They called it the Hammer.
Before AMG badges were slapped on the rump of nearly two dozen body styles in showrooms, those three letters were limited to incredibly exclusive — and expensive — versions of Benz’ finest cars.
The Hammer was a 1980s E-Class with a 6.0-litre V8 tuned to hunt Porsches on the autobahn. The executive machine helped establish the Mercedes-AMG legend with quietly menacing looks and the sort of knockout punch that attracts millions in pay-per-view revenue.
And the new Mercedes-AMG E 63 S is its modern equivalent.
It combines the tech and luxury of the latest E-Class with the steroid-fed muscle of a twin-turbocharged V8. Mercedes’ 4.0-litre motor is more than one of the best V8s on sale — it’s one of the best ever.
Packing some 450kW of power and 850Nm of torque in E-Class form, the engine fires more than two tonnes of sedan to 100km/h in 3.4 seconds, on to a top speed limited to 300km/h. It has more than triple the power of an entry-level E-Class, sounds like a muscle car, and exhibits the loping low-speed effortlessness that won V8 power millions of fans around the world.
Capable of shutting down four cylinders or disconnecting the motor from the transmission in a neutral “sailing” mode to save fuel, the big motor’s 12.7L/100km economy is more efficient than you might expect.
Sensible enough in comfort mode, a twist of the driving mode dial on its flat-bottomed steering wheel allows you to shift time zones in an aggressive race mode that coaxes maximum performance from the engine, its nine-speed automatic transmission and sophisticated all-wheel-drive system.
Our test example had powerful ceramic brakes that felt grabby in town but had no problem reigning in the monster engine’s performance.
Air suspension does well to keep its weight in check, and the decision to leave out rear-wheel-steering results in a machine that feels appropriately planted and predictable — never nervous or unsettled. In their rework of the E 63 for 2021, engineers have focused on the luxury side of the equation.
It has much more comfortable suspension designed to better reflect the car’s dual-purpose nature. There are new looks, too. Focused headlights frame a wide-mouthed grille, the tail-lamps are slimmer and fresh 20-inch wheels are a little less gangster than the matt black hoops of its predecessor.
The cabin gets a new steering wheel with glassy capacitive-touch controls, plus reworked touchscreens with camera-based augmented-reality satnav combining digital graphics with a live video feed of the road ahead.
You get a comprehensive suite of driver aids that help ease the burden of traffic jams or long road trips, plus AMG Track pace apps that store key data during racetrack excursions.
That sort of incongruity is key to the E 63 appeal. You have a race-inspired flat-bottomed wheel with huge metal shift paddles alongside heating for the armrests and centre console to protect your elbows from the trauma of cold leather on chilly mornings.
The digital dashboard has a special setting to block out all distractions to help drivers focus on perfect gear shifts on track, or you can use voice activation for myriad features including “hey Mercedes, set the ambient lighting to purple”.
It’s at home on the school run and will happily reel in race cars on a circuit.
There’s always a catch — none of this comes cheap. Old-school AMG appeal comes with an eye-watering price — about $271,500 drive-away. You also need to set aside $7000 for servicing in the first five years and maintain a fuel and tyre fund if you plan to access its speed.
Stuffed with luxury, technology and incredible V8 wallop, the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S follows the finest traditions of executive performance.
MERCEDES-AMG E63 S VITALS
Price: About $271,500 drive-away
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol, 450kW/850Nm
Warranty/servicing: 5-year, unlimited km/$7050 for 5 years
Safety: 5 stars, 9 airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert
Cargo: 540 litres
Spare: Inflator kit