If a seemingly unlikely sequence of events ever leads me to having to choose one engine to power all of the cars that I drive for the rest of my life, I have an easy answer: Mercedes-AMG’s current 4.0-litre V8. OK, so it might not last long into the looming electric revolution, but the twin-turbo unit – or biturbo, as AMG would have it – has more character than just about any petrol-powered unit on the roads today. And that isn’t just in the context of the classic octet arrangement – I’m talking about any cylinder configuration.
The final proof, if it were needed, was presented to me this year in the form of the Aston Martin DB11 V8 as well as the new Aston Martin Vantage, both of which have slightly tweaked versions of AMG’s mighty machine. The DB11 gives particularly vivid context: the V8 actually exceeds the original full-fat V12 version that proceeded it.
By its own admission, Aston has actually toned down the V8’s whizz-popping exhaust effects for the benefit of its charges, in keeping with a degree of British etiquette. But it’s a soundtrack that is gleefully in unrestrained full throat on the range of cars that originally bought the engine to prominence. Not that it’s the solitary reason I have positioned myself in the driver’s seat of two Mercs blessed with the eight-cylinder wonder, because the E 63 S 4Matic+ and the S 63 4Matic+ are also the quickest saloons in their respective ranges. So the question is: E-Class or S-Class?
Naturally, as with almost any contrasting models, a good chunk of the answer will lie in your own personal needs. The S 63 is a total monster on paper, but as usual at the rarefied end of Merc’s spectrum, you assume that the “S” in S-Class stands for smooooooth. It has 612hp and 900Nm of torque, yet insulates you against the outside effects of such insane momentum generation in a cabin that you could doze in at race speeds.
The levels of comfort and soundproofing are such that it’s almost hazardous: the only way to genuinely have even a ballpark idea of how fast you’re travelling is to refer to the speedometer, because the cosseting seems to numb your other senses. Chances are, when you glance down, you will be in for a shock.
The E 63 boots out 603hp and 850Nm of torque, yet its total weight of 1,880 kilograms, compared to the S-Class’s two-and-a-quarter tonnes, means that it actually outstrips its bigger brother away from the traffic lights. Its 0-to-100kph time of 3.4 seconds is a tenth of a second quicker than the S 63.
It isn’t surprising to learn that this is the most powerful E-Class in history, and my goodness does it feel it. It’s a real snarling wolf in semi-sheep’s clothing, blasting away from junctions and other on-road stoppages with a cacophony that suggests it wants all other traffic to move to the right-hand lanes – and quickly.
While the S 63 has the S-Class’s stately lines to distract from its missile-like qualities in a row, that bigger body also has the effect of making it feel too large at speed. Despite the handling being perfectly safe and secure, it remains hard to shake the feeling that cornering in a car of this scale is somehow against physics.
There are no such problems for the E 63, which wields dimensions much more in keeping with supercar-in-a-saloon performance. It also feels innately connected to every input that you give, from reassuringly firm steering to sprinter-fast gear shifts and those shotgun exhaust explosions when you change down aggressively.
What both cars share is all-wheel drive to translate those impressive figures into eminently usable velocity. Things would, you suspect, get rather too tasty for public roads, were the back wheels the only ones driving things.
The personal context to raving about the delights of AMG’s V8 is also revealing: I usually prefer my eight cylinders in muscle cars, preferably of American parentage. The Germans are destroying just about every transatlantic competitor at their own game right now, though. And for that, you have to doubly salute them – these are four litres of powerful petrol-pushed poetry that you won’t tire of.
When it comes down to the top charger from the E-Class against the S-Class, give me the E 63 all day long – and even without factoring in that its starting price of Dh502,423 is about Dh140,000 cheaper than its S-Class sibling. Put simply, when the noise created by your right foot is this addictive, you want to hear it without weapons-grade soundproofing.