2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Review: The Better It Gets, the Better It Gets

My first experience with a Mercedes-Benz E63 was as a rising college senior. I’d gone up to Greenwich, Connecticut with a few friends to attend the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, a combination of car show and hoity-toity auction. None of us were hoity nor toity, but we roamed the show grounds, ogled everything on sale at Miller Motorcars, and sweet-talked our way into driving the everloving hell out of some new V8-powered Mercedes sedans.

Mercedes-Benz was a sponsor of the Greenwich Concours and was offering test-drives of their then-new 2010 C63 and E63 AMG sedans. None of us were 25 years old – far from it – which was the age required to drive. But somehow, we found ourselves each taking a turn behind the wheel and letting the naturally-aspirated hand-built 6.2 liter V8 E-Class sedan absolutely rip its way down an on-ramp.

Now, eleven years later, the biggest and baddest E-Class has evolved quite a bit. I spent a week with the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S to see how it had grown, changed, and improved since the days of the first E63.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S

What Is It?

This is a 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S sedan. It is the newest model year of the W213-generation E-Class that was first sold in 2017, and 2021 marks the “facelift” year for the W213. Mercedes-AMG offers a “lesser” E-Class variant, the E53, which is powered by a very fascinating inline-six drivetrain and is plenty quick on its own. But for those wanting the fastest and most special E-Class, it’s E63 S or nothing.

The 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S features a hand-built 4.0L twin turbo V8 with turbos in the “hot V” between the cylinder heads. AMG follows their long-time philosophy of “one man, one engine” with these special V8s, and a nice blonde man named Christian built ours in Affalterbach. The M177 hand-built V8 produces 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque, which Mercedes-AMG claims is good for a 10.9 second quarter mile.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S

Handling the gear changes is a 9-speed AMG SpeedShift “MCT” automatic transmission. The MCT is not a dual-clutch, given it only has one input shaft. It’s not a traditional automatic, either, using a “startup clutch” instead of a torque converter. There are several clutches positioned together in an oil bath (“wet clutch” style) but controlled separately. Mercedes-AMG claims they went with this setup for optimal shift times, where a torque-converter transmission would have focused more on outright smoothness of the drive.

Managing power is both a standard limited-slip rear differential and standard “4Matic+” all-wheel drive. Adding the “plus” to 4Matic means the E63 S can be driven exclusively in rear-wheel drive, or in a variable-split all-wheel drive setup based on drive mode and road conditions. At the corners, adjustable air suspension is standard based on Mercedes’ Air Body Control. Out back, the electronically-controlled exhaust has some flappers in line to control its volume.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S carbon ceramic brakes

Stopping this 603 horsepower brute are optional (this one has them) ceramic brakes for nearly nine grand – two-piece 15.8” front discs and 14.2” rears.

Total MSRP of my insanely-loaded 2021 E63 S – to include those $9,000 brakes and a $5,000 Burmester sound system – came in at $139,910. The easiest way to make the E63 S even more expensive is to request yours built as a station wagon, a tradition Mercedes-Benz has followed for generations of E-Class now. E-Class AMG wagons have traditionally been produced in small quantities (under two hundred per generation) and somehow, in the age of crossover-everything, the E63 S AMG Wagon is still A Thing.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Burmester speaker tweeter

Remembering the Past, but Not Repeating It in Dave’s 2007 E63 Wagon

To fully immerse myself in all-things AMG, I pointed the 2021 E63 S south and west of Washington, D.C., toward the Shenandoah Valley. Full of great “driving roads,” the Valley is also home to a friend who loves quirky old cars, including a 2007 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon. Dave’s W211 wagon carries the same naturally-aspirated hand-built 6.2 liter V8 of the early W212 I drove in Greenwich over a decade ago, producing 507 horsepower to the new E63 S’ 603.

I took the old E63 wagon out first, running it out of town and over some quick, very twisty mountain roads. While the angry-machine-gun-freight-train noises of the 6.2 were as aurally immersive as I remembered, so was the rest of the car. Early E63 models were straight-line Autobahn missiles, with the big V8 sending power rearward through a torque-converter “7G-Tronic” automatic that shifts when it’s damn well ready, even as you pull the paddles in Manual mode. This works really well in city driving as the old E63 does its best impression of a quite-loud E350 slushing through traffic.

