by Gabe Beita Kiser
There's a thundering roar in the distance, something ferocious, something fast, a rally car perhaps or a stampeding crash of rhinos, no… it's the might of 603 horses simultaneously charging beneath the hood of the Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon. It's beating heart - an almighty 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine breeding 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque - powering its 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system via a SpeedShift nine-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 mph arrives in a supercar-bating 3.4 seconds, out-muscling every core contender, but with space for the wife and kids, and two Labradoodles in the trunk. With the departure of the Audi RS6 in preparation for a new one, the AMG E63 Wagon takes the title of the only high-powered performance wagon still on the market, catering to the niche faction that refuses to buy a performance-based SUV. They say no car can be everything to everyone, but the AMG E63 S Wagon comes pretty damn close with impressive trackability, luxurious drivability, and class-leading practicality. Long live the high-performance wagon!
It's only been on the road since late in 2017, so for its second year model, only a few changes have been made. For 2019 the AMG E63 S Wagon receives a standard-fit 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and the Burmeister sound system has been included as standard, where it was previously optional.
Possibly the best attribute of the AMG E63 S Wagon - aside from a 603 hp V8 - is the subtle styling that makes it such a devastating sleeper car. Based on the standard E-Class Wagon, the fenders are mildly blistered, AMG badges added, and bi-turbo badging fitted to the front fenders. Upfront, the AMG twin-blade grille takes center stage, flanked by full-LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, while an AMG-specific front bumper features larger air intakes than the standard design item. Filling the flared arches are a set of 20-inch AMG twin five-spoke alloy wheels with gray accents, while out back, an AMG rear splitter houses quad trapezoidal tailpipes with AMG insignias.
With a wheelbase of 115.7 inches and a total length of 197.1 inches, the AMG E63 S Wagon is a sizable machine, adding half an inch to the length compared to the E63 S sedan. The width remains the same as the sedan at 81.3 inches, while the Wagon stands taller at 58 inches due to the addition of roof rails. It's a heavy monster, though, carrying a curb weight of 4,725 lbs, making it some 228 lbs heavier than the sedan.
At the heart of every true AMG lies a handmade engine built under the philosophy of one man, one engine. With potent V8 power supplemented by 'hot in the vee' twin-turbocharged clout and substantial displacement of 4.0-liters, the AMG E63 S Wagon's engine is the premier powerhouse of the AMG lineup, developing 603 horsepower and a monumental 627 lb-ft of torque. It delivers this to all four corners through a nine-speed automatic transmission.
High-power turbo engines are typically afflicted by heavy doses of lag, but this latest powerplant from AMG defies the science, using the hot-vee setup to mitigate turbo-lag to the status of being imperceptible to the human brain. There's also seemingly none of the silencing of the engine's noise, so you get the full V8 soundtrack accompanied by kidney-crushing torque and unrelenting acceleration. Engage launch control and smash the loud pedal, and the world goes from static to blurry as the speedometer needle struggles to keep pace with the E63 S Wagon's brutal take-off. 0-60 mph takes 3.4 seconds. No smoke, no tire squeal, no fuss. That's two-tenths of a second slower than a McLaren F1 - but a McLaren F1 couldn't seat five adults plus two dogs in the trunk.
There's a party-trick though, and with a few menu and drive-mode prompts you can disengage the front axle, turning the AMG E63 S Wagon into a full-on drift missile, or cloud-generating family wagon.
The gearbox somehow manages to keep pace with all this, and on hard downshifts it snatches down to the correct gear at an alarming pace. In a Jekyll and Hyde duality, sensible driving sees it slur through gears almost imperceptibly.
As Pirelli noted, power is nothing without control. Fitting then that the all-wheel-drive system in the AMG E63 S Wagon should send power to all four corners, where the 20-inch alloy wheels are shod in Pirelli P Zero rubber. But that's just one layer of the control; the 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system is the primary one, making sure that power is effectively laid down. It's backed up by AMG Sport Suspension, making use of air suspension to continuously adjust the ride for changing surfaces. But you're not riding on a cloud of air, and the E63 S Wagon actually rides pretty harshly. Broken tarmac sees the E63 S crashing down the road at speed, while at a leisurely pace, comfort doesn't really improve much either.
