Mercedes-AMG has injected a considerable dose of cosmetic- and refinement-based maturity into the midlife update of its most powerful sedan. Did this beast really need to be tamed, or does this extra helping of civility make the E63 AMG S a more marketable monster?
When it comes to the E-Class, Mercedes hasn’t exactly taken the most conventional approach to midlife updates of late. Where most manufacturers deem a tweak to the brightwork, some LED elements in the head- and taillamps, and maybe a few new cabin trims as sufficient, the Stuttgart luxury carmaker has instead implemented an almost clean-sheet design for E-Class facelifts since the sweeping changes it made to quad-headlamp W212.
We do try to leave such things as subjectivity at the door when assessing new cars, only it has to be said the W213’s considerable makeover has met with mixed reactions; especially when applied to an AMG-moulded canvas.
Although such AMG staples as those flared wheelarches; deep, vent-studded front and rear aprons; quad exhaust outlets and a brace of power domes pressing out of the bonnet’s skin are all present and correct, their application to a car that’s more rounded and possessed of a less squat, muscular rump is a juxtaposition of styles. It’s a head-turner, no doubt, yet we can’t help feel some of the pre-facelift car’s visual menace has been erased and replaced with something a bit more demure and grown-up.
That mature air has carried over into a cabin whose facia now features a quartet of louvred air vents similar to those of the W222 S-Class, in place of the striking, turbine-inspired eyeball items in the pre-facelift car. The most striking element has to be the updated MBUX infotainment/instrument panel combination, featuring a pair of 12,25-inch TFT screens. In addition to the usual telephony, infotainment and navigation functions, the E63 S’s system accommodates several AMG-specific modules that call up such features as a race timer, g-meter, engine data and other performance-related readouts.
The system is well considered, doesn’t suffer any software latency, and the trackpad and touchscreen interfaces are intuitive. The same cannot be said of the new AMG performance steering wheel … the lack of physical buttons on the four-spoke layout looks slick but the required thumb-strokes and prods are clumsy at times.
Perceived quality has been a mixed bag with Mercedes’ recently and while the E63 S’s fit and finish are generally impressive, such elements as a light-feeling boot lid that shuts with a decidedly un-Mercedes-like clank is a letdown. Nevertheless, the boot is deep – capable of accommodating 352 litres of luggage with the seatbacks in place and 968 litres with the rear pews folded – and the cabin feels spacious, although this model’s AMG sports seats do pare rear legroom to a respectable – not class-leading – 654 mm.
Driven sedately, the new E63 S is palpably more relaxed and refined than its forebear. Mercedes-AMG’s engineers have heeded criticism of the previous overly firm ride and dialled in a touch more give to the new model’s multi-chamber air suspension and adaptive damper setups. The result is a superbly composed ride, even on this car’s 35-30 front-to-rear profile tyres. Factor in notable NVH suppression and the E’s road manners may even be creeping into S-Class territory.
In stark contrast to the sweeping cosmetic changes to the E63 S, things remain largely unchanged beneath the sheet metal. Significantly, the firm hasn’t gone the usual route of using a mid-cycle facelift as an opportunity to wring some additional power from the engine. This is partly because such a measure would see the E63 S potentially treading on the toes of the AMG GT63 S 4-door and its headlining 470 kW and 900 N.m outputs. Then again, it may well be that 450 kW and 850 N.m is sufficient to endow the halo AMG sedan with a supercar-humbling turn of pace.
While we were always going to take Mercedes-AMG’s 3,40 second 0-100 km/h claimed acceleration figure with a pinch of salt, the 3,69 seconds the E63 S posted during performance testing is still incredible for a four-door sedan weighing in excess of two tonnes.
The figures garnered from our in-gear acceleration runs also made for some frankly eye-widening reading. To save you feverishly thumbing across issues of the magazine, we’ll put some of these figures into context. If we lined the E63 S up alongside the 911 GT3 RS we tested back in October 2020 for a full-bore acceleration drag, there would be only paintwork separating them. In four of the in-gear acceleration run’s five increments, the 610 kg-lighter GT3 RS would be just five-hundredths of a second ahead of the comparatively mammoth AMG. Under the same circumstances, even the neck-wrenchingly fast 911 Turbo S we sampled in the January 2021 issue would account for a mere 0,2-second advantage over the E63 S.
The E63 S isn’t just accomplished in a straight line. Owing to a number of updates to aspects of the suspension and steering setups, AMG’s halo sedan does a remarkable job of masking its mass when pressed into spirited driving on twisting roads. For instance, the electromechanical steering setup now features speed-sensitive assistance. Despite it feeling a little light and over-assisted at low speeds, it firms up markedly once speeds climb, becoming more responsive and direct in the process.
As before, the E63 S’s drive is transferred to the tarmac via an AWD system that can be configured to distribute power between the axles as per the drivetrain preset or situational grip levels. Alternatively, through the ritual of traction control setting tweaks and tugs on the aluminium paddle shifters, it can activate the car’s Drift mode, which exchanges limpet-like AWD grip for tyre-shredding lunacy by sending all of the V8’s grunt to the rear.
Although fun in a nervous, “bite you hard if you’re careless with the throttle” kind of way, the E63 S proves most satisfying when traction is shared between axles and Sport + is selected from myriad drivetrain settings. Here, the traction control provides just enough play to be entertaining, the throttle is sharp, steering direct and air suspension taut enough to rein in that heavy body under swift directional shifts without succumbing to wallow. It also sees paddle-actuated shifts from the smooth 9-speed automatic coming in with almost computer game-like alacrity … and the V8 – which had been surprisingly quiet up to this point – now finds its voice. Dialled up, the E63 S is pleasingly agile, if not quite as poised as BMW’s M5 Competition when piled into corners.
If we were to be nitpicky, it could be argued some of this softening has unearthed a touch of mid-corner body roll. Even so, it’s hardly disconcerting and such a concession doesn’t take anything away from the E63 S’s talents.
The E63 S is a difficult car to draw a bead on. On one side, we could argue the grown-up styling, improved road manners and more compliant suspension have diluted the AMG’s appeal. On the other, there’s still enough power, aural drama and entertainment value to paint a half mile-wide mean streak across its back. Either way, the new car feels more rounded and accomplished than before, albeit one that may have traded in some of its brutish charm for a measure of manners.
Price:R2 436 440
Engine:4,0-litre, V8, twin-turbo petrol
Power:450 kW @ 5 750 - 6 500 r/min
Torque:850 N.m @ 2 500 - 4 500 r/min
0-100 km/h:3,69 seconds (tested)
Top Speed:300 km/h
Fuel Consumption:13,9 L/100 km (CAR Index)
Maintenance Plan:5-year / 100 000 km