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BBC Autos

Refreshed Mercedes-Benz E-Class peaks with the E63 AMG

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Mercedes has staged a curious rolling debut of the E-Class variants, starting with the sedan and wagon in December of last year, followed by the coupe and cabriolet in early January and culminating at the Detroit auto show with the pinnacle of the line, the E63 AMG 4Matic.

This mid-life refresh gives the whole E-Class line a new hood and front-bumper treatment, but does not quite address the vague impression communicated by the previous E-Class that the hood was never quite closed all the way.

Nevertheless, the scope of the upgrades ensures that the new E-Class “delivers on its claim to be the best in its segment", assured Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche at the car’s 14 January unveiling.

Beneath that new hood lies an uprated version of the current 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 engine for the E63, churning out an extra 32 horses for a new total of 550. That is, unless a customer splurges on the S-Model, delivering an additional 27 horses and added turbo boost pressure.

The standard E63 engine’s torque is 531pound-feet, with the S-Model delivering 590 pound-feet. “Only AMG offers customers power and torque figures of such magnitude,” exulted Tobias Moers, head of vehicle development.

That power now meets the road through all four 19-inch tires, with a standard all-wheel-drive system that sends 67% of torque to the rear wheels and 33% to the front pair. The all-wheel-drive module weighs only 154lbs for minimal impact on ride, handling and fuel consumption.

Cornering is aided by a torque-vectoring brake system that grabs the inside rear brake to rotate the car into curves. Mercedes promises the system banishes understeer, that propensity of a car to steer wide of its mark.

The non S-Model sprints to 62mph in 3.6 seconds, with its velocity electronically terminated at 155mph, while the S-Model shaves a tenth of a second off that acceleration and continues all the way to 186mph.

The E63’s rear suspension replaces the basic E-Class sedan’s steel coils with computer-controlled air springs, which adjust their stiffness according to the three settings on the AMG Drive Unit: comfort, sport and sport plus.

The 7-speed automatic transmission also has various settings, with an efficiency, sport, sport plus and manual shift modes. Likewise, there are three settings for the electronic stability control system, letting drivers choose the level of assistance – or what some purists would call interference – they prefer.

Optional carbon ceramic brakes, with 6-piston front calipers and 4-piston rears, help arrest unwanted speed that may have accumulated. To ensure there is no confusion as to which specification E63 AMG, the S-Model’s calipers are painted red.

In case the carbon brakes squeal, as they can do, E63 drivers can drown out the noise with a 1200-watt Bang & Olufsen 14-speaker sound system.

All the 2014 E-Class models arrive in dealers this summer, with pricing to be announced closer to their sale dates.