In a time when the 700-or-so bhp supercar is now normal and all-wheel drive hatchbacks can hit 62mph in under four seconds, there’s a risk that even a 600bhp supersaloon could feel ordinary. That is not the case. The E63, even in its most sober guise, the non-S Estate, is astoundingly fast. It makes such effortless progress down A-roads and motorways, but is then explosive and energetic on twistier tarmac.
Its real potency can be attributed to its engine. There’s masses of low-down grunt, typical of a forced-induction motor, meaning the whole car never feels as heavy as its quoted figures when you accelerate. What’s not typical of a turbocharged engine is that there’s very little turbo lag. You don’t have to be wary that there might be a heap-load of unexpected power unleashed moments after you press the throttle. Instead the delivery is linear and practically instant.
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The rest of the E63’s pace can be put down to its fantastic traction afforded by its four-wheel-drive system. But although there’s grip when you need it, don’t think the E63 is like other German all-wheel-drive supersaloons and estates – it isn’t. The E63’s 4Matic+ drivetrain has been very cleverly calibrated to not feel very four-wheel-driven on the road, with genuine throttle adjustability right at the apex of a corner helping it rotate just enough as you squeeze the accelerator. Only once things get a bit squirrely on the exit, when you actually want some help, do you really sense the front wheels helping drag you straight.
The engine’s delivery, combined with the drivetrain, makes the E63 an incredibly confidence-inspiring and natural car to drive quickly. The steering, although it doesn’t exactly chatter with feedback, is crisp, fast and allows you to react appropriately to the chassis, further helping you tune into driving the car. Not only is the E63 far more alert and agile than you’d expect of a car this size, it offers up a thoroughly enjoyable, deeply involving and exciting drive too.
Thankfully, no matter which model you choose in the range, the driving experience is very similar. The extra weight of the estate barely makes a difference to the way it corners or accelerates, mostly thanks to the masses of performance available. It rides firmly regardless of the chosen damper setting, feeling a tad more edgy and brittle than rivals like the M5 or RS6, but wheel control is still impressive so you won't find yourself wincing over potholes or avoiding rougher road sections for fear of bursting a tyre.
Of course, the S’s party trick, its Drift Mode, makes it feel very different to the regular car once you’ve engaged it. The rear tyres are so willing to break traction that, despite its long wheelbase, it snaps into a slide as soon as you touch the throttle. Once sideways, however, the long E63 feels far more controllable, the engine feels as though it could spin the wheels forever, and the reactive steering just helps you keep it at whatever angle you desire. It’s deeply childish and totally unnecessary, but wonderfully good fun