The 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S makes you think hard about what you really need and what you want.
Deep in third gear with the twin-turbocharged V8 singing, you don’t need to go any faster. In fact keeping the throttle pinned for too much longer is a risky game in Australia, given our law-makers’ attitude to speed.
But the way the E63 S just keeps squeezing your chest harder, numbers on the speedometer snowballing out of control and the world getting ever blurrier, will make you want more.
Want an E63? You’ll need a healthy dose of self control to match your healthy bank balance.
Of course there’s more to this low-flying cruise missile than the way it accelerates.
A freshly massaged exterior and MBUX-toting cabin are the headlines, but the engineers in Affalterbach have also made some choice refinements under the skin to improve the way the hottest E-Class handles.
The result is a stunningly capable, terrifyingly fast, fearsomely expensive uber-sedan that you definitely don’t need, but you’ll definitely want.
Pricing for the Mercedes-AMG E63 S kicks off at $253,900 before on-road costs and options.
The cheapest E-Class with an AMG badge on its nose is the E53 ($162,300 list) and its mild-hybrid assisted inline-six engine, while the wider E-Class range starts at $98,700 before on-roads for the E200 sedan.
No 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class comes light on for standard equipment.
The whole range features two 12.3-inch displays on the dashboard, the central one capable of accepting touch and voice inputs, along with control from the mousepad on the transmission tunnel and the touch sliders on the steering wheel.
Even the entry-level E200 packs semi-autonomous parking assist, a surround-view camera, wireless phone charging, colour ambient lighting, and powered front seats with memory.
There’s also LED headlights with active high-beam assist, hands-free boot access, and keyless entry and start across the range.
Moving into the AMG world with the E53 adds sports seats and Nappa leather upholstery to the mix, along with racy add-ons such as sports pedals, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and a lip spoiler on the boot.
Mercedes-AMG models also gain a head-up display, a 13-speaker surround sound system, and a panoramic glass roof.
The range-topping E63 S 4Matic+ on test here gains heated/cooled front seats with active bolsters, heated outer rear seats, tri-zone climate control, AR navigation, gesture control, and the AMG Track Pack data logger.
Go-faster kit such as a limited-slip differential, active engine mounts, and unique 20-inch alloy wheels are also included in the price of admission.
Being a facelift rather than a generational overhaul, the updated E-Class range carries over the outgoing model’s five-star safety rating, achieved in 2016.
The rating applies to all sedan versions of the E-Class, based on scores of 95 per cent for adult occupant protection, 90 per cent for child occupants, 77 per cent for pedestrian detection and 62 per cent for safety assist.
All models received the Driving Assistance Package Plus as standard for 2021, including adaptive cruise control with stop/go, autonomous emergency braking with cross-traffic assist, lane change assist, active blind spot assist, evasive steering assist and route-based speed adaptation.
Dual frontal, side chest and side head airbags (curtains) and a driver knee airbag are standard on the pre-facelift E-Class.
The E-Class already had the one-piece, dual-screen Mercedes-Benz cabin we know and love, but it also arrived before the latest MBUX infotainment system rolled out.
That left the three-pointed star in a weird spot, where its entry-level A-Class had a more sophisticated media system that its significantly more expensive bigger brother.
E-Class buyers no longer need to avoid talking tech with A-Class-owning friends. Part of the 2021 update for the E63 S is the MBUX infotainment system, complete with a new touchpad on the transmission tunnel, voice inputs, and controls from a new two-tier steering wheel.
MBUX is excellent once you’re familiar with its quirks, and there’s no doubt the dual-screen dash is among the clearest, crispest setups in the business, but the new steering wheel is a step backwards.
Rather than blending tactile buttons with a pair of touch sliders like the old wheel, the new wheel leans hard on the touch/slide inputs.
Not only is it harder to use than before, occasionally missing inputs and responding inconsistently to swipes, it’s stranger to look at.
It’s smart – there are sensors around the rim to register the driver’s hands when semi-autonomous driver assists are in use – but it feels like a backwards step in terms of day-to-day usability.
With that said, the new paddles are like art to look at and feel cold to the touch. No plastic here, they’re proper metal.
Of course, there’s more to the E63 than screens and swipes. The driver and passenger sit in AMG-branded armchairs that are heated, cooled, and massaging, and have a huge range of electrical adjustment.
For my lanky legs, though, they were a little lacking in under-thigh support, and felt a bit flat. There’s plenty of bolstering though, which is essential in a car capable of cornering as hard as the E63 S.
That the central and door armrests are heated in concert with the seats is a lovely touch, and one that would make winter mornings that little bit more bearable.
A set of more aggressive bucket-style seats are optional and, although they aren’t as limousine-like as the standard pews, it’s an option box I’d be ticking.
Aside from the seats and wheel, the E-Class cabin has plenty of wow factor.
The four turbine-style air vents on the dashboard look high-end, and the ambient lighting creates an effortlessly cool atmosphere at night.
Everything you poke or prod feels high quality and it’s clear some serious cash has been spent on small things like the damping of the storage bin lid ahead of the driver, or the way the central armrest opens.
