Meet Mercedes' M5 fighter, the 2019 AMG E63 S sedan. Unlike the Bimmer, however, which wears its race-bred intentions on its sleeve and on its sheetmetal, the big, bad Benz maintains a more subtle aesthetic. The look is buttoned-up but stylish, traditional and discreet, like a finely tailored Savile Row suit. The front valance is more angry than the standard E-Class, but not so much to draw attention, especially in the dark blue hue of my example.
In fact, if not for the slightly flared fenders, more aggressive wheel-and-tire combo and a few badges here and there, your average passerby would have a hard time telling this Q car from a more pedestrian E-Class sedan variant. That is, of course, until this 600-horsepower sleeper awakes.
Punching the E63's engine-start button causes the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 to spring to life with a satisfying growl. Each example of this power plant spins hangs two twin-scroll turbochargers in the "V" of its cylinder block for improved thermal management and a more compact design. And each is hand-assembled by a single AMG craftsman -- in this case, a dude named Kevin Weißerth -- and hand-tuned to a stated 603 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque.
Drivers direct that torque to the standard 4Matic Plus all-wheel-drive system via an AMG Speedshift nine-speed automatic transmission. Using a wet clutch instead of the traditional torque converter takes all of the slush out of this box and results in surprisingly brutal shifts in its sportiest setting. Gear changes are enhanced slightly with dramatic cracks and burbles, thanks to my example's optional AMG Performance Exhaust, a must-get option for the E63 S costing $1,250.
The E63 S' 3.3-second 0-to-60 mph sprint is slightly slower than BMW's M5 (3 seconds flat), but I don't think most passengers would notice without a stopwatch -- they'll be too busy holding onto their butts. Plus, the E63 has a trick up its sleeve: a hidden Drift Mode that locks its already rear-biased 4Matic Plus system into a fully rear-drive mode, allowing smoky powerslides and drifts. Roadshow does most of its testing on public roads, so I wasn't able to officially test this setting, but I did manage to, ahem, "pick up some donuts" in an empty parking lot when no one was looking.
Via the AMG Dynamic Select system, E63 drivers also have access to Race, Sport Plus, Sport and Comfort modes. With a light foot in Comfort mode, the sedan should net a reasonable 15 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway -- not exceptional, but no worse than the AMG's competition.
Power, as they say, is nothing without control, so the E63 S is also armed to the teeth with upgrades aimed at improving grip, agility and braking.
Passively, I'm talking about a stance that's been widened by 1.3 inches up front and about an inch more track width on the rear. Actively, the car is working with a version of Mercedes-Benz's Adaptive Air Body Control suspension. The setup is surprisingly smooth and fairly relaxed in Comfort mode, but gets race-car firm at the touch of a button in Sport or Race. The change is dramatic enough that, along with the louder exhaust note and hair-trigger throttle in the sportiest settings, the E63 feels like two cars in one.
The sedan's power steering has been retuned for a more direct feel -- that is also affected by the Dynamic Select drive modes -- and it sports an AMG limited-slip differential at the rear axle to help control the lateral application of power when cornering and keeping any tail sliding limited to Drift Mode.
Stopping power is provided by a set of AMG high-performance brakes with perforated and slotted 15.4-inch front rotors, grabbed by six-piston, bright red AMG calipers. AMG says the rotors are perforated rather than cross-drilled because they're cast with the holes in place, which reduces the likeliness of cracking under hard use and high heat. The rear discs are similar in design, but with smaller 14.2-inch discs.
Matching is substantial brawn with brains, the E63 S comes loaded with all of the same tech you'd expect to find in a 2019 E-Class. That means a strong suite of driver-assistance technologies highlighted by standard car-to-X capabilities that allow the sedan to communicate with other Daimler vehicles and certain infrastructure. Right now, it doesn't actually do much of anything, but eventually the system may be able to get traffic data from other vehicles, communicate with parking structures to find open spots or network with other infrastructure. A little future-proofing is never a bad thing.
In the "works today" column, the E63 boasts Benz's Attention Assist driver alertness monitoring, Active Brake Assist automatic collision mitigation braking and pedestrian detection. My example also features an optional driver-assistance package that upgrades to a very solid lane-keeping assist and lane-departure prevention system, and adaptive cruise that works in stop-and-go traffic, adjusts for changing speed limits and the curvature of the road -- Mercedes' so-called Distronic Plus system.
