Test Drive: Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon

Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S Wagon 4MATIC
 Courtesy image


With an astonishing 603 hp V-8 twin-turbo, Mercedes’ AMG E63 S Wagon stomps to 60 in 3.4 seconds.

OK, so a $201,450 McLaren 570GT is faster. But try hauling your spouse, kids, and all their summer vacation luggage in one of those.

 

Right, but an Outback has even more luggage space. Sure. And at $25k, you could have four Outbacks for every one of these precious AMG E-wagons that start at $107,945. Then you’d have four Outbacks.

The AMG E63 S Wagon happens to be something entirely different—one of the highest performance vehicles ever made with five doors. It’s also subtly beautiful, and if you’re wise, you’ll order yours not with showy brake calipers or wheels, but in more menacing, but stealthy hues. Don’t worry, you can still get attention if you want.

Scroll the Dynamic Select cylinder to Sport+ mode and you’ll stiffen the suspension and engine mounts to brace against the body roll of a turn, plus quicken the immediacy of the nine-speed, manually shiftable automatic. Then, as you rifle the paddles that bracket the Alcantara-wrapped leather steering wheel, your neighbors will be alerted to your presence as the sport exhaust barks with a thunderous crack at each upshift. Bystanders will look around for the American muscle car they’re expecting to see—then scratch their noggins and wonder at the pretty family wagon rolling past.

On the Track

When you want every bit of the E63 S’s performance, AMG made damn sure you’d get it. The AWD system can send 100 percent of the V-8’s power to either axle, and even though our testing was partially in the pounding rain, massive 265/35ZR20 front and 295/30ZR20 rear Michelin Pilot Sports 4S rubber kept us on course. Actually, mostly. A trick, electronic limited slip on the rear axle adds to the fun because rather than using the ABS brakes to slow a wheel (which would severely hamper playfulness on the track), the system slows the inside rear tire when you’re at the limit of traction carving corners. That actually enhances rotation of this long Benz. Considering the E-wagon’s 4,515-pound weight, it’s nutty how far you can push it. Steering feel isn’t quite Porsche GT3 tactile, but there’s enough feedback in the loop to place the footprint of the E63 S where you please, and that let us bomb to 8/10ths, even in the wet.

Haul Ass—and Many Suitcases

With a maximum of 64 cubic feet of cargo volume, the E63 S bests everything in its class, save the Volvo V90. (And that $59,000 Swede, pretty as it is, isn’t in the Benz’s class for performance.) The Mercedes’ aft seats fold cleverly, too, splitting 40/20/40, the better to fit skis or 2x4s and still carry precious cargo simultaneously. Note that even with the rear seats flipped up, you’ve got 35 cubes, which smokes any sedan with a trunk, and dozens of crossovers as well.

Not to mention a six-footer can comfortably ride aft of a driver who’s that tall, with knee- and headroom to spare, attributes that are, again, less common in the SUV realm than you’d guess.

If you’re buying this Benz, though, it’s because you covet performance as well as the legacy of Mercedes E-Wagons that goes back to the late 1970s. The modern car, like those of yore, is studiously kitted out. Just consider the contrasting-color Nappa leather seat- and door trim. It’s beautiful, yet not so soft you know it’ll show wear in a year. There’s also aluminum trim that frames a floating central glass display, plus a quartet of air vents that nest into the open-pore wood on the dash, speak to a kind of pride and artisanship that you seldom see in any “product” that isn’t purely bespoke.

The summary: Mercedes-Benz isn’t trying to out-chic its rivals with this wagon. They’re going with timeless quality—because it’s worked for a good 130-plus years.

Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S Wagon 4MATIC
Courtesy image

Sure, you could ignore our advice and order a la carte flash, like contrasting seatbelts and carbon fiber mirrors—the options list is longer than you can possibly fathom. It’s your dough.

Our choices would be to get the acoustic windshield and side glass that enhance the hushed quality at highway speeds, and we’d also highlight one thing you may not be thinking about: safety. Yes, standard safety features are excellent. You get, for instance, nine standard airbags. You also get a sound system that fires out what’s called “pink noise,” a signal to your brain to “close” your ears.

But we’d upgrade all of that with PRE-SAFE Impulse Side. This uses the front seats’ inflatable side bolsters to shove you toward the middle of the car in the event of a side impact, away from the force pushing into the cabin.

To get that, you’ll want to order the Dynamic Seats. Unlike the Sport Seats that look awesome, the Dynamic Seats are superior to sit on, rather than ogle, because they can massage your back, and those inflating side bolsters also swell to hold you in place and counter G-forces as you bomb around at perhaps an extra-legal pace.

Speaking of which, if you do intend to fly this Wagon in spirited fashion, consider the $8,950 AMG ceramic composite brakes. They won’t stop the car shorter, but they will remain fade free under repeating heavy braking.

On the Road

The beauty of this Benz is that you can just drive it, no compromises, like the family car that it is. Tool around with the kids. Take them and their gear to hockey practice. Commute in stop and go traffic and let smart cruise control slow you down and speed you up, watch your blind spots, even auto-magically pass for you. Then, if a lane opens up, well you have 627 lb-ft of torque on tap from 2,500rpm, so you’ll drop every other car in your wake. Is it fun? Hell yes. And the exhaust note is the one riff stuck in your head that never, ever, gets old.

We’ll leave you with one other bonkers extra: It’s called Drift Mode, and it converts the 4MATIC system into a rear-wheel-driver, locking out the drivetrain from the front axle. Suddenly all 603hp is sent to the rear end and you can smoke that rubber like still-fuming Fourth of July fireworks. Suddenly the AMGness rips through. Forget the neighbors. Forget the buzz-killing finger wavers. Forget every SUV driver who doesn’t “get” wagons. You do get it. and so does Mercedes-Benz. And that’s all that matters.