It’s a dire situation: your wife’s just given birth to your second child and the baby seat nestled in the back of your Porsche 911 isn’t big enough to accommodate your growing first born anymore. It’s time for a trade-in, but you’ll be damned if that four door’s going to rob you of the pleasure you get from being in the driver’s seat.

Fear not, friend. The thrill-seeking engineers at Mercedes’ AMG arm have heard your soft cries and devised a road weapon that’s certain to scratch that driver’s car itch. And we’ve been to Barcelona for a test drive around the winding roads of Spain’s wine country.

Design

As with other Mercedes-Benz E-Class models the E63 has been given a facelift. It has a new front grille, which wears the three-pointed star prominently at its centre, has a large front splitter and huge openings on either side of its lower bumper for enhanced airflow to its engine. 

Two thin bars differentiate the grille from lesser E-Class models. These are flanked by two LED lamp units on either side. The side skirts between the 19-inch wheels feature a carbon-fibre insert – which can also be had in a more discrete body colour – and the rear end is adorned with AMG-engraved quad pipes flanking a not-too-subtle rear diffuser.

As with other models in the range, the taillamps have also been revised. It’s menacing-looking thing that unabashedly depicts its sporting nature. 

Practicality

The E63 AMG’s cabin is nearly identical to the E-Class it’s based on, which makes it extremely practical as an everyday car. The only differences are in the centre console, which features a gearshift instead of the E-Class’ column-mounted shifter, and a revised instrument cluster and clock.

The E63 AMG's spacious passenger compartment is accompanied by a 540-litre boot, which is augmented to 1950-litres in the estate. This kind of cargo capacity really makes you question the need for an SUV, especially given those vehicles’ on road dynamics. 

Performance & handling

The E63 AMG has formiddable rivals in the shape of the Audi RS6 and BMW M5. Though the Audi's 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 channels its 552hp through all four wheels the E63 AMG is only available in rear-wheel-drive in the UK, so it has more in common with the 560hp M5.

Contrary to its misleading nomenclature, the E63 AMG is powered not by a 6.3-litre but by Mercedes’ 5.5-litre V8, which produces 557hp and generates 720Nm of torque. It's good for 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds and  an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. A more powerful S model with 585hp and 800Nm of twist on tap will whisk you to a 62mph in 3.6 seconds, which is hypercar territory. 

The E63 AMG is a muscle car cloaked in a sedate saloon body, just as the engineers in Stuttgart intended. But it also handles better than you’d imagine a 1,940kg motor should. The grip afforded by its 19-inch rear tyres is astounding, but it’ll glide sideways through the bends with the traction control off til the cows come home.

Regrettably the configuration of the E63 AMG’s steering rack and front differential means right hand drive models won’t be available with the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. A UK-specific S-model with rear-wheel-drive is the only model on offer unless you opt to order a left hooker.

The E63 AMG's transmission has four settings -- normal, S, S+ and an 'M' manual setting. But even in the S+ setting it doesn’t hold on to gears long enough and shifts up when you least expect it. Shifting via the paddles in M mode also takes longer than expected, which makes it difficult to benefit from downshifts when entering corners or upshifts at redline.

Economy & environment

If economy is at the top of your wish list you’re probably not reading this review. Mercedes’ own 28.3mpg figure in the combined cycle is woefully optimistic given the nature of this car, and with 230g/km (234g/km for the estate) spewing out of the exhaust pipes, the E63 sits in VED band L. That translates to an £815 excise duty for the first year of ownership, levelling out at £460 thereafter.

The M5's fuel consumption is roughly identical, returning 28.5mpg and emitting 232g/km of CO2 according to BMW, while Audi claims 28.8mpg and 229g/km of CO2 for the RS6.

Equipment & value

All E63 AMG models are well equipped and luxuriously appointed, which is what you’d expect given the £73,720 entry price. Standard equipment includes 19-inch AMG wheels, full LED headlamps, an AMG electronically-controlled damping system, seven-speed MCT gearbox and high performance brakes with 360mm ventilated discs all around. The cabin features nappa leather sports seats, a panoramic sunroof, Comand online with DAB radio and a Harmon Kardon sound system.

Besides its increased power, the S-model is fitted with a differential lock on the rear axle to increase traction and is available with an optional ceramic high-performance composite braking system with 420mm disks. There is also specific detailing to differentiate its exterior and interior design, such as silver chrome trim and silver-coloured seat belts.

A host of individualisation options are available on both models.

Safety

The E63 is fitted with a host of safety equipment and technologies befitting its wolf-in-sheep's-clothing, supercar-rivalling performance.

Some of the innovative technology on offer includes Mercedes’ Distronic Plus with steering assist; a Brake Assist system with Junction Assist; a Pre-Safe braking system, which can detect pedestrians and initiate autonomous braking below 30mph; Pre-Safe Plus, which predicts a rear-end collision and triggers tailored occupant protection measures; Highbeam Assist, which allows driving with high beams on permanently; and Traffic Sign Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Blind Spot Assist. There's so much assistance, there's almost nothing for the driver to do.

Verdict

Though cloaked in an unassuming package, the E63 AMG is a high-performance car that impresses in its power delivery as well as its handling. It’ll beat most supercars off the line in a traffic light drag race but also coddles you with all the luxury appointments befitting a premium car. And as it’s built on the E-Class platform, the bread and butter of the Mercedes range, the E63 inherits superb build.

The only drawback is its lofty price tag, though when compared to other vehicles with this level of performance it seems a relative bargain. Considering the Audi RS6 retails for £77,000 and BMW will relieve you of £73,350 for its M5, the E63 AMG is competitively priced.

So which is better? If you’re looking for a car that will carry your growing family whilst putting a gratifying smile on your face as you wind through bends and blast down the motorway in comfort, you're spoilt for choice. But the E63 is a worthwhile contender.

Key Specs

Model tested: E63 AMG
Engine: 5.5-litre bi-turbo V8
Power: 557hp
Torque: 720Nm
Acceleration: 0-62 in 4.2 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: 28mpg
Emissions: 230g/km CO2
Price: £73,720
Score: