In a post from a couple of weeks ago, I was quite critical of the latest MB E-class. As mentioned then, I had the opportunity to drive a couple of E-classes lately, including the latest E63 – and luckily, driving it pretty much lets you forget any worries you may have about its looks, materials or luggage space!
Having owned the previous E63 estate for the last three years (non S-version meaning around 560 hp), it’s of course even more interesting to compare it to the new version. And although the new one I drove was the new S-version with 612 hp, the difference in power is barely noticeable, at least on normal roads. There is a difference in sound though, and that’s not to the new car’s advantage. The deep V8 bass has lost some of that depth in the new, 1.5 litre smaller engine, and where the old car made sure no one failed to notice what you were driving at the turn of the key, the new one in comfort mode (and, I should add, without the optional the sports exhaust) is actually quite discreet.
In terms of driving experience, lets just say that what was always a very good package difficult to fault for its precision, has become even better and more precise. This goes for everything. There is surprisingly even less body roll than in the old car, in view of the cars size and weight. The steering is even more precise than before, and the biggest difference is perhaps the gear changes. I never fully understood the complaints around the old speedshift box – sure, it was slower than many double-clutch boxes, but in my view never so that it was disturbing. The new box however reclaims the lost ground, being on another level. The options in terms of individualizing the set-up are plentiful but the pre-programmed modes leave little to be wished for, at least in normal use. The air suspension is impressive in its capability to cope with everything that comes in its way. Most importantly though, the car still feels playful, ready to shake its behind if you’re up – and prepared – for it.
So trying to combine the general impressions of the E-class with the very complete package in terms of driving the E63 offers, where does this leave us? To my mind, there is still nothing that rivals the E63 Estate in the combination of supercar and family estate (the RS6 may come close, but it offers far less boot space for those of us who depend on it, and it’s also not as playful as the Merc). In its estate version, the E63 still offers all the advantages of what is still the best family estate on the market, which at a movement of your right foot will leave most other cars, including a fair amount of super cars, behind. On the road that is – and basically assuming you live in Germany and have family members enjoying speed as much as you do. For obvious reasons, the E63 will never be a very good track car.
In this resides the E63s ultimate conflict, as I’ve come to realize during three years of ownership, but more on that in a later post. In the meantime, if you’re in the market for a fast family estate, then to my mind nothing beats the E63, but I would await the face lift next year, that will notably bring the new MBUX infotainment system.