As the mist parted to reveal the road snaking away along the side of the cliffs in Spain, it was easy to believe I had died and gone to heaven. Classic roads such as these near the famous Montserrat Abbey perched in the mountains above Barcelona are tailor-made for drivers and our V8-powered AMG super car was certainly up to the task- rarely do the two intersect.
The roar of the big high revving V8 cannoned off the rock face that towered above us as the car powered from corner to corner. Thank you God!
Australians love their fast cars and it doesn't get much better than this. You get more power and torque than before, but unfortunately we miss out on the new all-wheel drive system.
Like Benz's small GLK soft roader, the 4MATIC system was never designed for right hand drive which is kind of silly really. In this model the previous AMG Performance Pack has morphed into a fully-blown 'S' model with even more power and torque, as well as plenty of other goodies.
No word on pricing yet, but these cars aren't cheap and, when you see the engineering that goes into them - you can understand why (the current model starts at $240,000). But that still leaves plenty of room for options like the amazing 1200 watt, 14 speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system.
AMG is to Benz as HSV is to Holden, with AMG accounting for almost 8 per cent of Benz sales in Australia - one of the highest proportions in the world. Based on the new, facelifted E-Class, the AMG model features a single front facia design, unlike the donor car which offers two, along with the new single headlight cluster that employs LEDs to create the effect of twin lights - a hallmark of the car for three generations.
It features a 48mm wider track at he front for improved handling, the front and rear bumpers have also been redesigned, with further cosmetic changes to distinguish the more powerful S model from its sibling, including larger wheels and red brake calipers.
Inside there's plenty of logos and the S features contrast stitching on the leather plus contrasting silver coloured seatbelt webbing. Although the cars are limited to 250km/h the speedometer reads all the way to 320.
Benz is renowned for safety and this car maintains that reputation, with a host of safety systems amalgamated under the heading of Intelligent Drive. Automatic braking is standard, to prevent rear enders as well as avoiding pedestrians and cameras/sensors provide a 360 degree view around the car looking up to 50 metres ahead, and even warning of traffic approaching from either side.
Benz claims the 5.5-litre bi-turbo V8 is the most efficient series production V8 in the world. There's two models, both with the same size engine, but one with 410kW/720Nm and the other with 430kW/800Nm.
In left hand drive form, it is also offered with all-wheel drive, split 33:67 front to back, potentially giving the car more grip and faster acceleration. To wit the all-wheel drive, 4MATIC S is able to dispatch the dash from 0-100km/h in a Ferrari-like 3.6 seconds.
The rear-wheel drive S version that we are getting is good for 3.8-3.9 seconds - it hasn't been tested yet. While the rear-drive 410kW version is good for 4.2 seconds. Top speed of both cars is limited to 250km/h.
18 inch wheels with 255/285 rubber are standard, while the S adds 19s with the same size tyres but with lower profiles, along with a rear diff lock - further aiding in putting all that power to ground.
Both models are hooked up to an automatic, AMG Speedshift MCT 7-speed sports transmission, with paddle shifters, that blips the throttle on down changes, together with electro-mechanical variable speed sensitive steering.
Start/stop is standard (but can be turned off) and the driver can select from a number of drive modes and the suspension is also adjustable, with air dampers holding up the rear.
Despite the increase in power, the 410kW model consumes the same 9.8 litres/100km as its 386kW predecessor, while the 430kW model is expected to consume a fraction more - it too hasn't been tested.
Basically, the car could still do with more grip. When you're pushing out this much power, the difference between 410 or 430kW is difficult to quantify, certainly well beyond our knowing.
Suffice to say the E63 is mighty quick in either configuration, either off the line, in a straight line or through the twisty bits, as we discovered - although the latter requires some finesse. The sound and feel of the big V8 is almost tangible, especially in sport mode with the exhaust baffles fully open. The throaty roar from the quad pipes sounds like the hounds of hell themselves are approaching.
We got to drive both the rear wheel drive 410kW model and top of the line all-wheel drive 430kW S model - both of them sedans. Just like previous E63 that we drove the back has a tendency to step out unless you're careful - traction control or no traction control. And the smaller 18 inch wheels on the standard car don't help matters.
After a bit of trial and error we found the best way to drive the car, in fact the only way - is fast in and slow out of corners, braking deep and letting the car complete its turn and straighten up before hitting the throttle again. The beefy AMG brakes are superb but can be upgraded to ceramic discs if desired, at considerable cost however.
Even with all-wheel drive to keep the car in check you need to remain watchful. At one point we pulled out to overtake, which can be accomplished in a nanosecond, and the car almost snapped sideways into the car we were trying to pass as we tromped the throttle.
You'd buy this car for just for the sound of the engine. The AMG V8 is to die for and the car itself is a work of art, but whether this car or one of the other AMG models is perhaps the real question? We particularly like the German Executive pack which removes the badges, spoilers and quad exhausts, turning the car into a wolf in sheep's clothing - unfortunately it won't be offered here.
Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG
Price: from $240,000 (approx.)
Engine: 5.5-litre 8-cyl, 410kW/720Nm and 430kW/800Nm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, RWD
Price: from $230,000
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, 412kW/680Nm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Thirst: 9.9L/100km 98 RON, 232g/km CO2
Price: from $252,114
Engine: 5.0-litre 10-cyl, 426kW/650Nm
Transmission: sports automatic, four-wheel drive
Thirst: 13.9/100Km, CO2 331g/km
Price: from $207,905
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8, 375kW/625Nm
Trans: 6-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Thirst: 12.5L/100km, CO2 292g/km