THE EIGHTIES WERE FILLED with great pairing–pudding and Popsicle sticks, Crossbows and Catapults, Darryl Hall and John Oats–but all pale in comparison with the combination of the Mercedes E-class and AMG. The former served as a donor platform for the latter’s most iconic creation: The Hammer. That brutish, rear-drive hot rod, with its 355-hp V8, dusted most leading sports cars of the era. Thirty years on, it still defines everything an AMG sedan can and should be.
So, when I arrived at Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão, Portugal, for the media launch of the all-new Mercedes-AMG E63 S, there was an original Hammer sitting in the paddock. It made a fine reference point, but the modern car is much better equipped for battle here. The E63 S packs a wet-sump version of the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 shared with the AMG GT sports car, except the sedan’s engine is more powerful, thanks to twin-scroll turbos. In the E63 S, the V8 produces 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque. The gearbox, a nine-speed automatic, uses a wet clutchpack instead of a torque converter for faster shift responses, to enable launch control, and to save weight.
The adaptive air suspension features three air chambers per spring, which adjust individually depending on drive mode and road surface. There’s also a new, rear-biased, four-wheel-drive system augmented by an electronically controlled rear diff.
As good as the E63S was on back roads and at Portimão, it was a fast nighttime blast on the A22 freeway to Faro that made me love this sedan. Light traffic, crisp winter air streaming over the windshield, a mountain range on the left and the Atlantic coast off to the right. The way the E63 gets from 60 to 100 mph when all settings are in Comfort? A quiet, wonderful storm.
Truth is, most E63 owners aren’t going to the track. They’re going to commute. That’s okay, because you really can drive this car like a normal E-class, then go all sports car by hitting a few buttons, clenching the wheel tighter, and telling passengers to hold on. Select Sport Plus or Race mode, put the gearbox in its manual setting, and you’re off.
The E63 S goes on sale this summer, priced at about $100,000. Mercedes has also confirmed a wagon variant with the same output, all-wheel-drive system, and Drift mode. Expect a fall arrival for that one. If the sedan is any indication, an E63 S estate with a Christmas tree strapped to the roof might just be the best pairing this year.