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Next Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG to get all-wheel drive

2010 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMGPowerslides and evaporated tires have always been a part of the AMG experience, but that is about to change. Mercedes-Benz’s performance is converting one of its classic rear-wheel drive sedans, the E63 AMG, to all-wheel drive, the company told Motor Trend.

The addition of all-wheel drive comes with a mid-cycle refresh of all E-Class models for the 2014 model year. The updated car is set to debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January.

The E63 will be the first non-SUV AMG product with all-wheel drive, since it will probably beat the little A45 AMG to market. It will also be the first AMG model to transition from rear-wheel drive to all-wheel drive.

Mercedes already offers its 4Matic all-wheel drive system on the standard E-Class, but the AMG version will be quite different. In a stock Mercedes, the system sends 45 percent of the power to the front wheels, and 55 percent to the rear wheels. It can also shift power 30/70 or 70/30 front/rear if one set of wheels loses grip. However, the AMG version is set at a constant 33/67 front to rear split.

Impressively, AMG says that all-wheel drive will only add 132 pounds to the E63, since the engineers will be able to remove the car’s three electronically locking clutches and install less-beefy rear half-shafts.

The E63 will retain its 5.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V8, which produces 518 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. A Performance Package brings that total up to 550 hp and 590 lb-ft.

The engine is the most important part of any AMG car, but all-wheel drive will definitely change the E63’s character. Tracing its lineage back to one of AMG’s first monsters, the Hammer, the E63 has always been a very expensive muscle car: Big engine. Rear-wheel drive. That’s it.

Because of the V8’s prodigious torque, the E63 (and other AMG models) have a reputation for wayward handling. All-wheel drive could help quiet the beast. Mercedes is already saying that the E63’s 0 to 60 mph time will drop from 3.8 seconds to 3.4 seconds with all-wheel drive, so it really could turn out to be an improvement.

Of course, AMG will not be the first German carmaker to build an all-wheel drive super sedan. Audi has been the king of all-wheel drive for decades, and could offer a cautionary tale for its Affalterbach rivals.

Audi’s sporty S and RS models are known for their incredible traction and poise, but also for understeer (owing in many cases, admittedly, to chassis designed for front-wheel drive) and lack of driver involvement.

AMG will have to balance tractability and entertainment in their newest creation. We’ll see what it comes up with at the Detroit Auto Show in January.