It's true. All 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG models sold stateside will come with all-wheel drive, and only all-wheel drive. Upon hearing this news, tires the world over breathed a sigh of relief.
That is, until they were informed of the new, more powerful E63 S model. Even all-wheel drive can't make 577 horsepower easy on tires.
At this rate, AMG will have to add a fifth and sixth wheel to the car and drive those, too.
More Capability, More Speed
Burnout aficionados have lamented this switch to AWD. But reality says that pouring the E63's tectonic-scale brutality to only two driven wheels results in frantic wheelspin and little else. Unless you prefer to drive a blinking traction control light, all-wheel drive is an inevitable step in harnessing the E63's galactic output.
And for 2014 it's even more galactic than ever. Beyond the addition of all-wheel drive and a face-lift in parallel with its lesser E-Class brethren, the twin-turbo, direct-injected 5.5-liter V8 found in all 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMGs receives a power bump. A remapped ECU, increased fuel pressure and a touch more boost liberated 32 hp and 15 pound-feet in the base E63 for a total of 550 hp and 531 lb-ft.
S status — optional on sedans and compulsory for wagons — picks up where the now-defunct AMG Performance Pack left off. The boost is squeezed up by 1.5 psi to 14.5 psi, elevating the S model's total output to an eye-watering 577 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. A smattering of cosmetics including 19-inch wheels and red calipers differentiate the S model. Carbon-ceramic brakes are also an exclusive "S" only option.
The seven-speed paddle-shifted automatic with three shift modes (plus manual mode) remains the sole gearbox choice, albeit now sprouting a power takeoff to send twist to the front wheels. As before, a multiplate clutch pack takes the place of a torque converter to provide sharper responses. Elsewhere, electronically variable dampers and rear air springs are now standard on all E63s, as are high-zoot all-LED headlights. Electric power steering finds its way into the mix, too.
AMG engineers gave the 2014 E63's AWD system a 67/33 percent rear/front torque split in an effort to preserve as much of the car's rear-drive character as possible. In practice this is indeed enough torque to the front wheels to seriously enhance traction, but not so much that the car understeers like a bad bus.
Traction is further augmented via a limited-slip rear diff that is standard on S models and — mystifyingly — must be selected as an option on the base car.
The AWD hardware adds 154 pounds to an already heavy car. Nevertheless, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 is faster than ever, as we found after a brief volley in the 2014 E63 S model along the sinuous tarmac outside Barcelona, Spain.
Damn the Torpedoes
Hit the gas out of a 2nd-gear corner and the E63 digs in and hurls itself forward, pinning your cheeks to your ears. It's faintly ridiculous, the ruthlessly efficient way it converts a toe dip into forward progress. There's no drama other than a V8 soundtrack that makes you want to clamp on the brakes and do it all over again. Boost builds seamlessly, betraying no soft spots in the power delivery.
The gearbox still isn't as quick or preternatural as the best dual-clutch jobs out there (ahem, PDK). It is smooth, however, and its manual mode is faithful to the notion — it won't automatically upshift at redline, or downshift when puttering around at low revs.
This is a big, heavy car that drives smaller than it is. Cornering is flat, and the E63's initial turn-in is sharp and complemented by a quick steering ratio. As you crank on lock in slower corners, the front end relents well before the tires' limit of adhesion is reached, and ultimate grip, while lofty, is not exactly neck-straining. It's still possible to coax the rear end into play with a heavy right foot; it just takes more commitment now.
As for torque steer, well, you wouldn't expect much of it in a layout such as the E63's (it has equal-length front driveshafts). But even at just 33 percent front torque bias, the E63 is putting 194 lb-ft to its front wheels, or more than many FWD hatchbacks can manage.
We felt the tug of the E63's driven front wheels through the steering once, maybe twice during our romp. We think. The influence was so mild that we can't even be certain that it actually happened, and we had other things on our mind at the time. Like the rapidly approaching horizon.
It's still a discreet-looking sedan, too. The revisions to the sheet metal add a convincing air of purpose without giving away the plot that this is a near-as-dammit 600-hp car. Larger air intakes and more curvaceous headlights are pretty, but not too pretty. And then there's the wagon, which is a genuine knockout.
577-hp Wagons All Around
So the addition of AWD hasn't neutered the E63, and it remains a more honest drive than the latest M5. With its broadened capability — dare we say "all-weather capability" — the E63 is more viable than ever.
But there's a new Audi S8 in the world — and possibly even a keener variant in the pipeline — and the Porsche Panamera Turbo, so the E63 doesn't have the sandbox all to itself.
Pricing of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG isn't yet released, though it's a safe bet that its added hardware won't be free. Nevertheless, the E63 is as entertaining as ever. Even without burnouts.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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