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.
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.