A grumbling exhaust, tenacious grip around corners and neck-snapping acceleration that gets you from zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. These sound like the attributes of a flamboyant sports car you bring out on weekends to show off at the golf course. And yet the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S is no such weekend plaything. It's a serious performance machine yes, but it's also a family-friendly, midsize sedan with a spacious backseat, a big trunk and a ride that's comfortable enough for long road trips. You could buy a luxury sedan and a sports car, or you could just buy this.
What Is It?
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG is the high-performance version of the Mercedes E-Class, while the new-for-2014 E63 AMG "S" version we tested is one step beyond the base E63 AMG.
That step includes a 577-horsepower version of the twin-turbo V8 that makes a mere 550 hp in the standard E63, plus a limited-slip rear differential, different 19-inch wheels and even more powerful brakes. Like the base E63, it has an adjustable suspension, steering, exhaust and a transmission built and tuned by Mercedes' AMG performance specialists, along with many of the advanced luxury features optional on lesser E-Class models.
Both versions of the E63 now come standard with "4Matic" all-wheel drive, which is a controversial addition that significantly alters the car's character. There are certainly benefits in regards to road holding, all-weather traction and putting so much power down to the pavement, but it has robbed the E63 of its previous hooligan-in-a-tie, tail-out nature that has long been an AMG trademark.
Besides its myriad performance attributes and unique styling elements, the E63 is just another Mercedes E-Class that you can drive to work every day or take to the lake for a long weekend. It boasts an impressive array of safety, convenience, comfort and infotainment features that make it just as much of a luxury sedan as it is a sporting one.
How Fast Is It?
As you might imagine, the E63 AMG S is an incredibly fast car. Its 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 sends 577 hp and an incredible 590 pound-feet of torque to the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system (33:67 front/rear) by way of AMG's seven-speed Speedshift MCT automatic transmission. It utilizes a multiple clutch pack instead of a typical torque converter for enhanced response and driver control, and like other vehicle systems, it can be altered based on road conditions and how adventurous the driver feels. The Sport+ setting does an admirable job of anticipating downshifts and waiting appropriately for upshifts to the point that the Manual mode and its paddle shifters are necessary only on tighter, more technical twisting roads.
At our test track, all of this go-fast hardware launched the E63 AMG S from zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds (3.4 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip) and through the quarter mile in 11.7 seconds at 119.7 mph. To put this into perspective, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT roadster went through the quarter-mile in 11.8 seconds at 121.5 mph, but with a 0-60 time of 4 seconds flat. In other words, this midsize sedan is quicker than Mercedes' own exotic sports car.
Those times are also a full second quicker than the previous E63, which came with a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 good for "only" 518 hp. That car may have been slower, but it did sound better than the new turbocharged engine, which relies heavily on the exhaust-tuning wizardry of AMG's engineers to produce the sort of boorish noises we've come to expect from fast Benzes. There's still a deep, thunderous rumble any time you pull away from a stop and there's no accusing the 2014 model of being quiet, but the delicious, angry roar that used to emanate at higher rpm is gone.
All that extra power isn't the only reason for the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG's impressive acceleration. There's only so much power rear wheels alone can receive before traction gives way to a smoky burnout (or stability control intervention), so sending power to the front wheels as well is almost a necessity to get the most of so much added power and torque. There are downsides, though, including the telltale steering wheel tug of torque steer during our acceleration runs.
How Well Does It Go Around Corners?
All-wheel drive also takes away any possibility for the sort of driving histrionics that big, powerful AMG Mercedes have become known for. No graceful drifts, no tire smoking. More importantly, though, the E63 simply isn't as playful, rewarding or involving for a skilled driver.
At the same time, however, the new E63 is also easier, safer and ultimately more capable for the majority of buyers who will take one home. The traction afforded by all-wheel drive along with the S model's limited-slip differential and 0.9-inch wider track is just incredible. You can keep going faster and faster through each successive turn and power out of them with authority — and all without the into-a-hedge fear associated with an overpowered rear-wheel-drive car.
As before, the E63 features the AMG adaptive sport suspension, with steel springs up front and a load-leveling air suspension in back. There are three settings: Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Each delivers on its description, as Comfort mode quelled body roll during a spirited drive through California's Ojai Valley while being suitably cosseting during the highway journey back. Sport was the preferred choice on back roads, though, firming things up just enough for enhanced control without becoming jiggly, bouncy and generally unpleasant. The Sport+ mode is best reserved for pristine pavement given its aggressive settings.
Nevertheless, without passengers to make ill, Sport+ was the setting of choice on our test track, where the E63 went through the slalom cones at 68.9 mph and around our skid pad with 0.90g of grip. That makes the E63 a hair quicker through the slalom than the Audi RS 7, which nevertheless pulls a higher g on the skid pad (0.96).
The level of variable power steering assist also changes in step with the suspension settings, though the differences between each are less obvious here. In general, though, the E63's steering is on the lower-effort side, which isn't a bad thing and certainly seems appropriate for the car's dual nature. Communication from the electromechanical system to the wheel could be better, but it's responsive, linear and further encourages you to drive with enthusiasm.
The brakes, too, are encouraging, with a firm pedal that showed no sign of fade on our favorite mountain roads or at the test track, where the E63 AMG S came to a stop from 60 mph in 105 feet with the utmost control and only a modest amount of dive.
What Is the Interior Like?
