

Those nannies aren’t prevalent during normal driving at all, only stepping in gently if you need a hand. And unlike normal Mercedes-Benz models, the E63 AMG’s stability control can be turned off. Yes, really off. Not just sorta’ off. Really, really off.

MUST-HAVE AMG PERFORMANCE PACKAGE

For those itching for more, AMG offers a Performance Package, which raises the speed limiter to 186 mph, adds a tighter suspension, a limited-slip differential, 20-inch Bangkok wheels with ultra-sticky rubber, and interior touches like a three-spoke steering wheel and aluminum trim bits. If that isn’t enough, you can order carbon-ceramic brake discs that weight 40 per cent less than the standard steel discs, although the models thus equipped were both noisy and tricky to modulate easily.

THE VERDICT

Pricing has not been released, but a current E63 AMG costs about $87,700 ($121,000 CDN). Don’t expect that number to lower at all. Also, Mercedes-Benz has confirmed that the carbon-ceramic brakes will not be available in the initial model year, and are still building a case whether or not to offer them in the future.

Overall, AMG has successfully channeled its Hammer progenitor to deliver a rapid, entertaining and cosseting machine in the new 2010 Mercedes-Benz E63 that’s as happy running for groceries as it is running for the border. The first should hit dealerships this August.

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