Here’s What It’s Like to Drive a 500-Horsepower AMG E63 With Hand Controls
Would you try this out on your own?by Michael Fira, on
The Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG is one of those cars that combine the seriousness of a top-line executive with the boyish silliness of a 14-year-old. The former comes virtue of the somewhat reserved appearance (massive mint-colored calipers notwithstanding) while the latter is in droves thanks to the 5.5-liter, turbo V-8 that cranks over 500 horsepower. That’s enough power to keep you on your toes or, rather, on the edge of your fingers because the AMG E63 you see here is entirely controllable with your hands.
Performance should really be enjoyed by everyone
Usually, a person needs at least two arms and a leg to control a car, if that car is automatic and you can shift through gears without worrying about depressing the clutch every time. Sadly, some of us don’t have or can no longer use their legs. Most of these people are confined to a wheelchair and never drive a car again. The few that do, are stuck in decrepit or dull Fords or Opels because, frankly, converting cars to make them user-friendly for a person with disabilities isn’t big business - although it could be.
That’s why the all-black Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG is an odd sight. An ultra-fast sedan driven by a disabled person, someone who wasn’t ready yet to give up the thrill of speed. You get that with ease behind the wheel of an E63, of course, as the 2015 model seen here is powered by the brilliant 5.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 pumping out 550 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque that gets dispatched to the rear axle only.
Despite weighing 4,048 pounds dry, the E63 can do 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds en route to an electronically-limited top speed of 155 mph. You may disagree with us on whether the 5.5-liter engine is brilliant or not, especially as it replaced the legendary 6.2-liter but, hey, it makes just as much power and more torque so, at least on paper, it’s a step up!
|Engine||5.5-liter V-8 bi-turbo|
|Horsepower||550 @ 5,500|
|Torque (pound-feet)||531 @ 1,750-5,250|
|Transmission||AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 7-speed|
|0-to-60 mph (sec)||3.6|
|Top Speed (mph)||155|
How does it feel to have all that performance at a touch of your index finger? Somewhat scary, as James is ready to point out.
But the engineering behind it is what’s truly fascinating. A series of cables and rods effectively press the pedals for you when you operate a lever located under the wheel. This isn’t, of course, the same sort of system Alex Zanardi uses in his BMW racing cars (he prefers some circular elements in front of or behind the wheel which he pulls or pushes to brake/accelerate).
The hand controls - that cost about $1,000 to have installed, at least in the UK - will require your complete attention until you get used to them and they can prove somewhat cumbersome in city traffic at low speeds, especially the brakes. This car also didn’t come from the factory with a limited-slip diff for whatever reason which doesn’t really help the matter but, unless you’re reckless, you can control the car quite effortlessly after a while.