On the mountain, though, the poor transmission was just so out of its element. Shifts happened when they did, and shift quality varied from snappy to slurred. Steering and handling were both fine, certainly not bad given the era, but the W211 E63 just wasn’t encouraging many shenanigans beyond the occasional hammer-down pull in a straight line. Through curves, the 2007 E63 was akin to cutting a tomato with a dull knife – it’d do it, eventually, but it’s uncomfortable and a bit squishy.

I slid the shifter to Park, thumbed the W211’s shifter-mounted start/stop button to shut down the snorting, quivering eight-cylinder, and slid from one bolstered black leather driver’s seat into another.

Mercedes Benz W123 W211 W212 W213

Back to the Present in the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S

In the new W213 E63 S, I clicked the drive mode selector on the steering wheel over to Sport+, then thought “what the hell” and went all the way to Race. The road I was on was well-paved and low-trafficked, and I had plenty of room to play.

Prior to my day in the Valley, I’d been driving the 2021 E63 S around the Washington, D.C. area. It’s a fine car in Comfort mode, a pleasant place to sit with the “Air Balance” cabin air fragrance wafting, the outstanding Burmester sound system bumping, and the ventilated seat keeping you sweat-free. But you can just tell that the drivetrain is so unhappy in the city. “Das ist kein spaß!” the E63 S is thinking, its twin turbos waiting to spool up past a few psi and the MCT ready to change gear mid-blink if conditions demand.

No, keeping the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S chained up inside the D.C. Beltway just wouldn’t be fair. To me or to the car.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S

And so in Race mode, I turned from the parking lot onto the mountain road and let the E63S absolutely eat.

The harder I pushed the E63 S, the more rewarding and surprising it was. Here was a 4,500 pound sedan making over 600 horsepower and pound-feet, and yet it was the opposite of the older E63 through the same corners. Where the W211 left me cautious, the W213 left me confident. I had to fight the older car to do what I wanted; the 2021 was working with me instead. Corner entry and exit were both so easy, aided by relatively precise steering and always-recalculating 4Matic+ all-wheel drive. Power was always abundant, even as the digital tachometer needle shifted its pixels rapidly toward redline.

That unique MCT transmission, so unhappy in the city, came into its own on the mountain. No matter how much heat I got into the transmission and its fluid, upshifts and downshifts were precise and uniform over and over again. Though the MCT is surely smart enough for a back-roads romp, I preferred using the paddles to pick my gears, unless I was trying to hustle in a straight line. At that point, the twin-turbo four liter was producing power faster than my right hand could click the upshift paddle. After all, 0-60 can be had in just 3.3 seconds if the silly human would just step out of the way.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S steering wheel

It’s a happy highway cruiser, too, though our interstates and speed limits pale to what can be found in the E63’s home country. Cruising at 75 miles per hour, the E63 goads you into more. “Come on, just mat the throttle for a second or two,” it whispers. And you eventually give in, and realize you’ve attained [redacted] in an instant.

Where the older E63 wagon bested the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S was in playing the song of its people. Mercedes-AMG has a two-mode “active exhaust” setup on the 2021 E63 S, and even in “Powerful” mode, it’s just too quiet. By comparison, the W211 E63 AMG was always a bit more vocal – and Dave’s added some aftermarket headers to his car, making it almost racecar-loud.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S

Final Thoughts

There’s not much rationalizing you can do with a very fast, very capable midsize sedan that costs as much as a house in many parts of the country. The upgraded brakes alone cost as much as a combined fifth of the grid for our upcoming rallycross. You could have carbon-fiber exterior accents, or an iPhone 12 Pro for each seat in the car. “Normal people” are not the target buyer of the E63 S, and Mercedes-Benz will happily sell you an E350 or “American spicy” E53 for far less money.

Should a $140,000 midsize sedan be right in your budget, though, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S is an incredibly fun option that encourages – no, requires – you to break from the monotony of heavily-trafficked commutes and date nights downtown. It’ll do just fine in those environments, sure, but wouldn’t you rather be elsewhere?

The E63 S sure would.

Leave a Comment