If there was such a thing as a list of ideal PH box-ticker cars, the W212 E63 AMG would surely be near the top of it. All the room, luxury and prestige of Mercedes's fourth-generation E-Class exec, with an estate option for extra space. Superbly engineered 32-valve V8 engines, none of which produced less than 500 horsepower. All of that power (or at least as much of it as a package of electronic controls would allow) going through to the rear wheels. And used prices now beginning at around £15,000.
The W212 E63 story began in 2009 with the naturally-aspirated M156 6.2 litre V8 and switched in 2011 to a M157 twin turbo 5.5-litre V8 which was available in regular and £6k-extra Performance Package variants. Both 6.2 and 5.5 E63s came in a choice of saloon or estate bodystyles.
In 2013, a W212 range facelift hoisted the E63's power output to 550hp, or 577hp in the S version, which was only available as an all-wheel drive 4Matic.
Anyone with an incurable case of V8 lust would always want the big-boy 6.2 to be the W212 E63 performance daddy, but the cold reality of forced induction quickly kills off that notion. Still and all, the 6.2 was in no way embarrassed by any of its blown successors. Producing 520hp at a bonkers 6800rpm and 465lb ft of torque at 5200rpm, the 1840kg 6.2 needed just 4.5sec for the 0-62mph sprint (4.6 for the estate) and the saloon rushed from 0-100 in only 9.8sec.
In the basic pre-facelift twin turbo 5.5 (520hp at 5250rpm, and 516lb ft across a wide spread of revs from 1750-5000rpm) the 0-62 time was 4.4sec, or 4.5sec for the estate. For the Performance Package car (550hp from 5250-5750rpm, 590lb ft from 2000-4500rpm) it was 4.3sec, or 4.4sec for the estate.
The 2013-on 5.5 facelifters lifted your face to the tune of 4.2sec in the 550hp model (peak power at 5500rpm, peak torque of 531lb ft from 1750-5250rpm). A 4Matic version of this lower-powered car was available: its AWD hardware took the saloon's weight up from 1845kg to 1920kg, but the enhanced traction took the 0-62 time down to 3.7sec. In the still heavier (1940kg) 4Matic-only S, the equivalent of the old Performance Pack car, the new peak power figure of 577hp at 5700rpm plus 590lb ft of torque from 1750-5000rpm snipped another tenth off the 0-62 time, reducing it to 3.6sec.
If you're the sort who buys a big AMG Merc and then worries about the fuel consumption, which would be a strange thing to do, you might veer more towards the twin turbo 5.5s as they were 22 percent more fuel efficient than the 6.2s. Official combined figures were 22.4mpg for the 6.2 versus 28.8mpg for the 5.5 in either regular or Performance Package guise. Over 10,000 miles that enhanced efficiency translated into a saving of around £500.
Fuel figures for the 2013-on facelifts - the basic 550hp car, the basic all-wheel drive 4Matic and the 577hp S 4Matic - will no doubt be somewhere on the internet, but they were too well hidden for us. We're thinking they won't be that far away from the gen-one 5.5 figs. LPG conversions are of course possible.
Getting back to what's important, the biggest-engined E63 was also the highest revving E63, bellowing its way to a spleen-shaking and scarcely believable 7200rpm. Who wouldn't trade a tenth or two off the 0-62 time or pay an extra couple of quid for a fill-up in exhange for a big fat dollop of that sort of aural action?
Sit inside an E63 with the engine off and you'll know you're in a premium car even before you switch the engine on. The instrumentation design is maybe a bit uninspiring in both the 6.2 and the 5.5 but the general feel is Germanically upmarket. Loose bits of trim will start to rattle on higher mileage cars, especially ones that have done all their time on British urban roads, and seat leather can tear in the panel join where the heaviest/pointiest bit of your bottom goes. Electric windows can malfunction.
Generally though the W212 cabins are more robust than the previous W211s. Cars with a Start button will also have Keyless-Go, which was an option on facelift cars. These facelift cars featured the new-era AMG design with 'twin-blade' radiator grille, a big front splitter and air deflector, a rear diffuser, and finlets at the rear and on the side air intakes. E36 front valances are quite low, so if you live in an area infested by sleeping policemen a degree of forethought will be required before you sign on the dotted line.