Rear seat space is on a par with what you’d expect of a large luxury sedan, which is to say legroom is good for adults behind adults, and headroom is good enough for the E-Class to remain a German taxi staple.
Rear air vents and heated outboard rear seats are standard, and there are ISOFIX points on the outboard seats to complement the trio of top-tether points.
Boot space is a claimed 540L with the rear seats in place, and the space beneath the powered boot lid is flat and wide.
As the meanest model in the E-Class range, the AMG E63 S gets a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 with 450kW and a formidable 850Nm of torque.
The 100km/h sprint takes just 3.4 seconds, and flat out you’ll be doing 300km/h. The left lane of the autobahn beckons…
Power is sent to all four wheels through a variable 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system capable of operating in pure rear-wheel drive Drift Mode.
The car’s nine-speed multi-clutch automatic transmission is unique in the E-Class range.
Claimed fuel economy is 12.3L/100km on the combined cycle, but we saw closer to 15L/100km in the real world. This isn’t a car that encourages you to hypermile.
There’s something deeply appealing about a car that can fly under the radar around the city, and rearrange your brain once the road gets interesting. The E63 S fits that bill perfectly.
It fires to life with a rumble, but in its most relaxed suspension and powertrain settings there’s no reason you couldn’t use the E63 for the school run or trips to the shops without once thinking about the fact it can do the 100km/h sprint in less than 3.5 seconds.
Less than 3.5 seconds! For a 2050kg luxury sedan that’s absurd.
You don’t want to hear about the surprisingly comfortable ride, do you? And you probably couldn’t care less about the way the engine can run as a more efficient four-cylinder under light loads, could you?
You probably don’t even care about the fact the nose doesn’t scrape on steep driveways.
No, you want to know what the E63 S is like when you uncork all the performance from its nuclear-grade engine.
It’s an animal. With 850Nm of torque on tap from just 2500rpm the engineers in Affalterbach could have saved some cash and fitted a three-speed transmission.
It’s like having an obliging German butler under the bonnet; no matter how ridiculous your request it always finds a way to deliver.
Lunge uphill from 1000rpm in seventh gear? Ja sir, we can do that.
First and second gear are gone in a flash, swallowed whole and spat out the fat quad exhaust before you’ve had time to swear, and the speedo keeps snowballing through third gear with seemingly no regard for the fact it weighs more than two tonnes.
Fourth is… let’s just say I need my licence for my job, so it’d be silly to comment further.
Is it too fast for Australia? It’s knocking on the door, that’s for sure.
You need to be so careful when you deploy close to all of its performance, because the gap between this is fun and sorry officer, I didn’t know your radar went that high is perilously small.
Putting that monstrous grunt to the road is a sophisticated all-wheel drive system capable of shuffling torque between the front and rear axles as required.
There’s some serious cleverness going on in the E63, and within the bounds of the road it never feels overwhelmingly lairy. It’s clearly rear-biased, especially in the more liberal Sport and Sport+ drive modes, but the front axle is always on hand to drag you out of a corner (or a potentially sticky situation) if required.
Like the smaller GLA45 S the E63 will absolutely dominate a road, but it does it on fast forward.
Grip is prodigious and the steering is reassuringly weighty, so confidence builds quickly.
It doesn’t take long before you’re pushing harder, carrying more speed, and trusting more in the electronics to get the E63 S from A to B at light speed.
You aren’t necessarily busy with little corrections behind the wheel, such is its crushing competence, but it’s impossible to get out and not be slightly breathless from the way it accelerates, steers, and stops.
Our tester wasn’t fitted with the optional AMG Carbon Ceramic brakes, but the standard steel stoppers seemed to handle the car’s bulk just fine, even on small roads not really designed for such a big, powerful car. Save the $17,000 (eek!).
The child in me, who grew up reading about heroic slides in rear-drive bruisers from AMG and BMW M, wanted to turn Drift Mode on to truly liberate the car from the grasp of its all-conquering all-wheel drive system and see what it was like – but the adult in me wouldn’t allow it on the road.
We’ll have to get the E63 S to a skid pan and see what’s what at some point.
The most impressive part of the E63 S, though, is once you’re done scrambling your brain in the hills it just turns back into an E-Class.
You can crack open the panoramic sunroof, crank up the Burmester stereo, and have the car’s determined German hands massage your upper back as you float on home, dastardly deeds completed.
Maintenance is required every 12 months or 20,000km in the E63 S, whichever comes first.
A prepaid three-year service plan will set you back $4300, four years is priced at $6300, and five years will cost $7050.
A five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty is standard across the Mercedes-Benz range.
The Mercedes-AMG E63 S is more car than you’ll ever need in Australia, but that isn’t really the point.
It’s a car you want. You want it because it’s so much faster than it needs to be, and it sounds like thunder.
You want it because it’ll give you a hot stone massage on the way to work, and can take your grandmother to church on Sunday.
It’s just a shame you can’t get a wagon in Australia. Forget want, that’s a car we need.
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