Mercedes E63 AMG review

Category: Sports car

Tremendously quick and amazing fun, thanks to its fabulous-sounding engine and entertaining handling.

Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 front
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 front
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 rear cornering
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 interior dashboard
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 interior rear seats
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 interior driver display
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 front right tracking
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 right tracking
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 above right tracking
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 front tracking
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 nose detail
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 alloy wheel detail
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 exhaust detail
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 interior front seats
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 interior detail
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 boot open
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 front
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 rear cornering
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 interior dashboard
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 interior rear seats
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 interior driver display
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 front right tracking
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 right tracking
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 above right tracking
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 front tracking
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 nose detail
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 alloy wheel detail
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 exhaust detail
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 interior front seats
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 interior detail
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 boot open
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Introduction

What Car? says...

The Mercedes-AMG E63 is one of those cars that makes you question reality, or at least the reality of how much power you need in an 'ordinary' saloon or estate. After all, here's one with more grunt than some supercars.

Really, we're not joking: the E63 kicks out 604bhp and that's backed up with 627 lb ft of shove from its frankly bonkers 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine. That's the same engine that you'll find in a supercar, by the way, because it's also found in the Mercedes-AMG GT but guess what? The E63's version is more powerful and that means it's the quicker-accelerating of the two cars.

Does any five-seater really need so much welly? Well, according to AMG, which is the performance arm of Mercedes-Benz, this one does. It has to compete with the likes of the Audi RS6 Avant, the BMW M5 and the Porsche Panamera Turbo – which are all performance cars with similar outputs or, in some cases, even more. 

If you fancy using your modern V8 muscle car for the school run and family holidays, there's even an estate version. That manages to do everything the saloon does (in other words, go really, really fast) but with a boot full of stuff on board. If that stuff is breakable, though, make sure that it's well tied down otherwise you’ll be in trouble.

Read on over the next few pages of this review to find out what the Mercedes-AMG E63 is like to live with every day, and how it compares with its rivals.

If by the end of it you're dead set on buying one, don't forget to check out the free What Car? New Car Buying service, where you'll find great savings on nearly every new car available, including plenty of tempting Mercedes E-Class deals.

Overview

The Mercedes E63 S AMG, whether in saloon or estate form, is the most fun car among those peers (although the Audi RS6 Avant is quieter on the motorway and a BMW M5 saloon slightly more precise through corners). The V8 engine delivers mind-blowing performance that's backed up by the best soundtrack in the class, and the handling is safe and secure when you need it to be, but entertaining when you wish to play about. Hence, the E63 is the one we'd buy.

  • Terrific engine noise
  • Performance is outstanding
  • Entertaining handling and steering feel
  • Not as comfortable or relaxing to drive as the Audi RS6
  • Expensive to buy outright and pretty hefty depreciation
  • Road and wind noise on the motorway
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Let's begin with the obvious bit: the Mercedes-AMG E63's 4.0-litre V8 engine. It makes a hell of a noise. Seriously, if you're shy and retiring, think about the quieter Audi RS6 Avant or Porsche Panamera instead, because this is a smile-inducing, aural cocktail of snarls, bellows and barks. We think it sounds fabulous, and it really sets the tone for what's to come in a car that's primarily about having fun. 

For many drivers, a big chunk of that fun will come from its ludicrous straight-line pace. We timed an E63 S Estate against an Audi RS6 Avant and the E63 romped away, so we can confirm that it’s not just blisteringly quick on paper. In that test, the E63 did 0-60mph in 3.3sec (0.3sec quicker than the RS6, and it was also 0.6sec quicker from 0-100mph). It feels every bit as urgent as those mega numbers suggest from behind the wheel and definitely has the firepower to keep up with the BMW M5 and Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid.

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With all that mighty poke to deal with, it'll come as a great relief to many that four-wheel drive is included. As with the M5, you can disengage it and make the E63 real-wheel drive, although that’s more for track days than the road. If you keep the four-wheel drive engaged and drive it like a normal car, it lopes around like a docile Doberman: absolutely to heel but with a latent supply ferociousness on tap instantly.

