The Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4Matic+ isn't quite the first production super-saloon to venture into six-hundred-and-something horsepower territory – that accolade went, a couple of years ago, to the Cadillac CTS-V – but it's one whose arrival on UK roads still feels like a watershed moment, both for its maker and for its performance breed.
With this car, one of Europe’s most celebrated purveyors of the evergreen performance executive saloon is breaking with tradition in order to carry on going above and beyond our expectations.
Just like the fast saloons that AMG has been making so well for decades, the new E 63 has a forced-induction V8 engine powerful enough to be worthy of a contemporary supercar. But unlike those forbears, it switches from one driven axle to two, and from coil springs to adaptive air suspension.
Mercedes-AMG tweaks make E63 a real powerhouse
The drivetrain alteration will allow AMG much greater penetration in what must be its biggest single market, the USA, where four-wheel drive remains the key to selling premium-branded cars both on the eastern seaboard and elsewhere.
The suspension change, meanwhile, should allow AMG to create a broader base of flexibility for the E 63’s ride and handling, letting it remain poised and under control even when driven at the limit of that 604bhp, all-corner powertrain, but also to be more comfortable than any E 63 thus far. This will be our first extended test of the car anywhere on the road, and our first real chance to investigate the latter part of that potential.
Mercedes-AMG will offer the E 63 in both regular form (563bhp) and as this more powerful S model, and with a choice of four-door saloon or five-door estate bodystyles. The AMG E-Class range is propped up a 3.0-litre V6 E43 model which is good for 395bhp, while we expect all three engines to appear in the E-Class Coupé and Cabriolet in due course.
All models have a clutch-based four-wheel-drive system that can send up to 100 percent of engine torque to either axle, and that works downstream of a nine-speed automatic gearbox.
Opt for the E 63 S and you get access to a Drift mode, through which you can effectively disengage the car’s front driveshafts and return to AMG’s traditional rear-wheel-drive mechanical specification. However, as we’ll get on to explaining, this mode is only accessible after much button-pressing, and in quite particular circumstances.