Not that long ago, if you wanted an AMG-massaged Mercedes E-Class that flew below the radar, you opted for the wagon. No one expected a family load lugger to have a big-horsepower engine and autobahn-crushing performance; it was the perfect stealth performance car. But as we stumble into the third decade of the 21st century, wagons are very much cars for the cognoscenti. Enthusiasts look twice at a wagon these days, and if they see wide tires, big brakes, and toothy grille and they hear the rumble from the quad exhaust, they’ll know. However, no one will look twice at the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E 63 S sedan.
The 2021 AMG E 63 S sedan is essentially a midcycle face-lift of the W213-based car launched in 2017, combining a mild cosmetic nip and tuck with the software and user-interface upgrades that were part and parcel of the regular E-Class makeover earlier this year. And what’s most striking about the AMG E 63 S sedan is how understated it is.
Sure, the E63 S has the menacing AMG family grille and a couple of gaping cooling vents up front. But glimpse it from another angle, and it could almost be just another four-door E-Class. The quad exhaust outlets—fake, sadly—blend into the black-painted faux diffuser under the rear bumper. A vestigial lip spoiler runs across the trailing edge of the trunk. The side skirts are subtle, as is the little vent on the side of the front fender. The airy, new 20-inch twin five-spoke wheel design is attractive, but there are plenty of base E 350s rolling on AMG wheels, albeit 18 or 19 inchers.
The E 63 S sedan flies under the radar. Until you mash the gas. Then it just flies.
That mighty 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, hand-built at AMG headquarters in Affalterbach, Germany, and delivering 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque, provides epic performance—especially in Sport+ or Race mode, which also sharpen the response and revise the shift protocols of the nine-speed AMG Speedshift MCT transmission as well as advises the electronic stability control system to cut you a little slack. AMG claims a 0–60 acceleration time of 3.3 seconds on the way to an electronically limited 186 mph. What’s most impressive about this engine is its top-end bite. It will pull strongly from little more than 1,000 rpm in manual mode, but the surge in acceleration as the tach needle swings past 2,800 rpm signals the two turbochargers are hard at work. From there all the way to the 7,000-rpm redline, it’s just one long surge of weapons-grade thrust.
All-wheel drive, courtesy of the AMG Performance 4Matic+ drivetrain, is standard across the E 63 S lineup. But select Drift mode, and all the drive is funneled to the rear axle, setting up the E 63 S for plenty of smoky sideways action if you have the room. And the spare tires. Thunderingly fast on the autobahn, the E 63 S sedan is also quick on a winding back road, torque and traction punching the car hard out of the corners, and the big brakes effortlessly washing off speed when you need to. Steering feel is meaty, with remarkably little corruption from the all-wheel-drive system. It covers ground quickly, this car, regardless of the road.
Unless you’re working the E 63 S hard, the ride is firm, especially with the suspension in the stiffest of its three settings, even on relatively smooth German roads. But with more weight—AMG claims the sedan tips the scales at just under 4,500 pounds—and a longer wheelbase, it feels calmer and more composed than the smaller C 63 S. The car’s weakest link is the transmission. The AMG Speedshift MCT is an automatic transmission with a multiclutch pack instead of a regular torque converter. AMG claims the setup means faster shift times, and it works well handling big torque loads, but lifting off from light throttle openings at low speeds occasionally induces an alarming shunt through the driveline.
In addition to the exterior makeover, which also includes three new colors for 2021 (Graphite Grey metallic, Cirrus Silver metallic, and Brilliant Blue semi-matte), the revised E 63 S gets the new AMG performance steering wheel with twin-blade spokes and touch-sensitive buttons. It also adds the generally frustrating MBUX infotainment system but with AMG-specific functions and displays. The AMG Track Pace system, which allows you to log 80 items of vehicle specific performance data on the track, is now standard.
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG E 63 S sedan—along with the 2021 E 63 S wagon—is scheduled to arrive in U.S. Mercedes dealers before the end of the year. Base price is $108,495. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it sliding stealthily past you in the traffic.
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