An original W124-series AMG Hammer is parked next to a row of new Mercedes-AMG E63 sedans. It’s sitting there in monochromatic black wearing the type of body kit that made AMG famous: a little forlorn, a bit dated, its glory days in the past like an old pugilist. Next to the new cars, some might even mistake it for the caterer’s car. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Except it’s not the caterer’s car, and I can’t stop staring at it. The original AMG Hammer hasn’t let go yet. Hasn’t let go of me. Hasn’t let go of AMG. AMG still builds the things, sort of, but now they don’t call them Hammers. They should still call them Hammers. The name they’ve chosen is E63 S 4MATIC+. Yes, the great-grandson of the Hammer has a Wi-Fi password for a name.
Less Displacement, More Power
Still, there’s no denying the connection between the original and the new car. On sale this summer as a 2018 model, the new E63 is built on the latest E-class platform and has 603 horsepower in S guise and 563 ponies in its basic form. The 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8, which made 550 horsepower in the base version of the outgoing car and 577 horses in the S model, is gone. In its place there’s a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, the same engine that rips in the AMG GT S, the C63, and even in the G550—yes, it’s in the G-wagen.
A “hot inner V” engine with the turbochargers nestled in the cylinder-bank valley and the intake valves in the outside of the heads, the E63’s engine differs from the other AMG 4.0-liter V-8s because its turbochargers are the twin-scroll type that are matched to the exhaust pulses to reduce losses and spool more quickly. Engineers wouldn’t admit to any mechanical differences between the S’s 603-hp engine and the base car’s 563-hp tune, which led us to assume that it’s simply software that unlocks the additional 40 horsepower. The S version eats 21.8 psi of boost, while the 563-hp version ingests 18.9 psi. Both are made in AMG’s home in Affalterbach, Germany, where a single technician is assigned to an engine. AMG calls the build process “one man, one engine,” but there are also a few Fräulein bolting together engines.
Nine Is Just Fine
Shifts are snapped off with increasing urgency as you cycle from Comfort mode to Sport to Sport+ and finally to Race. Even with nine speeds to shuffle through, the transmission never acts busy or out of sorts. Multigear downshifts happen quickly, and there’s none of the incessant shifting that plagues other nine-speed automatics. Top gear is tall for better fuel economy and quietness, reducing engine revs to below 2000 rpm at 80 mph. It’s a little odd that there’s a column shifter in a car with this much power, but we can’t say we miss having a shifter between the seats. We’d feel differently if it were a manual shifter, though.
Catch the Drift
All-wheel drive is a welcome ally for the boosted V-8. Unlike its predecessor, which had a fixed torque split, the new E63’s torque split can vary on the fly with up to 100 percent directed rearward. This is enabled by a new clutch pack in the transfer case that constantly engages and disengages clutches that distribute torque. In back, an electronically controlled locking differential shared with the C63 varies the lockup to minimize inside wheelslip in corners and, according to AMG, helps drivers approach and drive at the E63’s limits. The new system allows Mercedes-AMG to add a Drift mode that will send 100 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear, making it a rear-drive car.
Switching to Sport and beyond not only stiffens the three-chamber air springs, firms up the adaptive dampers, quickens shifts, and increases steering effort; it also causes the audio system’s speakers to amplify the engine’s noise. It’s cheating, but it’s cheating for our team—and, more important, it doesn’t sound fake. That’s the V-8 playing through the speakers. From the outside, the Sport exhaust barks with the same anger as AMG’s old naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 when under load. When cruising along on the highway, where 100 mph feels more like 60, the engine sound is subdued and never tiresome.
Mercedes isn’t ready to divulge what the U.S. models will weigh, but we’re told to expect a 33-pound weight gain over the previous generation. That means the new E63 should weigh nearly 4500 pounds. On the track, the E63 S makes long straights very short. Cornering grip is good, the chassis is playful under power, and it’s possible to get the rear end to come around even without Drift mode. But there’s no escaping the weight of the E63. It’ll bear everything you ask of it on track, but that does come across as tire abuse.
We can’t imagine any owners of this likely $105,000 sedan will be taking it to the track—but the performance is there, should they want it. What we loved, and what we’ve loved about every E-class ever done by AMG, is that the performance doesn’t come at the expense of luxury. Even the Hammer never forgot it was a Mercedes-Benz.