A few months back, we matched an E550 sedan against three other hot sports sedans ["Faster Horses, " C/D, November 2006] and emerged with a mixed review. It was the first comparison test involving the latest E-class, and even though the test crew was properly impressed by the new 5.5-liter V-8 and appreciated the car's serene deportment on the open road, its new Airmatic suspension, with adaptive damping, delivered sluggish responses on the hills and curves of our Hocking Hills test loop in southeastern Ohio.
Checking the specs prior to this California confrontation, we wondered if we might be looking at a repetition of that test, albeit at a considerably faster pace, thanks to the E63's superb new 6.2-liter AMG V-8. (AMG calls it 6.3 liters, even though the displacement is 6208cc, a tribute to the magnificent 300 SEL V-8 of the late '60s. Think of it as revisionist arithmetic.)
Historically convenient addition or not, there was certainly nothing disappointing about the E63's power. AMG has long since discovered that massive thrust pleases its customers — no surprise there — and can also cover for so-so handling. Not to mention making short work of dicey passing situations. Although it's not a torque monster like the supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 that powered the E55 AMG — 516 pound-feet — the naturally aspirated 6.2-liter is no lightweight in the grunt department, generating 465 pound-feet, and it makes lots of horsepower: 507 at 6800 rpm versus a mere 469 for the E55.
Paired with the Mercedes seven-speed automatic, the AMG V-8 delivers 4.2-second 0-to-60-mph runs and covers the quarter-mile in 12.6 seconds at 115 mph — about the same as the E55 AMG, even though the E63 weighs in some 80 pounds heavier. The seven-speed automatic has a paddle-shifted manumatic function that really knows how to follow orders, no independent decisions, unlike the Audi's six-speed auto. As an aside, we have a confession to make: As much as we like the sense of involvement that goes with a good manual gearbox, we have to admit that the latest manumatic and automated manual transmissions are pretty compelling, particularly allied with big-output powerplants such as the ones under scrutiny here.