The uber-E-Class is also equipped with semiautomatic parking assist that helps steer the sedan into parallel parking spots and a full loadout of other active and passive safety systems. In fact, the only Mercedes-Benz feature I didn't spot in the spec sheet is the S-Class' night vision tech.
Sharing its platform and tech with the rest of the current E-Class lineup also means that the E63 S is rocking the slightly older, dual-screen COMAND system. Now, this is a huge step up from the old, single-screen COMAND system of years past, and not just because of its twin 12.3-inch screens.
The new COMAND system's interface has evolved to an intuitive state that can be operated with a physical control knob on the center console, a swipeable touch pad -- also on the console -- touch-sensitive thumb pads on the steering wheel or an enhanced voice command system. Jumping between the control methods allows drivers to keep their hands on the wheel while rolling, devoting full attention to the system while parked or getting a helping hand from the passenger. The breadth of schemes can be intimidating to new users, however, slightly steepening the learning curve.
The onboard infotainment and navigation software is quite good, integrating well with the digital instrument cluster, but the E-Class also comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for those who prefer to bring their own apps on the road. Overall, the E63 S has a phone-friendly cabin, with plenty of USB ports for charging, NFC pairing that allows Android users to simply tap their phone to pair and unpair, and a nicely sized phone cubby at the base of the center stack with wireless phone charging.
Overall, I like this version of COMAND, but not as much as I like the newest Mercedes-Benz User Experience (aka MBUX) software that you'll find on the newest Benz platforms. Until the E-Class' next major update, Audi's MMI Touch Response tech remains the king of this class.
The lads over at AMG couldn't keep their fingers out of the tech cookie jar, so the E63 S' dashboard is now home to an AMG Track Pace App with all sorts of race monitoring and track telemetry. Meanwhile, the digital instrument cluster features a special AMG menu with automatic race timers and a special AMG theme.
As much as I loved the way the E63 S could scare the hell out of me at stupid speeds on my favorite mountain roads, I was equally taken by how comfortable and sedate this sedan could be on the ride home at the end of the day.
Drivers have the choice between massaging seats with active bolsters or AMG Performance race buckets. My E63 S arrived with the former, which did a fine job holding my frame in place even during spirited driving. The sedan also features a choice of two or three-zone climate controls with cabin fragrance and air purification.
Mercedes is also second to none when it comes to its ambient lighting, which gives the ability to customize the cockpit with RGB, multizone lighting. Looking for a subtle glow or to transform your cabin into an '80s night club? You can do either with a few taps of the screen.
In the light of day, owners can better appreciate the E-Class' high quality Nappa leather trim, the sporty wood, metal or carbon weave dashboard, its chrome trim and piano-black center console. I'm not the biggest fan of piano-black -- I find that it's usually either smeared with fingerprints or riddled with microscratches -- but whatever material Mercedes is using is of a higher quality than average.
Arguably the best example of the W213 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the 2019 Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic Plus starts $106,350 before its $995 destination charge. As tested, however, my Lunar Blue example stickers at about $127,355, thanks to pricey upgrades like the AMG Performance Exhaust, $1,320 massage seats, $2,250 driver-assistance package, $5,400 Burmester high-end audio system and more.
How would I spec mine? I wouldn't change a thing, though I might be tempted to check the boxes for no-cost deletion of front-fender and decklid badges for an even more under-the-radar appearance. I like to play my cards close to the vest.
Cadillac's CT6-V Blackwing would also like to play and does the whole "Q car" schtick well -- looking, perhaps, the most vanilla of its cohort. The Caddy borrows much from AMG's formula, from the hand-built, hand-signed engine to its new Benz-esque cabin controls. And while it's nowhere near as hardcore as the rest of this class, even its sharpest performance mode, its lower price makes it an interesting alternative. (Not that price matters all that much to buyers in this $100,000 club.) That said, the E63 S battles most fiercely with the BMW M5 sedan and will also have to contend with the even more aggressive Audi RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback, which should arrive next year.
The aspect that keeps bringing me back to the E63 S 4Matic Plus is that it truly lives up to the "Q car" promise. A lot of cars have sport modes that liven things up a bit, but the E63 S takes it to a Jekyll-and-Hyde extreme, transforming from a conservative ride that flies quietly under the radar -- and radar detectors -- into a roaring, drifting, race-tuned monster with a flick of the toe. The broad difference between those extremes makes both characters feel more dramatic by contrast, and the conservative styling that doesn't broadcast its specialness makes the entire experience feel more personal, like an inside joke shared with a good friend.