For much of your time behind the wheel, much of the above info won't matter a lick compared to the E63's comfortable, stylish and impeccably crafted cabin. Our test car's deep Mystic Red leather and Black Piano Lacquer trim from Mercedes' Designo custom-order program added a tasteful touch of style and flair to an otherwise wolf-in-sheep's-clothing sort of car — especially when the exterior is painted one of six available shades of gray. AMG emblems embossed on the seats and electronic shifter, along with a flat-bottom steering wheel with simulated suede trim are intended to remind you and your passengers that this isn't any old E350.
Both seats adjust 10 ways, but the driver gets thigh extension, added lumbar adjustment, two-level massage and "dynamic" adjustable bolsters that can automatically inflate and deflate to correspond with movement through corners. Even without them, these seats keep you nicely in place while also providing firm support for hours of comfort behind the wheel. Heating and ventilation make them even more inviting.
Rear-seat passengers are greeted with ample legroom regardless of front seating position, and more than enough headroom for 6-footers. This, along with superior visibility, is the main advantage of the E63 versus the mechanically related, but more flamboyantly styled and thus compromised CLS63 AMG.
Trunk space is also quite generous at 16 cubic feet, with a wide opening and plenty of space for a family's worth of luggage.
What Electronic Features Do I Get?
The E63 AMG comes with the same COMAND electronics interface found in all Mercedes except the most recently introduced C- and S-Classes. A central screen, which is now on the small side relative to competitors, is controlled by a console-mounted knob and buttons on the center stack. There's some learning curve, but we've often found COMAND to be one of the most intuitive systems on the market — especially for those who aren't especially tech-savvy.
The features it controls include a navigation system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, myriad vehicle settings, MB Apps for smartphones, a surround-view parking camera and the standard 14-speaker Harman Kardon Logic7 surround-sound system. An auxiliary audio jack and a proprietary 30-pin connector are also present for portable music playback.
The most impressive gizmo has nothing to do with COMAND. The optional Distronic Plus cruise control system not only automatically slows you when approaching a slower-moving vehicle, but will come to a complete stop, and start up again when the vehicle ahead begins to move. When used in traffic, the car essentially takes care of the things your feet would normally do. And now, as if that wasn't great enough, Distronic Plus works with the electric power steering and lane-departure warning system to automatically keep you in your lane and therefore provide what amounts to autonomous driving in gridlocked freeway traffic.
This so-called DTR+ Steering doesn't work the same at speed (the car will warn you to keep your hands on the wheel despite still preventing lane wandering), and we'd recommend turning it off when using cruise control on anything but a straight road. It tends to subtly pull and tug at the wheel when going around sweeping curves, creating an odd, incredibly artificial steering feel that's a bit too HAL 9000 for our liking.
What Safety Features Are Available?
Every E63 AMG S comes with a king's ransom of passive and active safety features. There are small front pelvic airbags and a driver knee airbag, along with a driver inattention monitor (Attention Assist), a radar-based collision warning system (Collision Prevention Assist), a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, an automated parallel parking system and full LED headlights that are so bright it's surprising they're legal. You also get the mbrace2 emergency communications system that provides automatic crash notification and on-demand roadside assistance.
There are also plenty of optional safety items as well. The Lane Tracking package includes blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems, while the Driver Assistance package goes one step beyond by steering the car should the driver not heed those warnings. This package also includes cross-traffic alert and an automatic braking system in the event of an impending collision or pedestrian impact.
The E-Class in general received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the best possible rating of "Good" in all categories (including the tough new small-overlap frontal test) and a Top Safety Pick+ award.
What Fuel Economy Does It Get?
The E63 AMG S returned 17.2 mpg on the Edmunds evaluation route and 14.2 mpg during its two-week stay with us. These compare to the EPA's estimates of 18 mpg combined (15 city/22 highway). Opting for the less powerful regular E63 AMG raises fuel economy to 19 mpg combined (16/24).
For comparison's sake, these EPA estimates are basically equal to those of the outgoing, less powerful 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8.
Are There Other Versions Available?
If you like everything you've read and seen about the E63 AMG but wish it looked a little more interesting? Well, the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG is for all intents and purposes the same car under its sleek, distinctive styling. On the other end of the spectrum, if you wished the E63 AMG was more practical, there is also a wagon model. Both are also available in regular and S models.
What Other Cars Should Be Considered?
Audi RS 7: As thrilling as the E63 AMG S is, the fastest and meanest Audi sedan takes things to a slightly higher level. It's quicker from zero to 60 mph and boasts sharper handling. Its sleek styling pairs with a hatchback trunk to create a unique mix of form and function.
BMW M5: The original fast sedan has also gone turbocharged, but has retained its rear-wheel-drive layout. Nevertheless, this is less of an all-out performance machine than it used to be, favoring instead a more well-rounded and luxurious approach that more closely aligns with the E63. One could also consider the mechanically related, but more expensive M6 Gran Coupe.
Porsche Panamera: In order to match the E63's performance, along with the above competitors, you have to step up to the Panamera Turbo models, which cost at least $40,000 more. Still, most Panameras provide a level of handling precision and driver involvement the Mercedes cannot match.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S is a thrilling performance machine that doubles as a daily driver. Its meticulous construction, rich materials and comfortable cabin accommodations should satisfy any luxury shopper, while its acceleration and handling match those of many sports cars. For car enthusiasts with deep pockets but only one place in the garage, it's a superb choice.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
This revised E63 AMG has lost some of its previous edge despite an overt increase in horsepower, so skilled drivers will find less involvement and fun to be had. Those simply looking for the fanciest, most exclusive and most expensive Mercedes-Benz E-Class may also find the ride to be firmer than preferred. And of course, there are plenty of other massively desirable high-performance sedans in its price range.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.