Like a delicious steam table at the most schickste buffet in the world, Mercedes-Benz is serving up a stunning 54 different model variants in 2017. That’s a lot of German sheetmetal to choose from, and much of it is built on new platforms, with new styles and new engines. Among them: the AMG GT S and lil’ bro Mercedes AMG C63 S, which I slobbered over for two days in Pebble Beach. Mercedes isn’t just winning the sales war against BMW and Audi—it’s winning the war for our power-hungry, design-obsessed hearts.
None of the Benzes I drove in 2016 made my ticker tick quite like the 2018 Mercedes AMG E63 S. Packed with AMG’s fantastic new 4.0L twin-turbo V-8—the same one in the AMG GT and C63 S—this is Affalterbach’s sleeper, a boxy midsize car-for-professionals that only appears to beckon with suburban subtlety. The truth is, the E63 S is a visual feast of understated menace: it bulges in some places, it ripples in others, it twitches and shifts, and it makes hellish sounds if require them.
To paraphrase Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan and his arguably creepy obsession with Alicia Keyes: There’s nothing I don’t like about the mid-sized Mercedes AMG E63 S. It is beautiful from just about every angle. It is also well endowed with that awesome engine, which is smaller and more powerful than its predecessor, the 5.5L V-8, which itself was smaller than the contested king of all late-period German V-8s, the thunderous 6.3L.
So it’s also fast. Really fast. Like a goddamn-rocket-in-a-straight-line fast. And the faster the E63 S goes, the smaller this big car starts to feel. Historically, AMG has tried to stuff the biggest damn V-8 they can find under the hood and let it breathe fire onto the masses. It was a 6.3L two generations ago, then the 5.5L. The new 4.0L can hit 0-60 in 3.3 seconds. That’s basically low-end supercar territory. The McLaren 650S hits 60 in 2.9 seconds. BMW M5? 3.7—at best.
The AMG is built on the Mercedes E-class, which is the meat-and-potatoes sedan of the Benz lineup. More earthbound than the nuclear-powered spa-on-wheels S63 and more imposing than the C-class, the E-class is the large sedan that any layman on the street can point to and say, There it is, Bill: the Mercedes Benz. It has a joyfully vicious grille, a generously proportioned trunk and a roofline that is both athletic and elegant, like Lindsey Vonn at the Met Gala. To borrow the old E-Class cliche, if you stop and watch an off-the-shelf E-Class drive past, you’ll probably see your orthodontist behind the wheel in his dry-cleaned shirt, a satisfied smile with perfect, gleaming teeth.
But the AMG E63 S is not a normal Benz, and it is not a cliché. In Sport and Sport+ modes (and beyond) it unleashes all the fury and noise that V-8 can muster. It even has a Drift mode, if you’re feeling a bit flat-brimmed-cap. the E-Class design has been redrawn completely from the A-pillar forward, with more aggressive fender flares, and an apron that ripples beneath the grille. And this the first time the hood of an AMG sedan is set between the bumpers and wings of the car—similar to the styling of a coupe.
Unlike the E-Class, you’re going to have trouble sneaking into the parking lot at Whole Foods in the AMG without drawing nasty looks from earth mamas and skinny guys with beards and sandals. This is an E-Class so completely transformed that the kaftan-wearing kombatcha guzzlers at Whole Food will want to start running for cover.
But they can’t escape, because this car has so much goddamn straightline speed—the right toe points to 603 horsepower and 627 lb.-ft. of torque. In Sport+ mode—one step below the hey-whatever-it’s-your-life-pal Race mode—the dampers stiffen, the exhaust valve opens to a deathly orgy of noise, and the fully variable torque distribution in the 4MATIC+ AWD system sends just about every sweatbead of energy to the rear tires.
The interior is a supremely pleasant environment, a younger relative of the sublime S-Class. It filters out all the evil in the world, glides over the road, maintains churchlike silence at high speeds, and is as impeccably-tailored an environment as your tooth guy’s shirt. The dash display is the industry benchmark: a single glass display extends so far right it joins the center console. There is carbon fiber, a variety of veneers, a standard Buhrmester 3D soundsystem pumping through the finest speaker covers in the automotive industry.
This car has lots of clever engineering details to geek out on. While I doubt any of its engineers lost sleep over gas mileage during the design, but when the car is cruising under normal driving conditions—say 5/10s on the Autobahn—the camshaft physically moves to shut down half of the cylinders. And when the car is in Drift Mode, the front differential of the 4MATIC system physically decouples, sending all the horses to the rear for maximum stupidity. The Drive Pilot “semi-autonomous” set up is just smart enough to keep you out of trouble when you’re bored.
I am no orthodontist—I barely brush my teeth every day. But I’m drawn to this car as powerfully as any midsized 4-door on the road, so much so that I almost wish I could afford it. In the meantime, I’ll simply doff my cap to the gentlemen of Mercedes and offer a polite danke: you’ve built a near-perfect sedan.