Quick Comparo – CTS-V vs. E63 AMG

By Kevin Gordon

Lets assume that you’re moderately rich. You don’t have bottomless pockets, but both you and your wife would qualify for the top tax bracket in the United States if you filed separately. On top of that, your rich uncle just left you a few extra hundred thousand dollars in his will. Next, lets assume that your driving experience matters to you a lot more than the average Camry driver.  Your issue; you can’t park something too ostentatious in the parking lot at work, and you want to be able to relax in traffic while maintaining the ability to rip the doors off  STIs leaving the mall. In addition, sometimes you have to drive office mates to lunch and four doors are required. If I have just described you or who you’d like to be, then you might just want to consider one of the following…
Built upon the foundation of the very good CTS; adding a V to the nameplate also adds a supercharged 6.2 liter (376 cu-in) V-8 that produces 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque, along with Delphi’s magical magnetorheological shock absorbers. Other important bits include up-sized brakes, excellent (optional) Recaro seats, and extra rubber trying to contain all of that torque. Its competitor is the heavily AMG-massaged E63 from Mercedes-Benz. Merc starts with the good mid-sized E-Class and adds its own blend of go-fast bits. Included is a naturally aspirated 6.2 liter (379 cu-in) V-8 that produces 518 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. In addition, Mercedes adds extensively revised suspension that adds 2.2 inches to the car’s track.  The other trick component that is added to the E63 is their new seven-speed wet-plate clutch automatic. (The CTS-V was fitted with a conventional automatic) This is the same transmission found in the SLS that our own Chris Haak had a spin in recently.

Having had the chance to drive both of these 500+ horsepower super-sedans back-to-back recently, my impression is that they as different as they are similar. Ignoring price for the moment, it is clear that GM and MB have created monstrously powerful and fast sedans. But, while the CTS-V has mounds of torque and effortless tire-vaporizing grunt, the E63 needs to be revved impress. The E63 is one of the best-sounding sedans available on the market.  The CTS-V’s supercharger whine reminds of its intentions, but the motor and exhaust are too quiet for something that runs a quarter mile in the 12s. The E (here fitted with the performance package) is very stiff and borders on harsh, where the CTS will happily smooth bumps of frost tortured northern roads for miles. The stiffness of the E pays off as the road begins to turn where initial turn-in is sharper than in the CTS, but as far as ultimate grip, the CTS will happily hang in during long sweepers.

The final and most shocking difference between these two cars; the CTS-V feels slower than it really is. In contrast, the E63 feels like the proverbial rocket has been tied to your ass every time the big AMG mill starts to rev. Don’t be mistaken, the CTS-V is a very, very fast car, but you need to notice how fast the needle on the speedo is swinging to really make it register. The CTS-V makes power so effortlessly and in such relative silence that the amount of force shoving you forward isn’t accompanied with the fury you would expect. Also, while equipped with the automatic gearbox, the CTS-V’s torque converter mutes the transfer between gears just enough that there is no violence. It will happily spin its tires between the 1-2 shift, but it does it with a layer of crushed velvet. The E63’s new automatic can rip between gears, and when put into sport mode provides just the right amount of hammer as it bangs between gears.

We live in an amazing time. A day has come when you can have a 556 horsepower car that comes across as almost too tame. GM deserves to be applauded, as you could hand this car to your grandmother and she could happily drive it to church on Sunday. Then, you could take it to your local drag strip and take on almost any production four door car in the world with positive results. Both of these cars will happily run in the 12’s in the quarter mile and get around the Nürburgring (Nordschleife) in about eight minutes (MB has not released official times) and still sanely deliver you to and from work on a daily basis.

So how to sum them up? They are both wonderful, wickedly fast, and capable sedans that will deliver you to your destination at a rate greater than most will ever need. If price was no issue I would have to take the Mercedes. It just pushes all the correct enthusiast buttons; it sounds fantastic, has an excellent interior, the exterior upgrades are tasteful yet menacing, and the car can be a lunatic when called upon. The problem? Price is an issue, even for the pseudo-rich, the gap in price between these cars matters. As tested here the Merc was $30,000+ more than the Cadillac, touching six figures in USD. For that kind of money, the comparison shouldn’t be this close. The Cadillac rides better, has just as good of an interior, has better seats, and can manage a larger gap between relaxed cruiser and tire eating animal. The E is awesome, but GM deserves to be applauded for this effort. If the progression of the CTS continues, in its next generation, the CTS may not need the price figured into the equation to win the comparison.

Author: Kevin Gordon

Kevin is Autosavant's owner and Editor-in-Chief, responsible for setting the overall strategy and editorial direction of Autosavant. He's also the primary contributor to Autosavant's YouTube channel (youtube.com/autosavant) where you can find a comprehensive library of new-car reviews.

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