Mercedes-AMG E63 S review – ride and handling

It might be four-wheel drive and weigh over 1800kg, but the big AMG is truly exciting to drive

Evo rating
from £79,930

The mid-cycle update has given the E63S more than just a new nose, as it’s driving experience has also been updated to provide a slightly different feel to the previous version, albeit one that’s no less exciting. Straight away, two major things instantly feel different, first being the much more demure tone to the engine-note. The engine is largely the same as it was before, but new particulate filters in the exhaust have dramatically cut down the V8’s noise. 

It’s much less muscle car than before, and has even given up the childish pops and bangs except when in the sportiest driving mode. There’s also more of an obvious augmentation to the engine note through the cabin’s speakers, to the point where if the car sounds an alarm (due to various factors like the collision warning system or parking sensors) the engine note almost entirely disappears. 

> BMW M5 Competition review

Adding to this new sense of restraint is the E63S’s ride quality, which is much much more compliant than it used to be. This has made it a more relaxed car to drive at normal speeds. It no longer crashes into bumps or feels brittle like the old car sometimes did, yet the scrub on full lock and propensity to sniff out cambers and tramlines is still there, suggesting it’s just as focused as before, even if the dampers have been toned right down. 

The good news is that in Sports+ and Race modes, the dampers reinstate the stiffness that’s been dialled out in other modes, meaning that the E63’s incredible sharpness and poise is maintained – it’s just more nuanced than before. Now more than ever, it makes 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.

The rest of the E63’s pace can be put down to its fantastic traction delivered 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

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