2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Sedan and Wagon

2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Sedan and Wagon 2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Sedan and Wagon
First Drive Review

Call it trickledown turbonomics. Last year, Mercedes-Benz replaced the naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 found in the S63 AMG and CL63 AMG with a 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-8. Now the 2012 E-class AMG, which goes on sale this fall, receives the downsizing treatment (as does the CLS63 AMG). And, yes, that means the misleading and inaccurate “63” nomenclature is now more inaccurate. With its widespread adoption of turbocharged engines, Mercedes-Benz is abandoning displacement-linked model designations altogether.

The new direct-injection engine makes the same 518 hp as its predecessor. Torque is up by 51 lb-ft, however, to 516, and it’s now available at 1700 rpm versus 5200. For an extra $7300, the AMG Performance package increases max boost from 14.5 psi to 18.9; power jumps to 550 hp, and torque leaps to 590 lb-ft at 2000 rpm.

Fuel economy is up, too, from 13 mpg city and 20 highway to an expected 15/22—high enough to avoid the gas-guzzler tax. In Germany, all this comes with no increase to the sticker price; we expect a similar strategy when U.S. pricing is announced later. Our favorite tidbit: The E63 wagon is once again available here, by special order only. (The wagon takes a 1-mpg hit on both fuel-economy estimates, but who cares when you can dust an Audi R8?)

Same As the Previous One: Good

We were lucky enough to drive the new E63 around the Paul Ricard Circuit in the south of France, and we have little in the way of groundbreaking news to report. To clarify, the old E63 was very good—and has a comparison-test victory under its belt—and the new version is also very good. This is the kind of car that combines the raw power of a classic muscle car with the agility of a modern sports car, plus it seats four comfortably (or five in a pinch). In short, it’s an everyday car that offers Corvette-like performance, albeit at a price that could almost buy two Corvettes.

Besides the engine, the 2012 model gets a wet clutch pack in place of a torque converter for its seven-speed automatic transmission. As in other AMGs with this box—the SL63, the C63, and the CLS63 are among them—gearchanges via the aluminum paddle shifters are fast and crisp. The clutches also allow for a “race start” launch-control mode, although a careful driver can achieve slightly better acceleration times without it. We recently put a 2012 CLS63 AMG with the Performance pack through its paces and managed a 0-to-60-mph time of 3.8 seconds and a quarter-mile of 12.0 seconds, improvements of 0.3 and 0.6 second over the last-gen CLS63. The E63, which shares its architecture with the CLS-class, should post nearly identical numbers when equipped with the Performance pack; 518-hp examples will, of course, return slightly slower times.

Another major change to the 2012 E63 is the installation of an electrohydraulic pump for the power-assisted steering. Steering feel is isolated and bordering on numb, but considering that the E63 is a large luxury sedan, it is possible (and even appropriate) that such tuning was the goal.

Start and Stop for Real, and Give It What You Got

Let’s not forget to mention the new stop/start system. With the transmission set to C (that’s for “controlled efficiency”) and the eco mode active (it depends on various vehicle-monitored criteria such as engine and cabin temperatures), the E63 will shut down the engine at a stop. It’s mostly transparent, although requesting a quick launch, and therefore a restart, results in some lurching. At the very least, the system is easily defeated by deactivating eco mode or selecting a sportier transmission setting.

Yes, we miss the deep roar of the old 6.2-liter. The new turbo V-8 still makes some pleasant noises, but the volume is diminished. At least wagon lovers can take solace in the fact that the open cargo area provides more reverberation than the sedan’s trunk, and thus more exhaust noise. Otherwise, the new engine is just peachy, with minor turbo lag and a more satisfying torque curve from low on the tach. So Mercedes-AMG’s latest move into the downsized future comes with little sacrifice. And with the sticker price ostensibly standing pat, it shows that progress doesn’t have to command a premium.