Portimão, Portugal – Next to ‘Ring lap records, the second most bandied-about term in recent times seems to be ‘Drift’ mode, especially if the M2, Focus RS and now the latest E 63 S are any indication. Now, this was something that powerful (and even the not so) rear-drive cars could do, but somehow, the marketeers at the respective brands felt it would be more compelling to dub it thus, just to make it ‘sexy’ for the hashtag generation – if you have to ask why, well, because #drift #want and #ineedthisinmylife, innit.
So as far as the new E 63 S’s 4Matic+ variable four-wheel-drive is concerned (the AMG-tweaked 4Matic+ makes its debut on this car), Mercedes-AMG tells us the system is capable of sending 100 per cent of the engine’s performance to the rear two wheels in Race mode – although Sport+ already allows some mild slip under load. So when you consider the biturbo 4.0-litre V8’s 612bhp and mighty 850Nm, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that this is a recipe for salacious sideways thrills.
Now for the slight twist, unlike the majority of the left-hand-drive markets that got last gen’s E 63 S in 4Matic (no + here) flavour, Singapore was one of the few right-hand-drive markets to continue to enjoy that model’s biturbo 5.5-litre V8 in its pure driver’s form – rear-drive – and that’s already with 585bhp and 800Nm on tap and a 0-100km/h time of 4.1secs. This was due to the technical difficulties in adapting the powertrain to a right-hand-drive configuration.
However, due to increasing engine firepower figures, Merc has decided to apply all-wheel-drive to all variants of the E 63 S, albeit with trick tech that will deliver unadulterated rear-drive performance on demand to satisfy the driving purists. Apart from more engaging cornering dynamics, this also sees the 0-100km/h time cut to a dramatic 3.4secs, which we reckon is due to the variable all-wheel drivetrain, since standing start sprints tend to be determined by off-the-mark traction.
We sampled the car on both road and the challenging Autódromo Internacional do Algarve circuit, but the track time was limited to less than 10 hot laps in total – the rest of the drive-time was spent on winding roads and highways. Like the 5.5-litre S, the power delivery of the new S is akin to a fat elastic band of torque, as you’re grabbed by the scruff of the neck and flung up the road. With torque from just 2,500rpm, there’s little lag from the pair of twin-scroll turbos, so even from a standstill, the engine’s response to gas-pedal prods is eye-watering. It doesn’t have the sort of aggressive initial turbo thrust like the RS 6, just an effortless sustained propulsion forward as you reel in the horizon. Also, don’t forget that Mercedes-Benz has been doing this for a long time, with a particularly specialty in big capacity engines, so it’s little surprise that even its relatively small capacity turbo efforts give one the feeling it has vast reserves to tap on.
The fact that our second driving day saw sporadic showers meant we could give the 4Matic+ system a run for its money. First thing to note, this is a 1.95-tonne car, so don’t expect to defy the laws of physics when cornering. We kept it in Sport on the slippery mountain roads and could hustle it around with spirited abandon. Helm inputs translate to decent enough responses from the car and the carbon-ceramic brakes helped rein-in the speeds as we entered blind corners.
Purists like to pooh-pooh all-wheel drivetrains, but the reality is it has become a logical addition to road cars, especially in cases where owners of these high performance cars have more money than driving talent – past a certain level of performance, traction control intervention on a very powerful rear-drive car becomes more disruptive than beneficial. The key is in tuning the differential to deliver all-wheel security and maximum grip in inclement conditions, yet make it variable to become fully rear-drive, yet never inordinately unruly (unless so desired!) for the enthusiast-focused owners, which is exactly what AMG has achieved with this new E 63 S.
With the E 63 S 4Matic+, Mercedes-AMG has fired the first salvo in the super-cool super-stealth super-sedan segment (a wagon will come later). We’re already waiting with bated breath, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the new M5 turns out to be all-wheel drive too! Story: David Khoo / Photos: Mercedes-AMG
Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4Matic+
Engine 3,982cc, 32V, V8, biturbo
Power 612bhp at 5750-6500rpm
Torque 850Nm at 2500-4500rpm
Gearbox 9-speed AMG SpeedShift automatic
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 3.4 seconds
Fuel efficiency 9.1-8.8L/100km