Four seats and every comfort. Is this the first hyper-saloon?
You would think, would you not, that no Mercedes would be more powerful than the SLS supercar. It is the titan, the pinnacle of Mercedes performance engineering. But it’s no longer the most powerful.
Mercedes has just released an ‘S’ version of its E63 AMG saloon and estate for those restless types who suspect the 557bhp of the ‘normal’ AMG is not quite enough. So this one now has 585bhp, some 14bhp more than the standard SLS and a mere 6bhp less than the SLS GT I will review in next month’s magazine. Moreover, while even the GT version of the SLS can muster 479lb ft of torque, the four- and five-door E-classes develop more than 100lb ft more even than this at, get this, fewer than half the revs.
I’m sorry to blind you with numbers but it’s important to see where this positions this new E-class. In numerical firepower terms at least, even its closest rivals, the BMW M5 and new Jaguar XFR-S, aren’t that close any more. Even the brilliantly bonkers Audi RS6 can’t live with these numbers.
If there’s a problem it’s the price – an M5 is 10 grand cheaper and even at this point in the market, that counts. And while the Benz is more powerful, all other enhancements over the standard AMG specification are cosmetic, such as a new rear wing, front spoiler, red brake calipers and so on.
But the bigger problem exists for its rivals. Not only is the Mercedes the one car in the class available in two body styles (the Jag and BMW are saloon only, the Audi an estate), it was the best car in the class even before Mercedes applied the screwdriver to the turbos’ boost pressure control.
Its greatest trick is to provide more power than a Ferrari 458 in surroundings so quiet, comfortable and civilised you could almost be at home. It rides and glides like any large Mercedes should. And then, when the moment takes you, it will bellow and throw you forward as fast as the grip of its rear tyres will allow.
Indeed this car is so powerful that in Europe it is available only with four-wheel drive where even the estate will hit 62mph from rest in a frankly comical 3.7sec. But the front drive-shafts are unable to negotiate their way around the right-hand-drive steering apparatus so all cars sold in the UK are correct-wheel drive only. So while the reduction in traction adds fully half a second to the claimed acceleration time, this is more than matched by the additional laughter provided by the behaviour available at the exit of any tight corner. This is a car whose rear tyre bill alone could bankrupt you.
But what a way to go. I’m sure almost all the additional £10,000 Mercedes charges for this car over the stock E63 AMG is profit, but I’m not sure I care. It was the greatest supersaloon before the modifications and it’s even greater now. True, someone might find 600bhp somewhere to trump it numerically; but making a car that’s not only this fast but so deliciously easy to live with might prove more difficult.
Engine 5.5 litres, eight cylinders
Power 585bhp @ 5500rpm
Torque 589lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission seven-speed auto, rear-wheel drive 0-62mph 4.1sec
Top speed 155mph
Economy 28.5mpg CO2 232g/km