As we traverse the serrated sandstone peaks of Montserrat, Spain - carving and rocketing like mad bobsledders -- it seems that nothing can stop the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.
Strike that. As our menacing convoy of E63 sedans and wagons reaches the bottom of an endorphin-boosting mountain run, we're met by the Spanish Guardia Civil. The cops round us up, collect our passports and licenses, and impound at least $600,000 worth of AMGs. I assume that some sharp-eyed camera or enraged local has offered evidence of serious hijinks on the mountainside. Guilty as charged, official.
Instead, our offense turns out to be not having international driver's licenses, even though they're not legally required to drive in Spain and auto journalists have for decades plied the world's roads without them. It's a classic, small-town Alabama shakedown, only in espanol. It takes Mercedes two hours to secure our release and most of a day to secure their six cars, and the company reports that no charges were filed and no bribes were offered.
American civilians, for their part, will need roughly $100,000 to pry a 2014 E63 AMG from a dealer beginning in August, once options are tallied -- and that's for a standard-issue E63 4Matic with 550 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque. That's a jump of 32 horsepower and 15 pound-feet from the departing model, but in what seems a bid for image-conscious AMG buyers, a new S-Model flaunts its greater exclusivity via a small but shiny "S" badge on the rear. The AMG S boosts power from the 5.5-liter bi-turbo V-8 to 577 horses and 590 pound-feet. It replaces the stealthier optional "Performance Package" of previous E63s. Either version saddles more ponies and offers more torque than a Porsche 911 Turbo.
Driven as intended by God and Affalterbach - the handcrafting German home of AMG -- the E63 will be moving too swiftly to read the lettering. However, sharp-eyed readers may have already caught the rest of the name: 4Matic. The rear-wheel-drive E63 is now history in America, as the new AMG sedans and special-order-only wagons will send 67 percent of their power to rear wheels and 33 percent up front.
And what heady power it is. Mercedes quotes a 3.6-second blast from 0 to 62 mph for the S-Model sedan and 3.7 seconds for the "starter" E63. It's the wagon that makes nerdy hearts flutter with visions of humiliating Camaros and Mustangs, though. The E63 AMG S 4Matic, the only wagon for America, turns the 0-to-60 trick in 3.7 seconds. That's a half-second quicker than the basic rear-wheel-drive E63 sedan that's still offered in Europe. Top speed remains 155 mph, or 186 mph for the S brigade. Consciences are salved with a standard engine stop/start system, which might make this the first E63 to top 12 mpg or so in hard use. Or not.
Like the rest of the 2014 E-class lineup, the E63 adopts a strikingly refreshed body and interior and then adds more from its own sporty palette. A twin-blade chrome AMG grille dominates the front along with an "A"-shaped air deflector that's a backdrop for three big cooling inlets. A black-finned rear diffuser and dual sets of twin chrome tailpipes tell followers that these E-classes are no Greenwich grocery schleppers.
Inside, there's an IWC analog clock, tremendous sport seats, a stitched leather-and-Alcantara steering wheel that's squared off at top and bottom, and a stubby console shifter. Unique gauges, brushed stainless steel pedals, and sundry AMG-lettered bits - the headrests, the doorsills with white LEDs - remind you and passengers how much dough you spent. As before, a four-position knob controls settings for the seven-speed, paddle-shifted automatic transmission, whose lack of dual clutches doesn't handicap it in the least. The electronic AMG sport suspension has three firmness settings, maxing out in Sport Plus.
That permanent AWD makes the AMG feel buttoned-down and virtually eliminates wheelspin, but it was the hairy-chested, tail-wagging nature of the rear-wheel-drive E63 that helped make it so much more exciting and rebellious than the tamped-down BMW M5. That's progress, we suppose.
The 4Matic system weighs a reasonable 152 pounds but that still makes the E63 heavier than a plate of German schnitzel: 4,268 pounds for the sedan, 4,449 for the wagon, the latter on par with a Honda Pilot.
All versions get 19-inch, ten-spoke wheels front and rear, but the S adds unique matte titanium alloys and a rear-axle differential lock. On picture-perfect Spanish roads, that diff lock definitely helped as we flung our E63 wagon through curves. The same went for the three-stage stability program: moving to the Sport handling mode, the ESP's Curve Dynamic Assist braked individual wheels to limit understeer and help pivot the back end.
More than ever, the E63 seems the sturdy pillar of the AMG lineup. As opposed to $200,000 V-12 SL65s and SUVs like irradiated Hulks, the E63 sedan balances fantastical performance with some semblance of logic. (The wagon is amazing, but it's harder to argue the logic).
And whether in Barcelona or Oklahoma, the E63's ability to relax and then switch to full attack mode -- with no thought of ditches or other impending disasters -- is its signature quality. Just watch out for the cops, amigo.
2014 Mercedes E63 AMG 4Matic and E63 AMG S 4Matic
Base Price: $92,000 (E63 AMG, est.)
Engine: 5.5-liter DOHC 32-valve V-8
Horsepower: 550/577 hp (E63/E63 S)
Torque: 531/590 lb-ft (E63/E63 S)
Transmission: 7-speed automatic