TEST DRIVE: Mercedes-Benz E63 S AMG Wagon

Test Drives | September 30th, 2015 by 2
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High-performance stations wagons don’t get a lot of love in the U.S. hence not many of them are available on this side of the pond, …

High-performance stations wagons don’t get a lot of love in the U.S. hence not many of them are available on this side of the pond, but we found one from BMW’s old-time competitor, Mercedes-Benz. The Mercedes-Benz E63 S AMG Wagon is the equivalent of an M5 Touring, a car we’re all dying to see.

Station wagons are an endangered species. Mercedes is the last German manufacturers to offer its mid-size sedan as a wagon in the US. The 5 Series Touring and A6 Avant no longer grace our shores. Other competitors, the CTS Wagon and TSX Wagon, have fallen by the wayside all together. In a world filled with crossovers, only a small percentage of people continue to opt for a traditional 5-door wagon. Even a smaller percentage opts for a 5-door wagon with a hand-built 5.5L biturbo V8. But maybe more people should.

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The E63 S AMG Wagon checks all the right boxes to be your only car. With seating for four and plenty of storage space, it’s perfect to fit the whole family. The 4MATIC AWD, new for 2014, inspires year-round confidence and usability. The luxury accommodations and stately appearance makes it ideal to take to the office. And when work is finally done, the S AMG’s power increase – 577hp and 590lb-ft torque – will make most sports cars seem like the grocery getters. This is the wagon that can do it all without compromise.

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The sheer professionalism with which the E63 Wagon goes about its business is astounding. However, it isn’t quite as focused on luxury pampering as the S63. The E-Class AMG has less of an agenda. It is, when prompted, more raw and visceral. That’s part of its appeal. You can still enjoy a massage from the supple designo Platinum White leather-wrapped driver seat. The Harman Kardon audio system sounds good, but not quite as good as the thunderous exhaust note. The reassuring grip of the contoured alcantara inserts and the cold, metallic paddle shifters are subtle indicators that this flat-bottomed wheel controls something special. The small AMG badging throughout the cabin key in your passengers without feeling gimmicky. Affalterbach Crests embossed in the headrests and gear lever pay homage to AMG’s home town and their engine-building heritage.

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It isn’t all perfect inside. The E-Class is now one of the oldest models in the Mercedes lineup. As such, some of the interior components don’t feel up to par with its price point. The Mercedes COMAND infotainment feels clunky and dated. In particular, the voice commands were unable to decipher the intersection of Arch Street and Steamboat Road for our annual trip to the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance.

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Outside, the longroof E63 wears the same front end as the sedan variant. The 2014 refresh added a new front grille, larger air intakes, and marked the end of the split front headlights. The AMG Exterior Night Styling pack exchanges the silver trim pieces and exhaust tips for gloss black. The effect, combined with the optional black AMG 10-spoke wheels and Cardinal Red paint, is quite sinister. It’s also refreshing to see some color on a Mercedes – a company we sometimes criticize for not straying far enough from grayscale. The E63 Wagon doesn’t qualify as exotic, but it is absolutely unique on the road. As such, it receives attention only from people “in the know”. It takes a unique type of person to openly admire a station wagon, and that’s exactly the kind of people we like to talk to.

The E63 Wagon’s primary competitors are high-performance SUVs. Mercedes’ own GLE63, the SUV formerly known as ML, is its biggest in-house competitor. It’s fair to say that the GLE63 AMG, Cayenne GTS, X5 M, and Cherokee SRT don’t drive like SUVs. The implied part of that assessment is that hi-po SUVs still don’t drive like cars. There’s too much mass centered too high off the ground. Not so in the E63 wagon. It drives like a car because it is a car. In fact, the wagon’s derrière probably helps offset the weight of the hand-built 5.5L V8 better than the sedan. You shouldn’t be able to get this level of performance in a car that can comfortably seat four adults and a week’s worth of luggage. But you can. And you will. And it’s simply astonishing. If you figure out the complicated launch sequence, you, your friends, and your cargo will see 60mph is less than 3.6 seconds. The grip, a combination of Pirelli performance tires and 4MATIC AWD, will have you hoping you remembered to strap the cooler down.

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A one-day inventory of vehicles drawn to Greenwich for the concours yielded only one E-Class AMG Wagon – the one we arrived in. Only then did we realize how unique this vehicle is. For many enthusiasts, uniqueness can be of greater value than performance. With the E63 S AMG Wagon, you get it all; uncommon form, uncommon practicality, and uncommon performance. As far as we’re concerned, that puts the E63 AMG Wagon in a class of its own.

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