There's also a halfway-house mode. If you keep the four-wheel drive on but switch the stability control to Sport and put your foot down out of a corner, you'll still feel a good chunk of the power being sent to the rear wheels. That makes the E63 feel so much more playful than the rather point-and-squirt RS6. It's not snappy, though, and if you drive it smoothly it feels agile and balanced in bends, although it’s not quite as precise as the M5 or Panamera.

Even so, we prefer the E63's steering. It's relatively heavy compared with the standard Mercedes E-Class, but that heft and the little sensations you get buzzing the wheel rim – mapping the road surface and turning it into a form of braille that tells you about grip and cornering force – adds a bit more involvement. It breeds real confidence, too, which is a good thing when the car has 600-plus bhp.

The nine-speed automatic gearbox is a bit clunky at times, even in its most relaxed setting, while in its sportiest setting it can be quite brutal as it punches through each gear. Still, that’s more in keeping with the performance car remit than the RS6’s lazy auto 'box (the best gearbox is the pin-sharp Panamera's, which is both quick and smooth). The paddles behind the E63’s steering wheel work well when you want to change gear manually.

This isn't the most relaxing car of its type. The ride isn't hard, but it is quite a bit firmer than an RS6's, even in its softest setting, so it thumps a bit more across patched-up town roads in much the same way that the M5 will. The difference is that the E63's suspension is noisier than the M5's, twanging over sharp edges. As you move to faster roads, the ride settles down appreciably.

That could make the E63 a decent long-distance cruiser, and it would be apart from the copious amount of grainy road noise you hear and feel on all but the smoothest of motorways. There’s a fair flutter of wind noise from around its door mirrors, too, and, once again, if you’re more worried about comfort than driver involvement, this is another area where the hushed RS6 is better.

Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 rear cornering

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

As with all AMG saloons and hatchbacks, the E63 stays largely true to its Mercedes roots on the inside. The AMG-inspired elements are mostly decorative – a few carbon-fibre touches here and contrast seat stitching there. The trim upgrades, including the leather-wrapped dashboard, look high-end, and subjectively the E63 has more wow factor inside than the Audi RS6 Avant. It's not quite as substantial when you go prodding around as the RS6 and BMW M5, though. 

Soft nappa leather also extends to the seats, and in the front those are heavily bolstered sports seats. They come with full electric adjustment, including lumbar adjustment and a basic massaging facility. The driver’s seat is comfortable over long distances but not as figure-hugging through corners as the ones you get in the M5 and RS6. 

The driving position is rather flawed, it has to be said. The E63's footwell is confined: the left-hand side bulges out and restricts the room for your left leg and offsets the pedals to the right. That problem also exists in the M5 and RS6, but not to the same degree, and at least in those cars the steering wheel and driver's seat line up. They don't in the E63: the steering wheel sits to the left of the centre line of the seat.

The touch-sensitive steering wheel buttons are a nuisance, too. They're fiddly, don't always do what you want them to and, if you accidentally catch one while turning the wheel, can inadvertently change something you didn't want to be adjusted. On the plus side, the rest of the dashboard controls that operate the primary functions are mostly physical buttons and knobs that are easy to use.

Some people have found that the top of the digital instruments are hidden by the steering wheel unless they raise the wheel up higher than feels ideal. The steering wheel adjustment is electric, by the way, with a good range of movement in all directions. 

Next to the 12.3in digital instrument screen is the 12.3in infotainment screen. Both screens are high definition and the Mercedes MBUX software is generally responsive and intuitive. The infotainment screen is a touchscreen, which is a fine medium for operating the system when you're stationary, but the additional touchpad between the front seats is the less distracting method of operation while you're driving. 

The M5's infotainment package comes with a physical iDrive rotary controller, which is even easier to use, but there is nothing similar in the RS6 or the Porsche Panamera to help you navigate their complex touchscreens.

Standard equipment includes a DAB radio and built-in 'augmented' sat-nav, which plays a live camera feed of the road ahead overlaid with direction arrows pointing at the road you need to turn down. You also get Apple CarPlay/Android Auto so you can use your smartphone's navigation apps, wireless phone-charging and a punchy 13-speaker, 590-watt Burmester sound system.

