Test Drive: 2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon

Like every other driving enthusiast, I curate a mental list of the cars and trucks (and boats, bikes and planes) I’d buy the day some long-lost relative passes to the great beyond and leaves behind an obscenely large inheritance for me.

A veritable middle finger to the masses that buy those wildly powerful (but rather portly) “sporting” SUVs.

The occupants of my imaginary 10-car garage seem to change seasonally if not weekly. A few classic muscle cars, some exotic Italian poster-fodder from the ’80s, some of Stuttgart’s finest, and of course a silver 300SL Gullwing are all staples for me.

And so is the car you see here.

That last addition must surely seem odd to the uninitiated who will see only a station wagon – a mode of transportation that rates only slightly above the lowly minivan on the official un-coolness scale.

But see, here’s the thing: the 2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon delivers all the day-to-day, four-weather functionality of a mid-size SUV, plus it’s luxurious enough to be proudly parked in the valet lot. More importantly, the E63 S Wagon possesses face-melting performance that’ll embarrass many a thoroughbred sports car on the racetrack.

It’s a veritable middle finger to the masses that buy those wildly powerful (but rather portly) “sporting” SUVs.

Understated… for an AMG

Based on the celebrated E-Class sedan, the wagon gives up nothing in styling. While possessing a longer roof, rear liftgate, and a few more windows, the E63 wagon also grows muscular fenders, stretched over forged 20-inch wheels. Those wheels are part of a $2,500 AMG Driver’s Package (that also includes the absolutely requisite AMG Performance Exhaust). Buyers can spec them in a flat-black finish with a silver rim, and that’s the way I’d go with my bequest funds. Doing so would help solidify the overall effect of this truly badass wagon.

The nose of the E 63 (be it wagon or sedan) is all gaping vents and grilles, yet despite its obvious aggression, the overall effect is still understated in a way that only a company comfortable with its brand equity can pull off. The three-pointed star badge helps with that. There aren’t driveway-scraping body add-ons, obnoxious colour flourishes, or Swarovski crystals in the headlights, as you might find in other fancy machines that charge this sort of entry fee.

This particular car, by the way, puts a reasonable $120,000 dent into my windfall, before taxes and any of the 10-grand in options.

Due to its station wagon body type, the E63 S slips through traffic largely unnoticed, making it a real sleeper. At Starbucks, one barista was overheard saying to another, “I didn’t know Mercedes made station wagons,” blissfully unaware of the hidden power lurking beneath the mommy-bus exterior. Parked there, it’s the equivalent of Bruce Banner on a good day, seconds before someone really cheeses him off.

HULK SMASH!

Sit down inside the ultra-wagon, stab the starter and a V8 displacing just under 4.0-litres barks to life, settling into a modest thrum. Push the button on the console with a pair of squared-off tailpipes depicted, and the throb of the engine becomes more gravelly and raw.

And louder. Much louder.

A quick couple of revs crack off an angry roar and a few pops. In typical AMG fashion, it sounds more like an uncorked stock car than a high-strung Euro machine, which is surprising given its diminutive engine size. Truly though, I still miss the rawness of the big-boned, naturally aspirated V8s of AMGs from years gone by, but damn if this isn’t one of the meanest sounding drivetrains available today.

Anyway, nobody’s going to complain about the new, hand-built engine’s output: 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque. For a bit of perspective, the new Jeep Trackhawk (a similarly priced, less-couth alternative to this wicked wagon) dispenses with 707 hp and 645 lb-ft of torque, but it also needs to haul around nearly 700 lb more bulk than AMG’s dragon wagon.

The result? Mercedes claims 0–100 km/h in 3.5 seconds. Some of the US magazines are reporting 0–60 mph in as few as 3.0 seconds flat, with quarter-mile times in the low 11’s at more than 120 mph. The Trackhawk isn’t that quick. Nor is Mercedes-AMG’s own GLE 63 S crossover, a BMW X5M, or even the significantly costlier Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo. For those who need the bragging rights, the E63 S Wagon will hit a terminal velocity of 302 km/h, which some have said makes it the fastest wagon in the world. Porsche claims their Panamera Turbo Turismo wagon will do 304 km/h.

Achieving the AMG’s stunning performance figures is simple for the driver, too, since all that’s required is a few button-pushes and toggle adjustments to set the car up for its launch control mode. Spool up the twin turbos nestled between the V of the cylinder banks, and release the brake to rocket the wagon, plus dad, mom, daughter, son, and Fido the dog toward the horizon at a properly alarming pace.

