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2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG: First Drive Page 2

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AMG, meet LED

All E-Class sedans are being refangled this year, and the de-furrowing of the brow makes all versions look happier about being alpha males. The AMG Es have emphatic ribs of chrome across the grille, big air intakes in the Porsche size class, and LEDs by the bushel. We don't get all the trick lighting features, but at max lumens, the AMG lenses count 29 LEDs in each taillamp and 17 in each headlight. The LED wars are so on--though the 164 LEDs in the Dodge Charger's taillights are probably safe for now, on a taste level alone.

Inside the E63, the rings of chrome and layers of Nappa leather give better depth to the stock E-Class interior. A flat-bottom steering wheel and a polished analog clock send different vibes but the same signal; S versions can have contrast-grey piping and Alcantara trim on the wheel. Common to them all, a nice, round, 200-mph speedometer.

Almost everywhere in the cabin, the same attention to detail seems like overkill at first, then makes sense after a flat-out cruise. Adaptive seats--there's a gimmick, right? We thought the same until we squeezed into their pneumatic leather corsets, bladders (theirs) inflating and deflating to bolster us through the corner. The $6,400 Bang & Olufsen sound system is more than 5 percent of the car's base price, but the pillar-mounted tweeter is a beautiful piece of industrial design--and it's just one of 14 speakers rendering 1200 watts of sound like so much aural bacon fat in a pan.

The E63 AMG is about $92,000 even before you opt for that B&O, or the carbon-fiber trim for the fascia and sills, mirror housing, engine or the interior--or the black-chrome option. Then there's a host of safety systems that look like a Department of Defense tag sale: long-range radar with stereo cameras, night vision, ultrasonic sensors can steer the E63 away from oncoming cars at speeds of up to 120 mph.

We know all this because we sat through demonstrations and talked with experts, and had time to mull it over while we were detained. So you want the story, right? Apparently, one E63 AMG blazing by is ok. Two are a nuisance. Eight to ten are on final approach for a barge across the Mediterranean to God only knows where. The entire brigade of AMGs got pulled over for almost two hours--none clocked for speed, or for infractures, but all for driving without an international license. A cool $800,000 fleet of exquisite German hardware, cooling its jets over a worthless piece of paper issued not by the U.S. government, but by AAA.

While papers were exchanged, and discussed, and exchanged, and discussed, the rationale for the latest edition of the E63 AMG made perfect sense. AMG has 20 models today, and wants to grow to 30 models; it sold 20,000 vehicles in 2011 and wants to grow to more than 30,000. The roadmap to get there includes more S models--take that, Audi--and in the U.S., more AWD AMGs.

All-wheel drive puts Mercedes in the game where they count--in the Northeast, a longtime stronghold, a place where the prospect of a rear-drive, 577-horsepower E63 AMG sounds about as appealing as the 40 inches of snow dumped on Connecticut while we're enjoying a brisk Barcelona breeze, brought to us by six different varieties of local law enforcement.

Weren't we worried? About what? Losing the battle of bureaucracies? By the end of hour one, I was betting we'd see an independent Catalonia before all the conflicting agencies realized Americans were, as usual, more of a hassle than they were worth.

Two, we weren't really all that far from the border. And could one black Peugeot hatchback really keep up with a 186-mph fleet of AMGs, given a lucky break in the action?

Olvidate.

The 2014 E63 AMG goes on sale in August.


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