Mercedes-Benz isn’t planning on introducing the next-generation E-class for another 18 months yet, but Autocar can already bring you images of the M5-rivalling E63 AMG model. Prototypes of the E63 have already made an appearance at the Nurburgring at the start of a two year development program that aims to see the new performance saloon more closely challenge BMW’s successful performance saloon in the areas of dynamics and driver appeal.
Another more focused AMG saloon
Codenamed W212, the new four-door E-class, seen here wearing heavy disguise, will become the second AMG model to benefit from a new testing process instigated back in 2005 by the company’s development boss, Tobias Moers. The first was the impressive C63 driven exclusively by Autocar prior to it’s unveiling at the Frankfurt motor show in September.Reacting to criticism that previous offerings have lacked the poise of rivals, Moers has demanded that all future AMG models undergo a full Nurburgring proving programme before they are signed off. "There is a push on to make our cars more engaging,” he told Autocar. “We are more focused on chassis set-up than ever before."Evidence of this is seen in the unique front axle and heavily reworked ESP system (that now offers three distinct modes and can be switched completely off) adopted on the C63, something insiders say AMG also plans with the E63. The E63 will also provide the basis for successor to the CLS63, due out around the same time.
E63: part of the conception of the E-class
In recent years AMG has been more closely integrated into the development of new Mercedes-Benz models. This is clearly reflected in the appearance of this E63 prototype well before the next-generation E-class is due to begin rolling down production lines in Germany. As with the C63, Stuttgart’s new four-door performance saloon should be ready join the line-up shortly after its standard sibling is unveiled in March 2009; Autocar sources suggest it could form part of Mercedes-Benz’s spread at Frankfurt that year, meaning it’ll be another two years at least before we’ll see it in showrooms.Stylistically, the next E63 is a significant visual step away from the existing model. It’s taking on an edgier appearance, with tauter surfacing and newly interpreted details, including trapezoidal shaped headlamps in place of the more familiar oval units. Following the example laid down by the new C63, it will get power domes in the bonnet and wider front wheelarches, a deeper front bumper, twin louvre grille, darkened headlamp and tail lamp graphics, wider side sills, new rear valance, quad tail pipes and a subtle boot spoiler. Also seen on this prototype is a full-length panoramic glass roof that’s set to be offered as an option on all new E-class models.
Under the panels
While retaining conventional unitary construction, Mercedes-Benz is looking towards lightweight high strength and composite body panels to bring the new E63 in under the existing model’s 1880kg. Alongside the saloon version captured here, Mercedes is also planning an estate. It will line up against the new BMW M5 Touring and the Audi RS6 Avant – the latter to be unveiled at the 2007 Frankfurt motor show, fitted with a 565bhp twin-turbocharged version of Audi’s 5.2-litre V10 engine. While today’s E63 runs a 514bhp version of AMG’s 6.2-litre V8, Mercedes-Benz is planning to fit the next-generation model with a slightly more powerful iteration of the same engine producing an S63-equaling 525bhp – placing further distance between it and the E500, whose 5.5-litre V8 puts out 388bhp.Despite suggestions that Mercedes is close to finalising development of a new double-clutch gearbox and has also initiated research on an advanced electro-magnetic transmission, the early E63 prototype mule captured here runs a recently updated AMG version of Mercedes-Benz’s 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic.Among its features is a new software package that automatically blips the throttle on downchanges. Its ratings remain the same as the existing unit, suggesting torque will stay at the same level as today at 465lb ft. Don’t expect much of an improvement in acceleration; AMG is clearly focusing more on handling than out-and-out speed with the next E63. Today’s model hits 62mph from standstill in a claimed 4.5sec on the way to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.