Pros: Supercar-like performance with four doors; all-wheel drive adds minimal weight and dramatically improves acceleration; imaginative styling upgrades more closely echo the E63 model's capabilities than the previous design

Cons: Elevated engine output and all-wheel drive make it harder to enjoy driving at lower speeds; no option for rear-wheel drive only; despite upgrades, the interior still feels a bit stern

What's New?

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG is a well-established player in the high performance sedan game, and the already speedy 4-door receives even more power with this mid-cycle refresh. It gains 32 horsepower and 15 lb-ft of torque -- or 59 hp and 74 lb-ft with a new S model, which replaces the previous model year's Performance Pack option. To manage that considerable engine output, AMG has installed all-wheel drive in the notoriously tail-happy sedan, making this the first 4-wheel-drive 4-door in AMG history.

The E63 model's new styling cues take the standard E-Class model's appearance -- which is now available with two faces, Luxury and Sport -- and beefs up the latter's look with more aggressive details and standard all-LED headlights. The interior's material quality and layout has been upgraded. Mechanical improvements include torque vectoring braking in Sport Handling and more responsive suspension calibration. The E63 also inherits safety and collision-avoidance technology from the upcoming S-Class.

Comfort & Utility

You'll find a decent list of standard items on the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, such as keyless start, a rearview camera, a power sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats and a 5+1 surround sound stereo system. Standalone options include a self-parking Parktronic system ($970), a panorama sunroof ($1,090) and a premium leather upgrade ($1,310).

Technology

Though the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG boasts plenty of go-fast technology under the hood, its 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is surprisingly simple and adds only 154 pounds of weight -- good news for performance enthusiasts. The safety items outlined below represent the most cutting-edge aspects of the E63 model's technological offerings, while unique standalone options include Night View Assist Plus ($1,780), which offers the superhero-like ability to see in the dark.

Performance & Fuel Economy

While the E63 model's performance is more outrageous than ever, with up to 577 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque churning from its twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8, what differentiates this 4-door from its high-hp counterparts is the incorporation of all-wheel drive. The 4Matic system diverts a fixed 67 percent of power to the rear wheels, though more can be transferred when traction is reduced at the front wheels. The more powerful S model adds a limited slip rear differential, which helps that model achieve an impressive 0-to-60 miles per hour time of only 3.5 seconds -- a half-second improvement over its rear-wheel-drive predecessor. The S version also lifts top speed from 155 mph to 186 mph.

Official fuel economy figures have yet to be announced, but Mercedes claims that their latest E63 is the most efficient offering in its segment, thanks to features such as smart engine tuning and auto stop/start.

Safety

The Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG inherits 11 new or optimized safety systems from the upcoming top dog S-Class model, though not every safety item comes standard. For instance, rear side airbags cost an additional $420, a lane tracking assist package runs $850 and active blind spot monitoring and lane keeping assist is bundled with adaptive cruise control for $2,950.

The advances to the E63 model's safety features are notable because they incorporate next-generation technology, which more actively takes control of the vehicle. For instance, the car's electromechanical steering can now be manipulated so that it actively steers away from oncoming traffic to avoid a head-on collision. The system also enables the self-parking feature on Parktronic-equipped models. Other less intrusive measures include active braking on select sides to keep the vehicle centered in its lane, though Mercedes-Benz emphasizes that all safety-related steering corrections are engineered to be overridden by the driver, if necessary.

Standard safety items include: Attention Assist, which aims to recognize driver fatigue and sound the alert; a steel-reinforced chassis with crumple zones; Neck-Pro active head restraints; the Pre-Safe predictive safety system; and a roll-over sensor. Front dual-stage, driver and passenger pelvic, side and driver knee airbags offer generous protection in the event of an accident.

Driving Impressions

If you've ever been behind the wheel of an AMG-powered Mercedes-Benz E-Class, you're probably familiar with how difficult it can be to lay its copious power to the ground. The big news for 2014 is the addition of 4Matic all-wheel drive, which routes 67 percent of power to the rear wheels and 33 percent up front, for maximum grip during acceleration. The numbers speak volumes to the S Model's oomph: It hits 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, a massive half-second improvement over its predecessor. The feeling from the cabin is one of insistent forward thrust, accompanied by a subdued but throaty exhaust note. Whereas the old model paused and curtailed its power while flashing the traction control light, the new version lurches ahead with effortless, clawing bite.

Mid-corner throttle application can still trigger the traction light (and send the tail wagging when Sport Handling mode is selected), but the E63 now demands considerably higher speeds to upset its chassis. The transmission modes greatly affect the car's perceived speed. The Sport mode facilitates access to a far more generous swath of the engine's torque curve, while Sport Plus enables strong charges through the powerband, quick shifts at redline and aggressive downshifts in corners. However, we wish the paddle shifters created a more instantaneous shift response, as this single-clutch gearbox can't quite keep up with more advanced dual-clutch units.

The aforementioned brake steering effect gives this 2-ton car a surprising feeling of nimbleness, though higher speed maneuvers can still reveal the limitations of its sedan layout. Our tester featured optional carbon ceramic brakes ($12,625), which offered race-track-ready, fade-free stops. Cockpit-adjustable dampers effectively alter ride quality from cushy to firm, further emphasizing this car's dual personality.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW M5: BMW's $90,200 M5 has been around longer than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class AMG and offers plenty of bells and whistles (not to mention driver-adjustable settings) to go with its high-tech, 560-hp engine. Whereas Mercedes (barely) wins the horsepower war with its 570-hp S model, the BMW offers a smoother and quicker-shifting 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Cadillac CTS-V: This 556-hp Caddy is quite the performance deal at $64,515. However, certain tradeoffs in refinement come with the bargain basement pricing. But we're still glad this driver-focused 4-door hot rod enables a more approachable alternative for lead-footed sedan fans.

Jaguar XFR: The $83,200 Jaguar XFR features a 510-hp supercharged V8 and plenty of British luxury on the inside, though its performance specs can't quite compete with its competitors from across the pond. Reliability is also an iffier proposition for the Jag, making this high-powered sedan more of a passion-driven purchase.

AutoTrader Recommends

At the end of the day, the E63 AMG displays potent road manners and a breathtaking ability to thrill -- all while delivering typical Mercedes-Benz luxury. It's not often that such extreme opposites of performance and comfort reside in the same body, but this package also happens to incorporate extensive safety features, making the E63 one of the most surprisingly practical ultra high-performance purchases you can make.

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