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Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Performance Package Plus review (2012 onwards)
Model: Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Performance Package Plus
Price: £81,190 (£91,245 as tested)
Bodystyle: Four-door saloon with AMG modifications
Engine: 5.5-litre BiTurbo V8, 557hp @ 5,250-5,750rpm, 590hp @ 2,000-4,500rpm
Transmission: AMG Speedshift MCT 7-speed, rear-wheel drive
What is it?
"V8 BiTurbo" - it just sounds sexy, doesn't it? And although they are quickly becoming the powerhouse of choice in the executive super-saloon sector, AMG was the first of the contemporary crop to go down this route, when it dropped its latest 5.5-litre twin turbo unit beneath the bonnet of the Mercedes-Benz E63.
We covered the efficiency advantages over the previous 6.2-litre non-turbo AMG V8 in our first drive of the E63 - where we got to spend just a few short hours hacking about in the big Benz on and around the Paul Ricard racing circuit in France.
Now though we've spent a week behind the wheel of the new model right here in the UK. So how does it stack up in a high performance four-door world so thoroughly invigorated by the new BMW M5?
Where does it fit?
The E63 moniker doesn't quite command the instant popular recognition of the M5 tag, and the basic on-paper statistics look a little lacking, too - a standard E63 produces 'just' 525hp to the BMW's 560hp, yet at £74,695 costs slight more.
Fortunately then, the car we've got our hands on is the AMG Performance Package Plus variant, with an extra 32hp and 74lb ft of torque, taking it to 557hp and 590lb ft total.
Does rather ramp up the E63's the asking price, however - an additional £6,500 meaning you're looking at well over £81k before any other options. Still, 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds is the ultimate conclusion, and that's 0.2 seconds faster than the M5 can manage.
Clearly it's the top E-Class, even it's far from the most performance orientated - or expensive - Mercedes you can buy. Look beyond the M5, if you can, and other rivals include the sensationally well-rounded Jaguar XFR (supercharged V8, that one), and the Audi RS6. The Audi is about to get a twin-turbo V8 revamp, too.
And we shouldn't forget the Porsche Panamera - but you'll be spending significantly more to get your mitts on a turbo V8-powered one of those.
Is it for you?
You probably already have a feeling for which camp you fall into - each of the rivals listed above projects a distinct image and character, though BMW and Mercedes continue to exhibit the most obvious rivalry.
The E63 is a more straightforward machine
Traditionally BMW has presented itself as the enthusiasts' choice, while Mercedes AMG loafs in a cloud of its own tyre smoke as a kind of executive hot rod - all big engine, rear-wheel drive and limited sophistication. But the times they are a-changin'.
The latest M5 is an unprecedented all-rounder, with a vast array of gearbox, suspension, steering and throttle settings - not to mention slightly stranger innovations such as the Active Sound Design that plays engine noises through the stereo to enhance the emotional experience - giving it a huge breadth of ability.
But perhaps at the cost of some flamboyance. The E63 is a far more straightforward machine - you can select firm, firmer or HARD suspension modes (er, Comfort, Sport and Sport+) and a choice of gearshift speeds, but that's about it.
And believe us, it requires absolutely no help whatsoever from the audio equipment when it comes to the soundtrack. The phrase 'rolling thunder' is not one that will swiftly leave you in the aftermath.
What does it do well?
All of the above rather suggests that the E63 is a more focused machine. That's not necessarily the same as better, of course, but certainly there's a degree of respect to be paid to AMG for saying we want the car like this, and so what if you don't like it.
Supporting its convictions, AMG has given the E63 a substantially overhauled chassis to go with that super-duper engine, including a 56mm increase in track-width, bigger brakes, and bespoke tuning for the front steel springs and self-levelling rear air suspension set-up.
A car that's actually remarkably composed
The result is a car that's actually remarkably composed for a 1.8-tonne behemoth packing a serious amount of heat. No, you can't let all 557 ponies lose at all times, but it is surprising just how often you can exploit this car's performance to a highly satisfying degree.
Although the engine's sheer flexibility and the increasingly amenable nature of AMG's Speedshift seven-speed paddleshift gearbox play an important role here, the real revelation is ride comfort, and its ability to deal with lumpy tarmac.
We quite happily left it in Sport most of the time, and even Sport+ is far from unbearable on UK road surfaces; Sport gives you just that extra bit of cornering control, and is nicely dialled in to the accompanying weight of steering, which adjusts (seemingly minutely) to your preferred suspension setting.
What doesn't it do well?
There's not a massive amount of feel through the helm, as it happens, but then this is another of these new-fangled electro-mechanical system and that, we're sorry to say, is inevitable. Responses are crisp, though, and there are no nasty surprises.
The gearbox doesn't always produce the most instant reactions when asked to deliver a shift manually, but since AMG's automatic algorithms get ever better, there's no shame in leaving it to its own devices. It gets by just fine without you interfering.
What is it like to live with?
Assuming you can stomach the fuel bills - on which more in a moment - the E63 is a great partner in crime. Metaphorically speaking, obviously. You can fill it full of options to make it comfortable, the dynamic multi-contour seats being a particular favourite, and it's packed with safety gubbins to keep you in one piece.
Visually it's just subtly menacing enough to support the V8 rumble. Even with the adornments of the Performance Package Plus adds this is far from a shouty, look-at-me kind of machine. Although if you are into that sort of thing you just need to be a little more liberal with the throttle, and you'll quickly have necks snapping.
There's plenty of space inside for adults
There's plenty of space inside for adults front and rear, while the 540-litre boot means you can easily accommodate their luggage as well. All the fixtures and fittings inside the cabin are suitably robust and premium feeling, but nit-picking we'd say the reversing camera isn't amongst the best we've ever used.
Yes. Nit-picking. Anyways, by contrast the Night Vision Camera that displays in the centre console screen at the touch of a button is a brilliant toy - and one that's still novel enough to actually impress passengers of all sexes and ages.
How green is it?
On paper the latest E63 will return 28.8mpg combined - and the complimentary 230g/km CO2 emissions is genuinely commendable given the performance. There's an Eco setting, and the default "Controlled Efficiency" transmission mode includes a start-stop function. Which works very well.
However, even with a substantial amount of motorway miles we struggled to see higher than early 20s mpg; give it some beans and you'll soon drop into the low teens.
But every single visit to the high-octane pump will undoubtedly be worth it.
Would we buy it?
Tough call this - but only if you're going to ask us to specifically pick this above any of the aforementioned executive super-sleds. They are all exceptional automobiles, and if you're brand neutral the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG should certainly take a slot near the top of your short list.
Ok so the gearbox can occasionally be a little irksome, but the elegance and quality of the interior, the wonderful performance and character of the engine, and the sheer adroitness of the driving experience make this an easy car to enjoy everyday.
The M5 may have the ultimate dynamic edge and the wider breadth of ability, but there's a purity to the way the E63 goes about things that the BMW somehow lacks. It's a fabulous car.
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