The Gladiator : Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG (W212)

Car Specifications
Cylinder Layout: 
V8, 32 valves, DOHC
Top Speed: 
250 km/h (electronic limited) 280 km/h with Sports Pack
AMG Speedshift MCT 7G-TRONIC automatic
4.5 seconds
525 bhp at 6800 rpm
630 Nm at 5200 rpm

Absolute power corrupts? Well not for this car. The AMG boffins have been fitting their AMG 6.3-litre engines into everything worth fixing into. This 6.3-litre normal aspirated V8 first saw action in the face lifted E 63 AMG i n 2006 replacing the exciting if much misunderstood E 55 AMG supercharged 5.5-litre V8 which pumped out an impressive 476bhp and a massive 700Nm of torque that turned the E55 into a hooligan street fighter at a prod of the throttle.

The E 63 with 514 bhp and just (!) 630 Nm of torque was a tad more subdued but had a powerband that stretched to 7000 rpm. So while it did not have the thump-in-the-back acceleration as the E 55 it did sustain the surge well into the high revs where the E 55 ran out of puff. The AMG Speedshift 7G-Tronic gearbox also helped restore the torque deficit with a better spread of gear ratios than the original five speed box i.e. both longer and lower.

In 2009 the new E 63 steps up in the wake of the darling of the AMG range- the C 63. There is no doubt the C 63 is the more playful of the two and to attempt the same would be counterproductive which is why the latest E 63 feels more like a very fast executive saloon than suave hooligan.

The E-Class has set new heights of refinement for Mercedes and this is definitely carried over to the E 63. Many say it is Merc's return to the quality days and we tend to agree. But can they maintain the refinement when AMG improves the power output by 11bhp to 525bhp and the new wet clutch 7G-Tronic Speedshift taken from the SL 63?

Using a wet multi-plate clutch that locks up all the time together with the aid of a special shift program called Controlled Efficiency helps lower fuel consumption by almost 12 per cent. However select Sport+ or Manual and it shifts at 100 ms like a F-1 transmission without the uncivilized thump. With RACE START mode the E 63 sprints to 100 km/h in just 4.5 seconds and on to a speed governed 250km/h. RACE START is Mercedes' version of a launch control and needs to be pre-activated and with ESP on, left foot brake and tug on the Up paddle and release brake as one floors the throttle. The ESP takes care of the traction as the wet clutch slams home.

If you do not drive it hard the  E63 pretty much behaves like the E350 with smooth shifts and a graceful disposition. However beyond that the E 63 ups the ante way past the capabilities of such ordinary machines. The pedal travel might be long but it serves up an avalanche of power at the end of it.

With the new E-Class chassis, the E 63 feels more than up to the task of harnessing that huge wallop of power. Where it was an eye-opening heart fluttering assault it is now easily handled by the various improvements of the suspension and the ESP to the point of being over-composed. Now one has to be punting it pretty hard to get the same sense of excitement.

Obviously more buyers will be pleased that the brute is now tame but at the same time it is sad that owners will not be as entertained as did the previous one but as one owner pointed out he feels less terrified especially when it rains here so often.

While it may be harder to play hooligan in the E 63 it is still the consummate inter-city cruiser. The iron fisted way the damping controls body movement is still amazing and now they have improved harshness suppression using the latest generation AMG Ride Control. The suspension is a hybrid of steel and air springs amalgamated with the electronically controlled dampers. Air springs were needed to keep rear ride height in sync with the front steel springs when more passengers are loaded in.

Employing a steering rack that is 22 per cent faster than the normal E350 the E 63 is certainly more direct at the helm and thanks to the firmer springs and damping the E 63 behaves in a more agile manner, willingly attacking corners than being coaxed into them. The Sport setting bumps up damping forces by some 40 per cent and is obvious. It is also a tad too firm for normal road use turning the occupants into quivering jello over poor tarmac. Sport+ has special algorithms that are tailored for track use meaning to say perfectly flat surfaces, hardly useful on our city roads.

In the grand scheme of AMG models the E63 occupies a very prime position in its hierachy. While the species really originated in the 190E or C-Class size model, the E63 could trace its roots to the famous W124 500E assembled by Porsche back in the early 1990's .

The E 63 AMG is the epitome of a Q-Car. It hardly looks menacing and avoids the “hey-look-at-me” styling of some of its competitors, yet it is fully capable as a street warrior or track-day car. However its true forte is its ability to slip seamlessly into its role as a city dweller and trickle along the city streets with consummate ease and yet can raise hell when the occasion warrants it. - AL
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