Mercedes proclaims that the E63 S Wagon could be the most versatile supercar on earth, and I can’t come up with an alternative to suggest otherwise. With the back seats up, there’s 640 L of cargo space available. Push the button in the rear to electrically fold those seats down (40/20/40 split) and 1,820 L becomes available. That’s nearly 400 L more than the Panamera Sport Turismo. The GLE 63 and X5M post slightly greater volumes, but most of that is due to cargo space height.

Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

However, the AMG E63 S wagon does require some compromises.

Just because this thing can haul stuff, doesn’t mean it should. Grocery store trips are an expected part of any family hauler’s repertoire, but physics-bending performance tends to make short work of grocery bags, effectively launching my recently purchased berries into orbit and scrambling my eggs without a whisk or a bowl.

My own 8-year-old son will attest to the E63 S’s failings as a family machine, too. While there is plenty of back-seat space and comfort (equipped with rear seat heaters, window shades, and even an household AC outlet), Mercedes fails to provide standard barf bags. The E63 S’s wild handling capabilities meant the commute to and from school – on the longest, curviest route possible – resulted in my offspring turning a bit green.

Exercising restraint when driving this car is asking a lot – far more than I’m willing to give – and why I drove around in “Sport+” mode with those tailpipes emitting mechanical vulgarities everywhere I travelled.

Equipped with the new 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system, putting that epic power to the ground is managed astonishingly well. Plus, for the truly juvenile amongst us, AMG has incorporated a “Drift” mode that unplugs the front wheels from propulsion, sending all the power to the rear wheels. Tires are expected to last roughly the duration of a sneeze in this mode.

Still, at a length of 5,005 mm, the E63 Wagon is not a small car. Plus, 2,118 kg is a lot of mass to haul around. Of course, with that much power and torque, the mass matters not for acceleration, but in the corners, the air suspension does a good job of keeping the heavy hauler flat and planted, though it’s not what one would call a nimble car.

Uncompromising and unapologetic

The E63 S Wagon is not all that supple, either, making it a bit compromised as a true luxury car too. There are four drive modes that adjust things like throttle response and suspension softness, though even in the cushiest “Comfort” setting, the frost-heaved roads in the Greater Toronto Area made it feel like the Pirelli SottoZero winter tires were filled with concrete. Even the dynamic engine mounts firm up when the driving gets serious.

The bite is astonishing from the AMG Wagon’s composite 390 mm front discs and red, six-piston calipers. Buyers wishing to outfit their wagon with everything-overkill can spend an additional $13,750 and get AMG carbon-ceramic brakes that are 40 percent lighter. Keen-eyed spectators will notice the gold-coloured calipers on cars so equipped.

This new AMG nine-speed automatic transmission requires virtually no compromises, unless you consider the lack of a third pedal and a proper stick shift a compromise. In Sport+ and Race modes, the cog swaps are immediate and the gears are held for higher revs, but AMG makes no apologies in these modes, and the changes can be harsh. But in Comfort mode the shifts are very smooth, and higher gears are called up sooner to keep revs, and fuel consumption, low – relatively.

Speaking of fuel efficiency, the E63 S also has auto stop-start and cylinder deactivation functions to help save some high-octane fuel, because apparently there are some folks out there who care about those things despite buying this sort of wild beast. That said, the official figures show 11.0 L/100km highway and 15.2, city, and I saw an average for the week of 15.0 L/100km with a fair amount of highway driving, so it’s not exactly going to win praise from environmentalists.

Coming into a large, unexpected sum of money will buy a lot of life changes, but my life is always going to require the everyday functionality offered by a mid-size SUV or car like Mercedes-AMG’s station wagon. And if that wagon just so happens to come with performance that provokes shocked expletives from driver and passengers alike, well, that’ll fit in my imaginary garage just fine, thanks.

2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4MATIC+ Wagon
Engine Displacement: 4.0L
Engine Cylinders: V8
Peak Horsepower: 603 hp
Peak Torque: 627 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 15.2/11.0/13.3 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 640 / 1,820 L seats down
2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4MATIC+ Wagon
Base Price $118,500
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,795
Price as Tested $131,695
Optional Equipment $10,300 – AMG Driver’s Package $2,500; Premium Package $7,800
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.8
8 Styling
10 Powertrain
9 Quality
8 Comfort
8 Practicality
9 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
4 Fuel Economy
8 Features
6 Value