Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG SpeedShift 7G-tronic (2006) Driving Impression

Mercedes Benz E 63 AMG 2006

So you thought the big-displacement V8 engine was dead, didn’t you? You can be forgiven, because it’s a fair assumption to make. After all, we live in the era of the so-called “greening” of the automobile, where horsepower is out and low CO2 figures are in. And you’d think that uber-conservative Mercedes-Benz would lead the pack in the revolution. Wrong again. What we have here is borderline ridiculous – a high-performance E-Class sedan powered by an all-new 6,3-litre V8, which replaces the previously used (and much loved) supercharged 5,5-litre. Is there any method in this apparent madness? Is it perhaps the V8’s last hurrah? Has Mercedes-Benz become so open-minded that its brain has fallen out? This is the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG...

Smoke and thunder for Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG

Seeing as the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG looks much the same as its E55 AMG predecessor, let’s examine that startling engine first. You could say it is a symbol of the growing importance of the AMG division within the greater Mercedes-Benz organisation. Why? Because it would appear that Mercedes is serious about building AMG into a true competitor to BMW’s much-loved M-division. This is in fact the first engine that was developed in-house, entirely by AMG. It must have ignited quite a boardroom debate when it first appeared on the agenda, seeing as it seemingly goes into an entirely opposite direction to prevailing engine technology trends. But AMG won the day, and we suspect it has much to do with the fact that the new engine is not only lighter than the outgoing 5,5-litre, but also more powerful and more environmentally friendly.

It transmits a whopping 378 kW and 620 Nm of torque to the rear wheels via a new AMG-fettled version of the company’s 7-speed automatic transmission. For sake of preserving tyre life, traction control is fitted, but there is no limited slip differential. Unlike many other V8s, this AMG unit is not lazy at all – it  loves to rev all the way to its power peak at 6 800 rpm. The performance is ferocious. Get the launch right – not easy, because breaking traction is a given – and you could blast to 100 km/h in 4,5 seconds. The top speed is limited to 250 km/h but judging by how hard it is still accelerating when it hits the limiter, there’s plenty more to come.

It’s not only the relentless power delivery and acceleration that will haunt you for days, but also the sound. Is this the best-sounding V8 on the market at the moment? Very possibly, and it has much to do with the fact that it is naturally aspirated. At start-up, there’s a bassy, deep rumble that conveys the serious threat of violence still to come. Jab at the throttle and quad exhausts emit an almighty roar. During steady speed cruising the engine is remarkably silent, but the roar is never more than a flex of the right foot away. It is a seriously addictive soundtrack.

Fun to hustle

At 1 840 kg, the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG is not a lightweight sportscar, so if you expect it to handle like one, you’re just being unfair. Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped AMG from tightening things up, with particular attention having been paid to the Airmatic air-suspension system. Mercedes says the set-up is now far more hardcore in Sport mode, yet it retains its near waft-like ability in the Comfort setting. Certainly, in its stiffest mode the E63 feels very stable as you barrel into a corner, and it resists body roll exceptionally well. The brakes, too, are phenomenally powerful. Unfortunately the middle part of cornering hard doesn’t go as well…

You see, the steering is still too light and too vague, which results in the big sedan being tricky to place. The problem is exacerbated by an over-eager throttle, which makes it rather tricky to smoothly feed in the power. Get it right, however, and the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG will leave you near breathless with excitement, with the thunderous roar and slight twitch at the rear as you lay down the rubber upon corner exit being the cherry on the cake. At this point we must also applaud the transmission, which is a significant improvement on what was used before. The SpeedShift sequential mode works a treat, aided by the inclusion of proper shift paddles rather than buttons.

Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG - Verdict

The muscle car lives on. Sure, the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG may not have the dynamic finesse of a BMW M5, but then it’s far more enjoyable in other respects – especially in terms of the transmission’s everyday usability and comfort. Besides the phenomenal power, great sound and good ride/handling compromise, the E63 remains desirable for all the reasons that make the E-Class so popular – it is immensely comfortable, loaded with features, and should have very solid residuals. The big-block V8 lives on. Thank goodness…

We like:

  • Understated, but appealing looks
  • Phenomenal performance
  • Engine sound
  • Standard specification
  • Ride/handling balance
We don’t like:
  • Slow, numb steering
Fast facts

Engine: 6,2-litre, V8, petrol

Power: 378 kW @ 6 800 rpm

Torque: 630 Nm @ 5 200 rpm

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic

Wheels: 18-inch alloy

Top speed: 255 km/h

0-100 km/h: 4,5 seconds

Fuel economy:  15,3 litres/100 km


Also consider:

  • BMW M5For some, there is nothing to match the high-tech, V10-powered rocketship that is the BMW M5. For others, it has become simply too complicated, and especially the 7-speed SMG transmission has many detractors. Superb piece of engineering, though.
  • Jaguar S-Type R: Often forgotten, but the Jaguar is not without its charms. The old-school looks (inside and out) hide a car that is surprisingly fun to hustle. It can’t match the power outputs of newer German rivals, but then it is also a lot cheaper. A used bargain.
  • Chrysler 300C SRT-8: Brand new on the scene, and it certainly looks the part. The SRT-8 has plenty power and is loaded with features, yet costs significantly less than the others. The downsides are a not-so-special interior and “lazy” handling.