Even though E63s were high spec to start with, the folk who could afford them weren't reluctant to tick plenty of option boxes, and that's all good news for the value-hunting used buyer. Neat things to have on a used E63 include the reversing camera (which wasn't standard equipment until late 2015) and the dynamic seats, which can be configured to work a bit like a pilot's G-suit by inflating individual side bolsters to provide extra support during cornering. They can also give the small of your back a throbtastic massage. Lovely.
The panoramic sunroof and the big bucks rear-seat entertainment system are always nice to see.
Deciding between a 6.2 or the 5.5 twin turbo can be a tricky one. If it's pure character you're after, the 6.2 is the obvious choice. It revs to a crazy number and the thundering din it makes while doing so is simply epic.
If you want to get a grip on all the 6.2's power, however, you do need to hang on to the revs, which might seem odd to some considering the size of the engine. Stay in the lower rev range and it feels like a 500, which is no bad thing.
The big selling point of the turbo 5.5s from a driving perspective is the accessibility of maximum thrunge across a lower and much wider rev range, allied to the sort of everyday refinement that some believe to be more in keeping with a Mercedes. There's not much point taking an M157 much beyond 5500rpm, but the extra shove over the M156 from 1000rpm is noticeable, the midrange is massive, and you needn't fear the muffling effect of turbos because the detonating soundtrack is present and correct. M157s can be taken to 700hp with only a few modifications.
Overall, the engine reliability record for all E63s is excellent but there are a couple of points to be aware of. Some early 6.2s suffered from rusting cylinder head bolts with recessed Torx heads which could even snap off. Even if they only loosened off, which they did. that would allow the dreaded coming together of water and oil. A low coolant light and a misfire will be your early warning signs. New-design bolts, head gaskets and lifters were eventually specced by Mercedes, otherwise aftermarket replacements from respected US firms ARP or Weistec were a good fix.
Owners of M156s also reported failing camshafts and non-spinning/seizing lifters (leading to knackered cam lobes), thought to be a legacy issue from the W211s. M156 camshaft lobes can fail independently irrespective of the state of the lifters, especially on the intake side. Frequent oil changing is not a bad idea. Camshaft adjusters can fail too. Owners of much later C63s which stuck with the M156 can suffer from this. M156 fuel injectors can stick open, either washing out the bores or in the worst case scenario hydraulic-locking the cylinder and bending a rod. Replacing the injectors every 60-70,000 miles is good preventative maintenance.
M157 5.5s (which came with a stop-start system) could develop a cold-start timing chain rattle as a consequence of the chain tensioners running dry. Fitting a non-return valve into an existing hole in the head to prevent oil drain-down was the fix for that, with Mercedes offering owners goodwill contributions of up to 80% for the work.
The previous W211 6.2 had an older gearbox that was a bit too keen to change up rather than rev out, but both of the W212 E63s got the newer, four-mode, downshift-blipping 'Speedshift' MCT 7-speed box, with what was described by M-B at the time as a very small recalibration for the 5.5 engine.
The ZF 8-speeder in Audi's RS6 was arguably slicker, and the DCT box in BMW's M5 may have been faster-changing, but the mechanical-clutch MCT was good enough for most. Some owners who have driven both 6.2 and 5.5 E63s feel that the MCT box is better suited to the wider torque field of the 5.5 than to the more focused (relatively speaking) power of the 6.2. The midrange torquiness of the 5.5s does reduce the number of downshifts, which you may or may not see as a good thing. You might notice quite a hesitation when pulling in the next gear while going hard in Manual mode.
You can apparently 'pseudo-reset' the trans by pressing the throttle to the floor for 10 seconds with the ignition on but the engine off. Because it's a 'learning' transmission it will think that you're a modern-day Juan Fangio and sharpen up the gearshifts and/or hold gears for longer. Well, that's the theory anyway.
E63s are a lot more agile than you might expect for such a big - getting on for two tons of big - car. The E63's hydraulic steering became electrically-powered (rather than driven off the engine) in the new-for-2011 5.5s. According to Mercedes, that resulted in a 1-2% fuel saving. More importantly, it delivered a sweet mix of connectivity, weighting and accuracy. Compared to the old system there wasn't quite as much feel, but compensation was on hand in terms of lighter parking inputs.