Cast aside aspersions of comfort, though, and find a twisting stretch of tarmac in good condition, and you quickly realize the AMG suspension is engineered with performance in mind. It supports the nearly 5,000-pound wagon through corners, resisting body roll and acutely managing changes in the surface and camber to ensure the E63 S is always firmly planted to the tarmac. It doesn't ebb and flow with the road so much as it bludgeons it into submission, all while a three-stage ESP system helps you feel like a superhero behind the wheel.
The electronic limited-slip differential apportions power left and right, sharpening turn-in and enabling early throttle application on corner exit, but there's still a sense that there's always a hint of understeer under duress. Of course, you can switch to drift mode, which is a certain recipe for death. This disengages the stability control and disengages the front axle, and all that lies between you and your obituary is the level of control you have over your right foot on the hair-trigger throttle.
Leave things in AWD mode, though, and the E63 S Wagon eats up the miles at pace, while the six-piston front brakes and 16.4-inch brake rotors anchor the hefty wagon with alarming ease. Carbon ceramics can be equipped too, better suited to track use, but for every day use the standard items are more than adept at bringing the E63 S to a halt.
If you want the horse, you have to feed them, and a herd of 603 German warmbloods requires an expensive diet. The AMG E63 S Wagon returns EPA estimates of just 16/23/19 mpg city/highway/combined, and premium unleaded gasoline is a must. The 21.1-gallon gas tank, filled to the brim can theoretically achieve a maximum range of around 401 miles. But when that V8 comes on song, mileage figures plummet, and you'll be visiting your nearest gas station a lot more frequently than every 400 miles.
The AMG E63 S Wagon seats a total of five passengers in luxuriously comfortable and highly supportive sports seats, with the front pair both heated and ventilated, and power-operated with three-way memory function. Check the right box on your order form (the AMG E63 S Wagon isn't the kind of car sitting on the dealer floor waiting for you) and you'll get the AMG performance front seats - they hold you in place when cornering and support you on long-distance journeys, and they look and feel amazing. Head and legroom throughout the cabin are plentiful and ingress and egress effortless by virtue of the wide opening doors and moderately high-set seating. The highly adjustable seats and steering column make finding an optimal driving position easy for drivers of any height and build. Overall visibility is decent and rearward visibility is aided by the rearview camera. As for rear occupants, three adults can sit comfortably with no complaints regarding head- or legroom.
Practicality and versatility are other key traits of the AMG E63 S Wagon, with 35 cubic feet of trunk space being nearly triple the amount on offer in the E63 sedan. There's more than enough space for the dogs or an entire family's worth of vacation luggage, or your mother-in-law if you really don't like her. That space expands to 64 cubic feet with the easy-fold 40/20/40-split second-row seats folded down. For convenience, the trunk features hands-free access and an electronic closer, and is outfitted with a partition net and retractable luggage cover as standard.
In-cabin storage comprises sizeable door side pockets on all four doors that fit bottles, a cavernous center armrest console, a decently sized glovebox, and a small cubby with dual cupholders and NFC charging tray.
Sitting at the top of the E-Class range, you're left wanting for almost nothing with the E63 S Wagon. Automatic LED headlights and a panoramic windscreen are stylish and functional, while inside, the seats are multi-way power-adjustable, boast heating, ventilation, and memory functions, and can even be equipped with a massage function. Dual-zone climate control is standard, upgradable to tri-zone, while the steering wheel, front armrests, and rear seats can also be equipped with heated functionality. 64-color LED interior lighting caters to any mood, while a power liftgate gives you easy access to the cavernous trunk. Additional extras are numerous, with perfumed climate control and soft-close doors being the more luxurious option. Naturally, driver assistance features are ample, with the Driver Assistance Package equipping adaptive cruise control, active steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, lane change assist, emergency stop assist, pre-collision braking, and speed limit monitoring. The optional AMG head-up display caps off the offering.
The dual-screen cockpit display of the AMG E63 S Wagon measures a full 24.6-inches, but only half of the expanse is dedicated to infotainment. It's the latest generation COMAND interface, with the 12.3-inch screen tethered to a 590-watt, 13-speaker Burmeister surround-sound audio system - a new addition for 2019. COMAND integrates AM/FM/HD radio functionality with SiriusXM satellite radio, onboard navigation with TomTom live traffic information, and Bluetooth telephony and media streaming. Three USB ports take care of device charging and input, with full smartphone integration as standard by means of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The system also boasts voice control and touch-sensitive steering wheel controls.
