the most drastic facelift a mainstream Mercedes has ever been subjected to. I suppose it was inevitable that the front axle would be seconded into duty at some point; power and torque figures reached a point where just two tyres were no longer man enough for the job more than ten years ago.
More of everything
Adding 4WD to the E63 also adds 70kg, but this isn’t a problem when you have an extra 32hp and 15lb ft over the last model. Of course there are bound to be some frictional losses, but those will probably be overcome by the optional S pack which brings a monstrous 585hp and 580lb ft. The E63 4Matic S does 0-62mph in a claimed 3.6 seconds. That is bonkers for a 1,940kg saloon car.
Naturally, there are some significant upsides to this extra traction – on damp or wet roads, where the 2WD car would constantly trigger the chassis electronics, this version doesn’t. It doesn’t turn into the corner quite as sharply, but the difference is so slight on that entry phase, and the added traction so remarkable on the exit, you barely notice.
Instantly, the character of the E63 has changed from muscle car to point-and-squirt weapon, and that places new demands on the transmission, some of which it struggles to handle. I’ve long been a fan of the AMG wet-clutch seven-speed auto, but with this new chassis configuration it is somewhat exposed. There are no problems in the auto-shifting modes, but in manual the delay between paddle-pull and actual shift is now too slow given that the car can use most of its power, most of the time. You simply have to anticipate shifts in the first three gears to avoid hitting the limiter because the car accrues speed at a rate previously not experienced in an AMG E-Class.
The 70kg weight penalty isn’t ideal, but the car still comes in at under 2,000kg which is at least a small mercy. Torque split is a fixed 67 per cent to the rear and all the electronic systems have naturally been recalibrated to work with this new found traction. It’s a devilishly clever conversion with a transfer-box integrated into the MCT transmission and a prop shaft taking power to the front axle, or rather the front right – the front left is reached via an intermediate shaft which passes through the sump pan.
Circle your wagons
You can also order the E63 as an estate, which should make Audi wince a bit because after this drive I wouldn’t look at the last RS6 compared to this car. But then we haven’t driven the new RS6 wagon, and the RS boys are probably due a moment of inspiration about now, so the Merc might yet have some competition.
On the one hand its muscle car status remains intact and the transmission isn’t exposed as being too slow-witted. But the 4Matic system suits the car so well and it so cleverly executed that you do wonder if we might be missing out.
MERCEDES-BENZ E63 AMG 4MATIC
Engine: 5,461cc V8, twin turbo, direct injection
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Power (hp): 557@5,500rpm (S: 585@5,500rpm)
Torque (lb ft): 531@1,750-5,250rpm (S:590@1,750-5,250rpm)
0-62mph: 3.7sec (Estate: 3.8sec; S: 3.6sec; S Estate: 3.7sec)
Top speed: 155mph (limited - all models)
Weight: 1,940kg (Estate: 2,045kg)
MPG: 30.7 (combined)
CO2: 242g/km (Estate: 246g/km)
Price: €106,981 (German market; not available in UK)