First local drive: Mercedes E63 AMGhttp://news.drive.com.au/drive/motor-news/first-local-drive-mercedes-e63-amg-20091215-kssz.html
December 15, 2009
German muscle car still has a menacing V8, but now it enjoys corners almost as much as autobahns.
Mercedes-Benz performance division AMG may have declared the German power war is over but its new version of the E-Class doesn't seem ready to wave the white flag.
The $235,000 flagship edition of Mercedes' ninth-generation E-Class executive sedan has arrived in Australia to take on BMW's M5 and Jaguar's XFR with quicker acceleration and a more powerful and higher-revving V8.
Power rises to 386kW (up 8kW) for the latest version of AMG's hand-built 6.2-litre (ignore the badge) V8, while Mercedes claims the new E63 will sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds - two-tenths quicker than the old model.
An even sportier (read firmer) suspension, a lockable rear differential, and carbon ceramic brakes (from early 2010) are even available as options for buyers who want to take their E63 AMG to track days (Mercedes says many of them do).
There is a nod to the environment, too, though. Fuel economy improves by 15 per cent to 12.7 litres per 100km, a figure that is partially aided by new seven-speed gearbox that swaps a torque converter for a wet start-up clutch that is lighter and more efficient.
AMG continues to take an efficient approach to car design, too. While HSV prefers to take styling to the extreme with its interpretations of the Commodore, the E63 AMG is distinguished from other E-Class models by relatively subtler measures.
These include enlarging the front air intakes, widening the wheelarch flares, chiselling the side skirts, adding a small rear spoiler on the boot lid, wrapping 19-inch AMG alloy wheels in low-profile rubber, and expanding the exhaust pipe count to four.
There's nothing subtle about the engine, however. Almost a constant presence (but never intrusive), the E63's deep-chested V8 sounds like an angry bear - one that gets louder as you prod it harder with the pedal-shaped stick.
A prodigious shove accompanies the bass line, with the first two gears of the seven available becoming effectively redundant as soon as the car reaches dawdling pace.
The smaller C63 AMG - launched in March 2008 - changed perceptions that AMG-badged Benzes were effective only in a straight line and were dynamic bridesmaids to BMW M cars that felt wedded to corners.
The E63 follows suit. It's not going to fool you into thinking you're driving a sports car, but it offers generous amounts of grip, excellent balance, progressive brakes and accurate (if not millimetric precise) steering that defy its status as an 1840kg rear-wheel-drive executive sedan.
Variable dampers and gearbox settings allow drivers to further focus their E63 for either backroad blasts or freeway cruising.
Sport Plus or Manual (which involves using the steering wheel paddleshifts) are the choice for tighter roads, with the former adding a racecar-like thud to the quickest auto upshifts available and the latter encouraging more impolite exhalations from the exhaust.
Even the softest of the three suspension settings, however, raised concerns that the E63 could follow the C63 AMG in struggling to fulfil the other crucial part of its role as a luxury limo. On the launch route in and around Adelaide, the E63's ride was jiggly over rough patches and sharp over small ridges.
Still, it's one of few compromises that the E63 asks customers to make.
Mercedes has even reduced the price of entry by about $4000 compared with the old model - though at $234,900 it's still $26,450 more than a Jaguar XFR - and claims the new E63 also incorporates more equipment worth $28,100.
Standard features in the spacious cabin include nappa leather for the seats and some cabin trim, seat heating and cooling, reverse-park camera and sensors, panoramic sunroof and blinds for the rear windows.
Australia is unlikely to see the E63 AMG wagon expected in early 2010, while Mercedes has no plans to apply the AMG badge to either the E-Class Coupe or (about to be unveiled) Convertible.
Mercedes-Benz Australia says it has already taken 25 six-figure deposits for the first AMG model not to be based on an existing car, the SLS 'Gullwing' due mid 2010 with a circa-$500,000 price tag.
Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG
Engine: 6.2-litre V8
Power: 386kW at 6800rpm
Torque: 630Nm at 5200rpm
Transmission: 7-sp auto
Fuel consumption and emissions: 12.7L/100km and 298g/km
0-100km/h: 4.5 seconds (claimed)