Turn to the knowledge in evo Magazine and you'll see that the BMW M5 is currently our favourite performance saloon. It's a close-run thing though, and the Mercedes-AMG E63 is the reason. Mercedes' executive express might lack the last few percent of driver interaction offered by the M5, but it's unbelievably fast and huge fun. The naturally-aspirated V8 has gone but in its place is a twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre developing up to 577bhp.
Unlike some AMGs of old however, the E63 isn't a one-dimensional tyre-smoker - there's real talent in the chassis and sharp responses that belie the car's weight. Only an occasionally ponderous gearchange and an ultimate lack of feel from the steering hinder it - and those attributes are easy to overlook given the E63's other talents. We're intrigued to see how its eventual predecessor will move the game on.
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Performance and 0-62 time > Opting for the more expensive S rewards with more potent performance. But even the standard E63 defies its mass with sports car worrying straight-line performance.
Engine and gearbox > The car's defining feature is its twin-turbocharged V8. Some will mourn the loss of the old naturally aspirated unit's tone; others will welcome the added torque of its still angry sounding boosted replacement.
Ride and handling > Somehow AMG's boffins have masked the car's 1800kg kerbweight with responsive steering and good body control.
Prices, specs and rivals > The AMG E63 fights closely with the BMW M5 for class honours, but the big Merc offers a broad range of talents. You can't get the Beemer in estate form, either.
Interior and tech > If the V8's rumble isn't enough, Alcantara and AMG branding remind passengers that this is no ordinary Mercedes.
Design > Subtle details and an overall muscular shape give the E63 - which is closing in on the end of its production life cycle - real road presence.
Prices, specs and rivals
The E63 range starts at £74,715. An estate version of the same will set you back £76,505, while upgrading to the S results in price tags of £84,710 for the saloon and £86,500 for the estate. That includes AMG Ride Control active suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, nappa leather seats and an AMG three-spoke steering wheel.
The super saloon market has never been as healthy as it is today, so the E63 doesn't want for rivals. The most natural competition comes from BMW, whose M5 is currently evo's favourite performance saloon. In standard trim it produces 552bhp at 6000rpm and 501lb ft of torque from just 1500rpm, each within a stone's throw of the E63's figures. And, like the E63, there's a more powerful version available. The 30 Jahre develops 592bhp and 516lb ft of torque, but it's the balance, accuracy and body control that endear it to us. The E63 is great, but the M5 30 Jahre is one step ahead.
Still, you can't buy an M5 Touring, so the E63 Estate does rise above it in this respect. Jaguar and Audi both offer high-performance estates, in the shape of the XFR-S and RS6 Avant, but neither can match the Merc's range of talents.
If all-consuming performance is your elixir, spending just shy of £10,000 extra on the 'S' is well worth the money. It has the more involving chassis, better body control and 28bhp and 59lb ft of torque over and above the E63. Combined with the estate body shell it's a thoroughly compelling package and perhaps demonstrates the E63's qualities at their best - handsome looks, thundering pace and high comfort and practicality.