Mercedes-AMG E63 S: E is for exhilarating
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It's no secret that Kiwis have a love affair with Mercedes performance vehicles from the AMG range, with New Zealand noted as having more per head of population than most countries.
(Damn you, Australia, for just beating us.) For Mercedes-Benz NZ general manager, Ben Giffin, the passion for AMGs products shows in the year's figures to date.
"Our AMG sales, as a percentage of total sales, are currently at 24 per cent, highlighting the love that Kiwis have for high-end performance vehicles," said Giffin.
Mercedes-Benz NZ has been encouraging that love affair not only with a new array of AMG 43s but also such powerful machines as the AMG version of the E-Class, with the all-new medium sedan launched last year.
Mercedes NZ has opted for the more powerful E63 S version, priced from $229,000 to go on the market first, with the standard E63 to be available later in the year for $199,900.
The E63 S has a 4-litre, twin-turbo petrol V8 under the bonnet producing 450kW of power and 850Nm of torque, hitting 0-100km/h at just 3.4 seconds.
The V8 engine also has cylinder de-activation when in comfort driving mode, meaning you use only four cylinders to reduce fuel consumption.
It is paired with AMG's speedshift nine-speed sports transmission providing short shift times. It also has AMG's high performance carbon brakes, with the E63 S boasting red callipers.
But the best aspect is the new 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system that, under every day circumstances, sends 100 per cent of the power to the rear wheels but decides when to send up to 50 per cent of power to the front axle. This provides amazingly stable four-wheel-drive capabilities to the car that were proven at the Australasian launch in Victoria.
Hitting the back country roads north of Melbourne, the E63 S effortlessly handled the often bumpy surfaces at speed with ease.
So much so that as passenger during one leg, I noticed a hole in the bitumen, and braced for impact, only to have the sports car effortlessly crease it.
And that engine sound at speed just made the drive even more enjoyable, the crackle on the downshift was delightful and the V8 performance made you forget that you're in a large sedan.
Though during Driven's exclusive first New Zealand drive before the Australian launch, the E63 S did remind me that it was a large sedan with a neighbour-annoying V8 engine.
Idling at traffic lights, heads will turn to see who is making that noise. But you're alwasy first away when the lights turn green.
The E63 S also has drift mode (for track only, sorry).
In race mode and EPS turned off, it provides rear-wheel-drive fun.
A step in the right direction
For Mercedes-Benz New Zealand, the surprise top seller has been in its 43 range that was first introduced late last year.
Sitting across the C-Class range, the Mercedes-AMG 43 models are a "step up" to performance vehicles for Kiwis, says the company's general manager, Ben Giffin.
"Our new Mercedes-AMG 43 range has been extremely well received since launching in New Zealand late last year," he said.
"We've found buyers of the new range are a mix of customers 'stepping up' from the standard variants, but excitingly, many are also new to our brand.
"Mercedes-Benz has never had a better start to a year from a sales perspective, and the 43 range is contributing strongly towards our growth led by the C 43 4MATIC sedan."
Giffin said that the 43 range offers an AMG entry point but also has "balance liveability around town with features such as the 4MATIC all-wheel drive and 9 speed transmission".