By Mark Elias
Sunday, Nov 25th, 2012 @ 1:45 am
 

A variation on a theme, the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon, is one of those rare vehicles that gives you more than the best of both worlds.

On one hand, it's a mild-mannered family car able to carry up to seven-passengers and their stuff to and fro, wherever they need to be. On the other, it transforms you into a highway-bound road warrior, willing and able to tear up a ribbon of blacktop in the quickest possible manner.

Which one are you?

Any trip to Europe will confirm it: SUVs not seeing the same love as they receive on this side of the pond. But what does hold sway is the large number of station wagons (or estate cars as they are sometimes known) plying the highways and autobahns throughout the continent. Is Mercedes-Benz still onto something?

What is it?

A subtle sleeper of a car, the E63 AMG wagon takes one of the brand's best-built engines, the 5.5-liter direct-injection bi-turbocharged V8 power plant that also finds its way into the E63 sedan, among others. One of our favorite powerplants, it replaces a naturally aspirated 6.3 liter mill and is a baller to the tune of 518 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. The net result is more power with better emissions and a top speed of 155 mph. For comparison's sake, the 4.6-liter V8 in the E550, on which the 5.5-liter is based, produces 402 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque.

That would complete the spec sheet if our car were a nice and easy normal model. But our tester was equipped with the AMG Performance Package that, for a few extra shekels ($6,550), offered red brake calipers, an AMG sport steering wheel and a carbon fiber engine cover. Oh, and did we mention its power and top speed are boosted to 550 horsepower from 5,250-5,750 rpm, and 186 mph, respectively? A monstrous 590 lb-ft of torque appears between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm, for down and dirty power all day long. The added boost might sip a little more fuel than usual, so in that regard, the wagon is equipped with a start/stop system that shuts the engine down at idle, only to instantly restart it when the brake pedal is released, helping give the 4,300 lbs. wagon a 15/23 mpg rating.

Mated to the AMG Speedshift-7 seven-speed automatic multi-clutch transmission (a mouthful), it throws down like nobody's business. The multi-clutch offers faster shifting and rev-matching (on a wagon, no less) for the ultimate performance in a family hauler. The transmission includes a Race Start feature for those times stoplight drag races just cannot be avoided.

Handling is controlled by AMG's adaptive suspension, for on-the-fly dampening. The suspension hardware includes a pair of multi-link kits with stabilizer bars at both ends, anti-dive control in front and an antis-quat control in the rear.

An AMG control dial offers Normal, Sport and Sport+, and Manual settings for engine remaps, firmed up suspension and, for those feeling daring enough, disabled traction control in Sport+.

What's it up against?

Competitors are few and far between at this price point. The closest rival, at roughly half the price, would be Cadillac's sleeper CTS-V wagon.

And if you're feeling a bit more tame, Mercedes-Benz will also sell you an E350 4Matic wagon.

How does it look?

Following the recently revived quest for an authentic shooting brake, the E63 AMG Wagon is simply the station wagon/estate version of the E-Class sedan.

Imagine, if you will, an E63 with extended greenhouse all the way to the rear bumpers. Our tester was covered in a lustrous dark cocoa metallic paint that looked fourteen layers deep. The brakes were set off with the Performance Package's red Brembo calipers for accent with the split-spoke alloy wheels.

And there you have it. Fanboys rejoice.

And on the inside?

With enough black leather to outfit a motorcycle gang, the E63 AMG Wagon can accommodate up to seven passengers.

We personally don't think the third row is for us, but it's definitely useful for the short ones who like sitting in the "way back." The AMG power-adjustable sport seats offered comfort during cross-state road trips, as well as ventilation to keep the sweats that come with high speed driving.

Mid-row seating will place two comfortably, or three in a pinch. If it gets too dark in the cabin, a two-panel panoramic moonroof allows occupants to lighten up.

The wagon is equipped with Mercedes-Benz's COMAND system of integrated audio, navigation, Bluetooth and voice controls, for hands-free functionality. The system isn't the world's simplest, but it is far less reliant on buried menus than those seen in some rivals.

At this price, materials should be top notch. And they are, bordering almost on bespoke.

But does it go?

It's a sleeper from every angle, but, still, we have never been in a car that has attracted as much attention as this E63 wagon. With 550 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque on tap with the pressing of a pedal, it is as potent as a shot of adrenaline to the heart. Think John Travolta and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. The zero-to-60 sprint in 4.2-seconds from the five-and-a-half-liter V8 Biturbo, managed to kick us straight back into our seats.

Eventually our heads catch up with the rest of our bodies.

An awesome ride, from a station wagon, no less, we flick the adjustable ride control from comfort, to Sport, and then Sport+, which remapped the throttle and steering for a firmer, more direct feel with greater corner-cutting abilities. The "AMG" button on the center console allows saving of a variety of preferences that can be recalled with the push of that one button.

Who said wagons can't be entertaining? The acceleration hammered us into the dynamically bolstered and ventilated seats. Feeling the fatigue from an afternoon of 'bahn or freeway burning? No problem, once you push the driver's seat massage button. An electronic version of a big, bald German masseuse takes over and gives you a rolling spa treatment.

As good as the harman/kardon Logic7 audio system is, we opted for the dulcet tones of the big twin-turbo V8 engine instead.

Why you would buy it:

Because quite frankly there is nothing better than a wagon. Except, perhaps, a hot wagon with more than half-a-thousand horsepower stuffed into it.

Why you wouldn't:

Because you still think there is value to sitting up high, in a truck-like vehicle with a truck-like ride and the aerodynamics of a brick.

Leftlane's bottom line

With the E63 AMG Wagon, Mercedes-Benz's high-performance division proves that station wagons are sexy beasts, too.

But why does it feel that with the purchase of every German car we are helping to pay down the EU's Greek debt crisis, too?

2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon base price, $91,500. As tested, $111,080.

Designo Mocha Black paint, $2,300; Carbon fiber trim, $2,850; 19-inch AMG Alloy Wheels, $1,790; Locking bolts, $140; AMG Side Sills, $850; Special Order, $250; Exterior Carbon Package, $3,125; AMG Performance Package, $6,550; Lane tracking package, $850; Destination, $875.

Words and photos by Mark Elias.

  • Aesthetics

    B+

  • Technology

    B+

  • Green

    C

  • Drive

    A-

  • Value

    B-

  • Score

    B+