2013 Mercedes-Benz ML63 and E63 AMG Test Drive 

A BMW fanatic from birth gets behind the wheel of a pair of BMW arch rivals, the mighty 2013 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG and the 2013 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG. To be completely frank, besides owning BMWs, I’ve owned a total of four Mercedes-Benz cars. All four cars were equipped with V8 engines, with two being AMG models. Additionally, I’ve owned five cars from Audi, including two S models. Subsequently, my thoughts after test driving the 2013 E63 and ML63 should be 99% bias free. Let’s hope so…

2013 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG

Driving the new generation 2013 ML 63 AMG was like trying to tame a wild beast that was poked with a stick in the rear-end. Exhaust noise is sensational, sounding at times like a huge bag of popcorn endlessly popping in a microwave oven. This SUV covers ground from a dig like a rocket, thanks to the advanced 4-matic AWD system that helps put most of the power down to the ground. Just to give you an idea of the power on tap. Even with 4 wheel traction, the electronic stability ESP flashes in full throttle at lower speeds.

The standard ML63 is equipped with a direct injected 5.5 liter biturbo V8 generating 525 hp (386 KkW), and 516 lb-ft (700 N-m) of torque. Imagine what the AMG Performance Package equipped model would be like with the additional .3 bar of boost. It helps it generate a respectable 557 hp (410 kW), and 560 lb-ft (760 N-m) of torque. At 555 horsepower, the BMW X5M has 1-liter less displacement yet it generates only 2 less horses than that ML63. Mercedes-Benz claims that the AMG Performance Package outputs 60 lb-ft over the 500 lb-ft of torque in the X5M. Talk about a horsepower war being played, at least on paper. On the street, 0-62 MPH is achieved in 4.8 seconds for the base model, and 4.7 seconds for the AMG Performance Package. Compare that with the 4.5 seconds 0-60 time BMW claims for the X5 M. Real life tests have revealed low 4 seconds for both models.

Dynamically speaking the ML63 stays flat around corners, as it should. The superior handling characteristics adds to driver confidence behind the wheels, thanks to earlier lessons that the benchmark BMW X5M and Porsche Cayenne Turbo had set.

Interior quality is superb, showing a huge improvement from the previous generation. Credit goes out Mercedes-Benz  on the recent improvement in interior craftsmanship for their entire vehicle lineup. On the other hand, the exterior is all business. Huge front bumper air dams feed the thirsty intercoolers, and a unique matte silver front lip spoiler. Continuing to the sides E63 style 5 spoke wheels and side-skirts that lend a sporty, yet elegant looks. Outback, the rear bumper has non-functional air dams matching the front bumper, with a neat matte silver metallic diffuser  and quad exhaust tips.  Lastly, a rear roof spoiler that lends a sportier appeal.

2013 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG

We already know that the upcoming facelift 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG will come equipped with 4-Matic all wheel drive as the only option in the US market. Luckily, the 2013 E63 AMG I test drove was still a proper rear wheel drive. Mercedes-Benz tends to release new engines at different points of the production life cycle of their vehicles, forcing AMG to change engines in the middle of the vehicle’s production life cycle. Something BMW has not done in recent years with their M-models lineup. I believe the last M to change engines within the 6 years of production was the 1st generation E36 BMW Z3 M. The move was from the E36 M3 240 hp 3.2 liter inline 6-cylinder engine setup to the true M-Powerer E46 M3 333hp (343 hp in Europe) 3.2 liter inline 6 engine.

Everyone is familiar with the legendary M156 6.2 liter AMG engine that powered the E63. The pre-facelift car I drove was equipped with the new 5.5 liter twin turbo V8 with rear wheel drive. Such a short lived combination. Next year for the US market, the facelifted E63 will have the same biturbo V8, but with a 4-Matic all wheel drive ONLY option. Making the 2013 E63 I drove an oddball model, but nevertheless still an amazing car to drive I must say.

AMG has installed the same direct injected 5.5 liter biturbo V8 with 525 hp (386 KkW) and 516 lb-ft (700 N-m) of torque engine as in the ML63. An AMG Performance Package is also available, bumping the power up to  557 hp (410 kW), and 560 lb-ft (760 N-m) of torque. In other words, power figures close to the F10 BMW M5.

Even with today’s leap forward in the forced induction arena, the risk of turbo lag is always there. Especially if the driver is used to driving naturally aspirated engines from the same family tree. Some journalists claim that turbo lag is not present in the twin turbo V8 the E63. In reality, turbo lag was slightly apparent, especially at lower RPMs in manual shifting. For instance, driving at 20 mph in 2nd gear, nailing the gas pedal to the floor, there is noticeable lag that the naturally aspirated 6.2 liter never displayed. Heck, even the current R172 SLK55 is a tiny bit more responsive. Once the few milliseconds pass, the turbos spool up fast, pushing the car forward at serious acceleration.

Equipped with one of the world’s most refined automatic transmissions, an AMG speed shift auto with 7 speeds. First gear is very short. As second gear kicks in, the grip goes to the roof and the car flies away like a dragster. AMG claims 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds for the standard model, while 0-60 mph comes in 4.2 seconds for the overpowered AMG Performance Package equipped car. Real life test figures suggest 0-60 times in the high 3 second range.

AMG has come a long way in their steering and handling departments with the E63. Sport and Sport+ settings noticeably sharpen everything up, from throttle and steering response, to suspension firmness.  Even with a mountain of torque, cornering grip is very high for a car this size. On the other hand, fade-free braking makes the stopping distance on tarmac more than adequate at any speed.

Vastly improved exterior styling will be hitting global show rooms shortly. For that reason, I will refrain from commenting on that area. Regarding the interior, it is a pleasant place to be in. Featuring a square top and bottom steering wheel with real metallic paddle shifters. Sensational SLS style shift knob, with an AMG logo stamped into its leather face. Highly comfortable adjustable fine leather-wrapped bucket seats help keep the driver in place on the twisties. The entire cabin is furnished with top notch soft-touch material. Carbon fiber and aluminum trim easily reminds the driver that the E63 AMG is worth the $117,000 as-tested price tag.

Bottom line, AMG has changed for the better. I remember times when my AMGs had great power and respectable cornering capabilities, but lacked quick steering response. In other cars front end grip could have been a little better, especially on earlier models. These days Mercedes-Benz vehicles with AMG badging have truly earned it.

The real question is will BMW produce an xDrive all wheel drive BMW M5 to compete with the upcoming E63 AMG 4-Matic? BMW is currently denying the idea because of the additional weight that comes with an all wheel drive system. In reality, BMW could be missing out on some serious market share by not making the monster twin turbo V8 more usable in bad weather conditions. After all BMW M Division had previously vowed not to ever produce a forced induction M Powered engine. But look at us today, thanks to emissions and fuel economy regulations, the whole M lineup is turbocharged.


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Image Source: Daimler AG


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