It's easier to see out of the back of the E63 estate than the saloon, but neither is as easy to see out of as the RS6, which has thinner pillars all round. That's not a major concern, though, because the E63 comes with front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree camera and bright, adaptive LED headlights.

Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

The Mercedes-AMG E63 has a slightly snugger-feeling interior than the Audi RS6 Avant and BMW M5, which is more to do with the higher window line and thicker pillars than it being any smaller inside. The reality is you get very nearly the same front head and leg room as you would get in the RS6, and it's wide enough that you can make use of the front armrest without worrying about connecting an elbow with your passenger.

There's also slightly more rear leg room than in its two main rivals. It's worth noting that the E63 estate has a bit more head room than the saloon, but even the latter is fine unless you're very tall. Sitting three burly adults abreast will be a bit of a squeeze, but a trio of younger teenagers should be comfortable. The Porsche Panamera has five seats, too, but its middle rear seat is nothing more than a perch suitable for occasional use. 

There's plenty of storage for knick-knacks dotted around, including decent-sized door bins, cupholders and cubbies. There's also a sizeable glovebox.

The size of the boot rather depends on whether you're looking at the saloon or estate. The former has roughly the same space as the M5 saloon and will fit up to eight carry-on cases. The estate can manage a serious load of up to 10 cases below the tonneau cover, which is one more than the RS6 (also an estate) can swallow.

In either body style, the boot is well shaped with good access and 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats (for those occasions when you need to carry abnormally large loads). You can drop the rear seats easily using release buttons by the estate's tailgate, but the tonneau cover is a right-old faff to remove. The release mechanism is fiddly and the unit is very heavy so it's difficult to handle.

Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 interior rear seats

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

It's not for us to say whether the world needs a 604bhp saloon or estate car, or whether spending the money on one is a sensible thing to do. But we will say one thing: buying or running a Mercedes-AMG E63 won't come cheap. The Audi RS6 Avant is the cheapest of its main rivals – E63 costs a similar amount to the entry-level BMW M5 Competition. The Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is way more expensive than all of them.

The E63 will tend to lose the most value as a percentage of its list price after three years compared with its key rivals. The M5 is not much better, but the RS6 and Panamera could save you thousands of pounds in depreciation. That's also why they tend to have cheaper PCP finance rates. 

Thanks to cylinder shutdown, which means the V8 engine can run on four cylinders when cruising to save fuel, you should be able to get near to the official average fuel economy, which is just over 20mpg. We managed that on a mix of roads in the estate. The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is the only rival that will get substantially better figures, but only if you keep its hybrid battery topped up.

The Panamera will also work out better if you're thinking of running one of these as a company car, thanks to the benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax breaks that are available on plug-in hybrids. The E63, like the RS6 and M5, sits in the top bracket for company car tax.

To help justify its weighty list price, the E63 S 4Matic+ Night Edition Premium Plus, as it's officially known, does come very well equipped. We've already mentioned the infotainment features and other additions, such as electric seat adjustment and parking aids, but you get plenty more on top.

That includes 20in alloy wheels, red brake calipers, unique AMG bumpers and side skirts, a limited-slip differential (LSD), heated front seats, nappa leather trim, keyless entry, three-zone climate control, privacy glass, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control with steering and lane-changing assistance, power-folding door mirrors, a sports exhaust, a powered tailgate with gesture control and multi-coloured interior ambient lighting. That's way more kit than you get as standard on the entry-level RS6. 

Safety features include automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition and lane-departure warning and assistance. Euro NCAP awarded the standard Mercedes E-Class its top five-star crash-test rating, with a particularly high score for adult occupancy protection. That was several years ago, though, and since then the tests have become much stiffer so it's almost impossible to compare the results with more modern car designs. The Panamera has not been tested by Euro NCAP. 

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Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 2021 interior driver display
At a glance
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Target Price from £55,290
or from £682pm
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RRP price range £55,290 - £86,325
Number of trims (see all)2
Number of engines (see all)4
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol parallel phev, diesel, petrol
MPG range across all versions 40.9 - 58.9
Available doors options 4
Warranty 3 years / No mileage cap
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £544 / £6,337
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £1,087 / £12,674
Available colours