Join Date: Dec 2005
2010 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG - First Drive Review
New and improved: The E63 is even more fantastic than before.
It’s a shame that infomercial pitchman Billy Mays passed away just as Mercedes-Benz is launching the performance version of the 2010 E-class, because he would have done an excellent job of touting the many uses for the new and improved 2010 E63 AMG. “The 518-hp V-8,” Mays would say in his booming voice, “rockets you from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, making quick work of sports cars with less than half the seating. And you can still use it every day to pick Junior up from school and drop Grandma off at the library.” Not that the E63 is the sort of car that would be hawked via cable-TV ads, but it does promise a “You won’t believe your eyes!” combination of performance and usability. There are no easy payments, however, despite the fact that when the E63 goes on sale in October, pricing should fall below that of its predecessor. Expect to pay just under $88,000 to start.
Highly Evolved from the Standard E-class
Previous E-class AMGs merely had stiffened versions of the standard suspension, but like its little brother, the C63 AMG, the new E63 gets a seriously reworked suspension compared with that of the standard car on which it’s based. The 2010 version gets an entirely new front axle with a 2.2-inch-wider track. Spring rates are twice as stiff as the regular car's, necessitating a change from air springs to conventional coils. Load-leveling air springs remain at the rear. In addition, the anti-roll bars and the subframe bushings have been beefed up. And if the standard E63 is too soft for you, a Performance package stiffens up the front anti-roll bar and the tuning on the standard adaptive dampers, adds lightweight 19-inch forged alloy wheels, and raises the electronically governed top speed from 155 mph to 186. With both the 18- and 19-inch wheels, the tire width is 255 in front and 285 in the rear. The steering ratio, at 14.0:1, is 22 percent quicker than in the regular E-class and uses a direct, rather than variable, rack.
Under the hood is the venerable 32-valve 6.2-liter V-8 (the 63 in the car’s name and the 6.3 badges on its front fenders pay homage to an older engine with a true 6.3-liter displacement). Here it makes 518 hp, an increase of 11 over the old E63, mostly due to a freer-flowing exhaust. Torque remains the same at 465 lb-ft. New to this car is a clutch-activated (no, there’s no clutch pedal, but we’ll get to that part in a sec) alternator, which allows the engine to charge the electrical system only during coasting to save on fuel. Overall, the E63 is 12 percent more efficient in the European combined fuel-economy cycle.
The engine is paired to a seven-speed automatic, but it’s coupled to the engine via a wet-plate clutch instead of a traditional torque converter. First seen on the SL63 AMG, this arrangement allows for a more direct connection between the engine and gears and results in quicker shift response. As in the SL63, there are multiple settings: C (for “controlled efficiency”), sport, sport plus, manual, and race mode launch control.
Controlled efficiency mode (can’t we just call it comfort?) starts from a stop in second gear and acts much like a regular automatic, choosing the highest ratio whenever possible. Sport mode is slightly more aggressive and shifts with a little more force. We like sport plus most of all, however, since it holds gears and enacts rev-matching downshifts. Enabling sport plus or manual makes for the quickest shifts, which add a delightful crackle to the exhaust note. New to the E63 is a simplified shift lever with three positions: reverse, neutral, and drive. Park is activated by pressing a button, and manual shifts are actuated via the steering-wheel-mounted paddles.
One big-ticket item on the E63 is a set of optional carbon-ceramic brakes. They come standard with the Performance package in Europe, but due to production constraints, we won’t see them in the U.S. for another year. They should cost between $8000 and $10,000 as a stand-alone option. If you can wait—and are cool with spending the extra coin—you’ll save 31 pounds over the standard setup, which uses 14.2-inch discs all-around. Go carbon, and 15.8-inch ceramic discs are fitted up front; the rears stay the same size. The ceramic package requires larger calipers that offset some of the weight saving, though.
Sinister yet Stealthy Styling and Versatile Performance
Visually, the E63 treads the line between sinister and stealthy. Compared with the stock E, the AMG’s front fenders are 0.7 inch wider on each side to accommodate the wider track. At the front, there’s a lower front spoiler with LED running lights, functional gill vents (they feed engine-oil coolers), and tinted headlight lenses. Inside, the new shift lever is flanked by a knob to select the transmission mode and a trio of buttons: one for stability control (on, sport, and off), one for the suspension (comfort, sport, and sport plus), and a programmable AMG button that instantly brings up your favorite combination of settings.
The have-it-all proposition of the E63 is nothing new. The old E63 delivered extra helpings of performance and luxury, as do the current BMW M5, Cadillac CTS-V, and Jaguar XFR. But the AMG treatment on the latest E-class has transformed the car into something greater than it was before. It’s akin to comparing the C63 to the old C55, but this E AMG is a more civilized package. Next to the previous E63, the handling is much more responsive, and the hefty steering delivers a good level of feedback. The engine, already one of our favorites, is more responsive, thanks to the transmission.
Mercedes-Benz claims the E63 will equal or better the C63 in overall performance, which is highly believable. The E63 is far more comfortable, though, and not just due to its larger size. Stability is excellent even at autobahn speeds, and the tires never seem to give up in corners. Our only complaint regards the suspension on the Performance package. Comfort mode is a relative term, and the sport plus setting (which Mercedes-Benz recommends reserving for track use) is so stiff that it batters the kidneys even on the smooth German roads we sampled during our drive. The standard E63 suspension is slightly more plush (and, thankfully, much more sporty than the pillowlike E-class), although we will be interested to sample both on the rougher roads here at home. The carbon-ceramic brakes work excellently, with little of the squeal found in other ceramic systems and plenty of pedal feel even when cold. Still, nobody will be disappointed by the standard brakes, which are easier to modulate than the carbons.
Unfortunately, Option Packages Aren’t Buy-One, Get-One Free
As we mentioned, the E63 won’t go on sale until October; unlike the commercials for Oxy Clean, however, operators are not standing by. It is likely that your local Mercedes-Benz dealer will be happy to accept a deposit, though, and with a few “act now” offers thrown in to boot. As for extra equipment, the option packages will be fairly simple. In addition to the Performance package, there’s the Premium 1 package, which includes dynamic seats with heat and ventilation, navigation, voice recognition, and a rear-view camera. Premium 2 adds automatic high-beams, active headlights, a power trunklid, and keyless ignition. Then there’s the Driver Assistance package, which has adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot detection. The standalone options, excluding the late-arriving carbon ceramic brakes, consist of night vision with pedestrian detection, a panoramic sunroof, rear-seat entertainment, and walnut or carbon-fiber interior trim.
Of course, unlike the products Billy Mays pitched, the E63 AMG won’t include a money-back guarantee from Mercedes-Benz, but then again it won’t need to. The E63 delivers a lot more versatility, and a lot more satisfaction, than any gadget you can order over the phone.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
ESTIMATED BASE PRICE: $88,000
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 379 cu in, 6208
Power (SAE net): 518 bhp @ 6800 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 465 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic with manumatic shifting
Wheelbase: 113.2 in Length: 192.6 in Width: 75.9 in Height: 56.8 in
Curb weight (C/D est): 4100 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 4.0 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 12.3 sec
Top speed/with Performance package (governor limited): 155/186 mph
FUEL ECONOMY (MFR’S EST):
EPA city/highway driving: 13/20 mpg
Last edited by Tea cups; 07-07-2009 at 10:46 AM.