AMG says that its E-Class-based model takes longer to develop than any other car it makes, because it has to do so many different things. An AMG GT is just a sports car, an S 63 has to stay a luxury car, but the E 63 is expected to be both of those things.
It does a pretty fine job at being both, too. When it comes to considering it as a sports car, you’d think its biggest problem would be a hefty two-tonne kerb weight, but it’s actually surprisingly agile.
The steering is relatively heavy compared to the standard E-Class models but in the E 63 this a positive, giving you the feedback you need as you turn in to corners. And the more powerful E 63 S, which is the only variant we’ve driven so far, turns in with gusto and generates an astonishing amount of grip through a corner, plus enormous traction on the way out, despite having to deal with over 600bhp. If you want to have a hoot on a racetrack there is even a Drift mode, which turns off the four-wheel drive, making it rear driven only. Use that mode with a degree of caution, perhaps.
The ride is composed; as standard the E 63 rides on adjustable air suspension and it’s supple enough, bearing in mind the car’s sporting pretentions, if you’re running the car in its softest Comfort setting. Even in its tautest mode it’s not bad as long as you’re prepared for some little jolts over sharp inputs such as broken asphalt and ridges, but it musters even better body control by way of compensation, with enough pliancy left to keep things stable on an undulating road. That said, if you want the most exhilarating and finely honed driving experience, we’d put the Panamera Turbo at the top of your list.
The 4.0-litre V8 is quieter here – rightly, and understandably – than in an AMG GT, but it still makes a hell of a noise and sounds so much more stirring than its BMW, Porsche and Audi rivals. And there’s very little discernible turbo lag, which is that delay between you putting your foot down and the engine picking up and whisking you off down the road, so that’s good, too.
The only gearbox option is a nine-speed automatic with switchable modes to speed up the changes when required and paddles behind the steering wheel to allow you manual control. While the gearshifts are reasonably smooth most of the time in automatic mode, there are occasions when they’re a little ponderous using the paddles, certainly compared to the snappy shifts you get in an M5 or Panamera. Still, this quibble isn’t enough to dent the faintly ridiculous claimed 0-62mph time of just 3.4 seconds in the S version, and by Jove, it feels every bit as fast when you give it some welly.
Yet, when you’re not feeling in the mood to experience breath-taking g-forces, the E 63 S is quite capable of pootling along like any regular E-Class. It’s not difficult to drive smoothly in stop/ start traffic, and when you get on the motorway there’s little wind noise and an acceptable degree of roar from those fat tyres.