You should know the drill by now. For the last 18 months, AMG engineers have been on a transplant tear, swapping out naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8s for the new, 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8, codenamed M157. The first vehicles to receive these downsized upgrades were the 2011 CL63 AMG and S63 AMG. A few months ago, Affalterbach put the 2012 CLS63 AMG under the knife. Now, it's hammer time.
The 2012 E63 AMG is essentially a mechanical doppelgaenger for the CLS63 AMG. Both have the same hand-built, direct-injection V-8 that makes 518 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Both have the same seven-speed wet clutch transmission, the same electrohydraulic steering system, and upgraded suspension and electronics. Unlike the CLS63, which had dramatic plastic surgery along with its heart transplant, the 2012 E63 receives only the tiniest of Botox injections, primarily new 10-spoke wheels and V-8 BITURBO badging. That makes sense, as E-Class sheetmetal is some of the freshest in Mercedes' sedan lineup.
To give us a taste of what the E63 can do with its new heart, Mercedes-Benz jetted us to the south of France for some quick laps at the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track followed by a lazy drive in the surrounding countryside.
Our lapping session consisted of two stints of five laps each, including warmup and cooldown laps -- essentially six hot laps in which to learn the ins and outs of the track and car behind an SLS AMG pace car driven by an AMG Performance Driving instructor.
In the sportiest setting (Sport Plus) with stability control turned on, our AMG performance pack-equipped E63 proves to be an amply endowed and willing dance partner. The AMG performance package increases turbo boost pressure from 14.5 psi to 18.8 psi, which sends output up to 550 horsepower and 590-pound feet of torque. The latter is available at a paltry 2000 rpm, which means the E63 will boogie out of turns with spine-crushing acceleration, provided you lead her correctly. Come in too fast, or step in too early, and electronic stability control kicks in, retarding throttle and forward thrust and displaying a flashing yellow triangle in the instrument cluster that subsides when once the chassis has stabilized.
Get it right and the E63 is a greedy girl who flits out of corners to gobble up straightaways with gusto. The latter are particularly satisfying, from the first bite of the gas pedal and muffled roar it induces, to the rapid-fire WHAAAmmmWHAAA upshifts. Switch to the brake pedal and the reward is equally impressive deceleration punctuated by throttle-blipped downshifts. In addition to the $7300 AMG performance package, our track-ready sedans came with optional carbon ceramic brakes that replace the burly standard issue brake setup: six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers that bite on 14.2-inch discs of vented and perforated steel. The ceramics proved fade-free at the track, but more than a little unnerving. Their initial bite is shockingly strong, and pitches unsuspecting drivers forward into the firm embrace of the seatbelt pretensioners. Also frightening: The carbon ceramics are a special order option that costs $12,625.
The new-to-E63 electrohydraulic steering system provides enough feedback to repeatedly brush the front bumper against apex cones, but subtle reminders filter back through the steering wheel and seat cushion that, despite the impressive velocity, the E63 is not a lithe, effortless sports car. She changes direction impressively well for a 4100-pound luxury sedan (and 4300-pound wagon), but as warning lights flicker and the rear tires scramble for grip in the transitions, it often is clear that many processors and lines of code are being employed to keep this girl pointed forward.
She is better on the street, when free to amble along with traffic or pull out to pass with a 6400-rpm wail. Feel free to engage the steering wheel paddles if you like, but for most city driving, simply hammering the gas pedal is all that is required.