Our family car, the MB GL 350 also known under the nickname Helmut for a certain visual resemblance to a former German chancellor, has left our garage. He will be missed in some regards, most notably for his endless luggage space and superb long-distance comfort, but less so in others, particularly a number of larger and smaller problems of the electrical kind (the things that tend to make you nervous as the guarantee nears the end) and a turbo lag which sometimes felt as long as the Gotthard tunnel. And no, he was not really much of a thrill to drive either. I therefore took the decision a while back to cut the losses, and after the missus to my great surprise declared complete disinterest in what the replacement car would be (except for the small caveat that it should have a star on the bonnet and a decent luggage space in the back), the road ahead was all of a sudden clear as a star-lit night in the Alps.
Some of you may remembered my post from a wonderful morning in AMG-heaven a while ago, that can otherwise be found here. I never really got over the eye-opening experience from back then when I experienced the huge difference between a regular W212 E-class and the E63 AMG, not only in power but in the whole driving experience. So when the occasion presented itself to trade in Helmut against a one-year old, 4-wheel drive E63 AMG T in what can actually be described as a fairly good deal, it felt like a no-brainer. It’s been four weeks now, and having walked around with a stupid smile on my face every since, I figured it was time to convey some initial impressions.
Obviously, these need to start with the engine. Sweet Lord what an engine… A 5.5 litre V8 with twin turbos, it develops 558 hp and a torque of 800 Nm and can only be described as taking your breadth away – every time you floor the pedal. But even if it nails you to your chair, the delivery is smooth and above all tireless, with no turbo lag and the second turbo kicking in barely noticeably at… highly illegal speeds. Man am I happy to be burning petrol again!
They guys in Affalterbach aren’t much for acoustic discretion either, and the sound that accompanies this rapid automotive progression is as fantastic (and loud!) as a V8 can be. Driving with the windows open and the radio turned off in the middle of December all of a sudden feels fully natural. I also like tunnels a lot these days.
Next to the engine, the whole car has made enormous progress under AMG’s treatment. The chassis is responsive, the steering is precisely as heavy as it should be without the front heaviness of the regular car. The four-wheel drive setting sending 70% to the back wheels convey a lightness to the whole experience that is fare more reminiscent of a 911 than of a taxi Merc. Finally the heavily modified 7-speed gearbox going under the name Speedshift, although not quite as quick as a double-clutch, is still miles ahead of the regular box. And all this in a packaging that offers ample room for five and the largest cargo space on the market. If this is not the perfect family car, then I don’t know what is. As for the Thrill of Owning, let’s just note that the new E63 that will come to the market during next year will no longer have a V8 up front but rather a V6
Obviously the journey is only beginning and I will provide updates as I get to know the car better. Living in Switzerland where speed cameras are as frequent as holes in an Emmentaler cheese, it feels like a trip to the Autobahn will be necessary as soon as temperatures get slightly warmer (and preferably at night time…). Until then I must however find a suitable name for my new friend, but I can’t really think of a quick, agile German with an opera voice, so any suggestions are welcome!