Just one recall has been issued relevant to the AMG E63 S Wagon, for the potential detachment of the tailgate-mounted rear spoiler, which not only poses a threat to following vehicles but may affect the levels of downforce created by this strategic piece of bodywork. Mercedes-Benz covers the wagon with a standard four-year/50,000-mile new-vehicle limited warranty with various extension options and scheduled maintenance coverage included.
The AMG E63 S has not been evaluated by safety rating agencies, nor has the regular wagon for that matter. But the E-Class sedan upon which it's built has been tested by the IIHS, taking home top honors as a 2019 Top Safety Pick +. With all the same safety features, including seven airbags, driver attention assist, blind-spot monitoring, Pre-Safe warning and collision avoidance systems, and additional driver assistance system like evasive steering assist and active emergency stop assist, the E63 S Wagon can suitably carry the TSP+ honor as well.
In an age where the crossover runs rampant over hatchbacks and sedans, Mercedes has done the unthinkable by giving us a supercar-slaying station wagon. It's the best of all worlds, with the performance of an AMG GT, the practicality of a Mercedes-Benz GLC, and the luxury and refinement of a regular E-Class. But it wraps it all into a 603 hp all-wheel-drive bundle that can handle a day at the race track as easily as it can the day-to-day school run or monthly board meeting. The abundance of tech and comfort features are second to none, and the performance simply astounding. Where the E63 S Wagon doesn't live up to expectation is the harsh ride quality - but this is first and foremost a performance car, so some concession is knowingly made. All the practicality of an SUV, but with all the driving dynamics of a finely honed sports car, the AMG E63 S Wagon is the antidote to the SUV affliction, and for an enthusiast, it's a truly wholesome package.
The AMG E63 S Wagon carries a starting MSRP of $108,850, the highest cost for an E-Class based vehicle and a premium price for a premium do-it-all wagon. Prices exclude tax, registration, licensing fees, and any dealer-specific incentives, as well as Mercedes' destination and delivery fee of $995. Be wary of considering the available options as the base price can be driven up to around the $150,000 mark with relative ease.
|AMG E63 S 4MATIC Wagon||
4.0-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
Only one E63 S Wagon trim exists, but thankfully it's a comprehensive package that leaves you wanting for little. If we were the ones with a big enough budget, we'd opt for the AMG E63 S Wagon in Obsidian Black metallic, with the $800 Exterior Lighting Package, $2,500 AMG performance front seats, and carbon fiber interior inlays. Tri-zone climate control and the AMG head-up display, as well as the $2,250 Driver Assistance Package complete the niceties and tech side of things, while the AMG Performance Exhaust system is a must-have for option. All-in, you're looking at $120,210 for the ultimate sleeper wagon and the perfect one-car garage.
With the Audi RS6 no longer available, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake is the next best comparative rival as a performance wagon. But it's completely and utterly outgunned by the Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon. It is, however, more than $30,000 cheaper than the AMG E63 S, which softens the blow of its 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engine only producing 380 hp and 332 lb-ft - 223 hp less than the E63 S. The XF Sportbrake also offers less trunk capacity with all its seats in place and is not as comprehensively outfitted with vehicle features as the AMG E63 S is. The AMG E63 S Wagon is a comprehensively better performance car, but at a $30k premium, a buyer not needing that level of extreme performance will be more than happy with the XF as it's an impressive driver's machine in its own right.
Considering only $1,350 difference between the two vehicles, the question of the wagon or the SUV becomes one of relevance. From the outset, the wagon delivers superior overall performance - 0.5 seconds quicker from 0-60 and with a lower center of gravity giving it better handling dynamics, too. There's more cargo space in the GLE, though, and the ability to tow up to 7,200 lbs. Both vehicles are comprehensively equipped, though, and equally as luxurious in design and finish. Ultimately, both are impressive family cars with huge performance, but if you're looking for a performance car with an AMG badge, why make the compromise of poor driving dynamics and a high center of gravity? The E63 S Wagon is the comprehensive family performance car.