Extreme luxury and raw performance leave the driver with the feeling of experiencing two cars for the price of one.
2011 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG
After spending a few days with the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, I can definitively say that this saloon is mad. Bonkers. Crazy, even.
The more clinical and accurate - not to mention politically correct - term would be split personality disorder. Because by combining coddling luxury with brutal, snorting power, this car actually has two different and distinct personalities. Both of them separately are lovely enough, but the combination of the two is pure, asphalt-bound enchantment. And there's no end of delight in finding the extremities of either side.
Feeling like some relaxation? Take the E63 out for a spin one night; keep the ride-control selector in comfort - forget about sport or sport+ for a while. Pick up the Abu Dhabi Jazz station on the Harmon Kardon stereo system and bask in the soft mood lighting emanating from the door and dash panels. Reach down beside you and select the back massager; ahhhh, the seat begins to send a pulsing bubble slowly up and down your back, releasing the tension of the day.
The surroundings in the cockpit are luxurious, to say the least. Along with the massage option for the two front seats (made of soft leather, of course) come heating and cooling controls; carbon fibre and piano black accents compliment the rich, two-tone beige-on-brown of the interior. It's all typical Mercedes.
In comfort mode, the seven-speed automatic shifts seamlessly. It's quiet - if you take it easy with the throttle - with little road noise to annoy you. Bumps and blemishes in the road are soaked up in that soft yet firm Germanic way. In fact, why don't you set the dynamic cruise control? It's designed to keep a set speed until a slower car comes up in front; radar automatically slows the E63 down - to a stop, if necessary - keeping a safe distance until the obstacle is gone. It's a little creepy at first, but you get used to this feature, and it works well on the motorway and in town, leaving you more time to relax.
But all it takes is one hard stab on the throttle for the car's - and the driver's - personality to change. You see, AMG took the regular E-Class and reworked or replaced just about every mechanical bit underneath it, and the results are astonishing. It has retained all that luxury so sought after by Mercedes buyers, but it's now added an incredible level of performance more familiar with its Germanic neighbour, Porsche.
The engine at the front is now a 6.2L V8; AMG calls it a 6.3L just to leave the E63 designation, but whatever the moniker, there is no arguing its 525hp and 630Nm of torque, more than the V10 of its main rival, the BMW M5. It's this engine that is the heart of the twin personalities of the E63 because it transforms the soft people mover into a hot rod with a seeming never-ending supply of raw power.
Rev it higher - now you hear the growl; feel it push you back in your seat as the speedo rapidly climbs from relaxation to adrenalin. In fact, now's the time to switch the ride control from comfort to sport, where the shifts get crisper and the suspension firms up. Sport+ makes it even more so, and the transmission keeps a lower gear longer for higher revs and more control. It's exhilarating.
If the engine is the heart of the excitement, the transmission is the brain. It's amazing how it can go from soft, almost undetectable shifts in comfort to what it does in a sportier frame of mind. The gear changes are much more firm and authoritative, going both up and down, and you'd swear it was a dual-clutch gearbox instead of employing a torque converter. And it seems to always be in the gear you want it to be in. Flick the knob once more to manual, and the driver is given full control over gear selection with the paddle shifters behind the wheel.
Other little things about this dual personality start to become apparent to a driver as the speed climbs. AMG's rear air suspension and a reworked front suspension have taken almost all the roll out of tight, high-speed corners, while still keeping that plush ride. The dynamic seat bolsters actually move to grip the driver in a turn; another creepy option that needs getting used to. The steering is light but very communicative, and you really get a feel for what's going on underneath you. The engine burbles into the cockpit, and it's easy to bump it off the rev limiter if you're not careful; it's deceiving how quickly it spools up. There is just enough understeer that would take it out of the category of a true sports car, but it's not surprising for a large vehicle. Regardless, it seems to want the driver to push more and more, and the good thing is it seems to have an answer for whatever you ask of it.
For more fun, the stability control has three settings: on, sport, and off. The sport mode allows limited slip for even more fun without letting it all go pear-shaped in the hands of a less-capable pilot. And in keeping with this instant change of personality, all of your settings with the stability control, suspension and ride-control selector can be saved with one push of the AMG button, down by the gear selector.
Yes, the E63 AMG has two personalities, but I wouldn't suggest therapy or counselling. I think it's perfect just the way it is.
Price base / as tested Dh378,298 / Dh552,308
Engine 6.2L V8
Gearbox Seven-speed automatic
Power 525hp @ 6,800 rpm
Torque 630Nm @ 5,200 rpm
Fuel economy, combined 12.6L / 100km