Leaks of power steering fluid at the join point with the pump are not unknown on W212s. Airmatic self-levelling suspension can develop a leak, causing the back end to sag. Sometimes it's just a hose that's popped off rather than a hole in the airbag. If you like a really stiff, jiggly ride simply put your E63 into Sport Plus mode.
Annoyingly, first owners looking to get some sort of limited slip diff as standard had to option the Performance Package, which along with a diff lock also gave you uprated brakes and stiffer suspension, and the resetting of the 155mph top speed limiter to 186mph. Otherwise it's a Quaife retrofit, something that's well worth considering if you're going to be using a good chunk of your E36's performance in less than ideal conditions.
The standard wheel/tyre set up on E63s was 255/40R18 front and 285/35R18 rear. Premium brand front tyres from somewhere like Blackcircles will cost you around £180 each fitted, with rears around £200. Tyres for Performance Package or S cars on forged 19in AMG alloys are actually a bit cheaper: 255/35R19 fronts come out at around £160 with 285/30R19 rears at around £190.
Front brake discs are not cheap to replace. Original AMG items including the pads and brake wear sensor will be around £1400 a pair, though you should be able to pick them up for under £1000 if you scout around, with a set of rears at around £600. Financially, the 402mm, 40 percent lighter ceramic discs that became an option on 2014-on E36 S models are an order of magnitude above that (gold calipers being the giveaway). The advantage of composite discs is that they should last for 100,000 miles at least, but if and when they do go wrong, gird your loins for a shocking bill.
In the wacky world of car ownership, scratching a long-held itch can often be a disappointment. That's very unlikely to be the case with any of the E63s we've been talking about here. Think of them as thoroughly engineered, seriously fast cars that just happen to be E-Class Mercs rather than E-Classes that have had a quick ECU blowover.
AMG is one of the great engineering houses. The reality of motor manufacturing in 2020 means it's no longer 'one man, one handbuilt engine' there, it's more a case of 'one man (or person), one assembly'. Even so, the belief in quality and attention to detail still permeates the company today just as it did throughout the E63's lifespan.
This philosophy results in vehicles that will surprise and delight on a daily basis. Other manufacturers' power claims can turn out to be wildly optimistic, but owners who have dynoed their E63s have discovered that AMG's published outputs are, if anything, understated.
If you're swithering between an E63 and the (much more common on the used market) C63, and if ride comfort is important to you, the E will very likely be your best option. If you're thinking that you would like the extra practicality of the estate over the saloon but worry that there'll be a negative tradeoff in handling, don't worry. Some say that the pro drivers at MB World actually preferred the wagons to the saloons.
So, what's out there in the PH Classifieds? Although the fourth-generation W212 E-Class range ran from 2010 to 2016, the 5.5 E63 AMGs kept going until 2017, giving us the best part of eight years' worth of superb high-performance Mercs to choose from. Yum.
In the 6.2s we found a just-serviced 77,000-mile 2010 saloon in white with black leather and a reversing camera at £15,500, and a fully-historied, privately-owned 84,000-mile 2011 estate in Palladium Silver with recently replaced brake discs all round for £16,995.
5.5 twin turbos are more expensive to buy than 6.2s. A lot of that is down to the fact that they're newer cars (duh). The cheapest 5.5 in the PH Classifieds at the time of writing was a white 44,000-mile saloon with FSH, Harman Kardon DAB and a pano roof for £20,990. Elsewhere we found a 2013 facelift 5.5 estate in debadged Obsidian Black with a big spec including HK sounds, Driving Assistance and pano roof for £26,995.
5.5 fans will point to the fact that their cars are ten seconds quicker around the Nürburgring than the 6.2. Putting a more positive spin on it, you could simply take the view that 6.2s are great value, especially when you remember that it has the last naturally aspirated AMG engine ever under its bonnet.
Whichever E63 you end up getting, you can bet that the vast majority of other road users will be green with envy and getting that funny scratchy feeling.
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