Before the SUV and the minivan before it, the station wagon was once the practical people mover of choice for families.
Tell your neighbour you own a wagon these days, and they’ll curiously look at you with a vacant gaze wondering if you’re pulling their leg. They’ll smugly tell you that their familial needs require nothing short of a large SUV. Handling and driving dynamics be damned, the bigger it is, the more superior it is in their mind.
But what if you don’t need an SUV? Better yet, what if you don’t want an SUV? The 2021 Mercedes-AMG E 63 S wagon is a vehicle for people who perhaps need more practical means of transportation, but want the performance of a sports car to go with it.
As is the tradition, the E 63 S’s 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 is handcrafted at the AMG shop in Affalterbach, Germany. Its 603 hp at 6,500 rpm and 627 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm are transferred to all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission and performance-tuned all-wheel drive system. Despite its 2,124-kg (4,683-lb) curb weight and 1,820-L cargo capacity, it’s capable of rocketing from zero to 100 km/h in a mere 3.3 seconds. Stay on the throttle and rifle through a few gears to clock an 11.1 second quarter-mile time at 196 km/h (122 mph). That’s officially supercar territory from a vehicle that can comfortably fit five adults and their luggage for a weekend away.
Driving Feel: 9.5/10
North Americans have a strange fascination with SUVs. There’s something about the elevated ride height that empowers drivers to literally and figuratively look down at sedans and wagons. Europeans have long understood the concept of the long roof.
Push the E 63’s starter button and you’re immediately rewarded with a raucous bark followed by a soulful rumble of its turbocharged V8. Acceleration is robust, steering is sharp, and handling is nimble. Being closer to the ground means a lower centre of gravity and very little body roll. Even in its most supple setting, the suspension is firm. Torque vectoring is used to carve around corners. Transferring information to the driver is appreciated on smooth asphalt, but the thin sidewalls of the sticky low-profile Pirelli P Zero tires also transmit the impact of road imperfections and potholes with equal severity.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
Of those looking for a six-figure high-performance vehicle packing a twin-turbocharged V8, a precious few will likely concern themselves with fuel economy or gas prices. Even so, the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) numbers for the AMG E 63 S wagon are 14.7 L/100 km in the city and 10.4 on the highway for a combined rating of 12.8. That’s actually less than the Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe and GLE 63 S SUV, which both pack the same 4.0L V8. The E 63 S wagon’s numbers are also marginally better than the Audi RS 6 and Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo. Over the course of a week that combined highway driving, secondary roads, and city stop-and-go, I managed to see an average fuel consumption rating of 14.1 L/100 km.
The E 63 S wagon’s starting MSRP of $127,900 before its non-negotiable freight fee of $3,295 isn’t an insignificant sum; however, the case could be made that you would be saving yourself money by replacing your weekend sports car and daily driver with a single vehicle. You’re welcome.
By comparison, the Audi RS 6 makes 591 hp with a zero to 100 km/h time of 3.6 secs for similar money. The wagon-ish Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo makes 620 hp and will do the same sprint in 3.1 secs but will set you back a lot more money to do so since its starting price is $211,000 and steeply goes up from there based on the options you choose.
The E63 S is beautifully proportioned. It is sleek and sexy from every angle. It manages to strike a balance between aggressive and elegant in a manner that would be equally at home in the racing paddock or pulling up to the valet at the opera. The larger wheels, AMG badging, and quad exhaust tips are the only hint to the uninitiated of what lies under the hood. Adorned in Obsidian Black Metallic paint with matte-black 20-inch cross-spoke forged AMG wheels, and both the Carbon Fibre and Night packages, our tester looked properly menacing inside and out. This isn’t Clark Griswold’s Queen Family Truckster station wagon.
The AMG’s interior is rich with leather, synthetic suede, and genuine carbon fibre. Positioned comfortably and snugly in front of the thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel provides the sensation of being at the helm of a flying spacecraft. Knobs, buttons, switches, and dials abound, while the ambient 64-colour LED lighting provides an ethereal glow in the colour of your choice.
A wagon like the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S will meet most of the criteria required of both a premium sports car and a comparably priced luxury SUV. It may not offer the elevated ride height of an SUV but is also infinitely more fun to drive. The E 63’s large rear hatch opens to reveal 640 L of cargo space, or fold the rear seats down and that number grows to 1,820 L.
User Friendliness: 6.5/10
Some controls are initially challenging to find, but once accustomed to its subtle nuances, the E 63 S would be an easy and enjoyable vehicle to live with. The steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters could certainly be more substantial, and the wireless charging pad more accessible, as it resides tucked under the centre console behind the cup holders. A vehicle this size could also stand to have a tighter turning radius.
A heated steering wheel and front seats come standard, as does a power tailgate, dual-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, navigation, and Bluetooth connectivity. A 12.3-inch screen displays driver information behind the steering wheel, while a second hosts the vehicle’s infotainment system which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality that can operate wirelessly. Our tester featured the AMG Night package ($850), which added gloss black exterior elements, as well as the AMG Carbon Fibre ($2,500) interior package. Contrast-stitched heated, ventilated, and massaging (front) seats offer comfort and support. The Intelligent Drive package ($3,000) as well as a Premium package costing $7,900 added up to a grand total of $146,445 before tax.
The list of options available is long. If you’ve got the means, you can check boxes that add soft-close doors, rear window shades, illuminated door sills, augmented reality navigation, a foot-activated tailgate, integrated dash camera, or an acoustic comfort package.
Driving the E 63 S wagon is a visceral experience. For some that will be welcomed, while others will find it to be too abrasive as a daily driver. If performance isn’t as much of a priority and you’re looking for a soft and supple ride, the Mercedes-Benz E 450 All-Terrain may be more your speed, as the E63 S is serious business. The driver can configure and customize the drivetrain to best suit the conditions at hand. Choosing from comfort, sport, sport+, race, and slippery on the steering wheel or console adjusts suspension settings, traction control intervention, throttle response, steering sensitivity, and gear changes, or you can create your own individual profile. Separate buttons allow for the ad hoc selection of exhaust volume, traction control, and suspension firmness, as well as the ability to turn the ignition stop/start function on or off.
The E 63 S wagon offers a selection of standard and optional safety equipment. Our tester featured a government-mandated back-up camera and a head-up display, as well as the $3,000 Intelligent Drive package, which includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, 360-degree camera views, pedestrian and animal detection, steering-responsive LED headlights, collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert and braking, route-based adaptive speed, and more.
If you happen to be looking for a full-size wagon these days, your options are somewhat limited. If a luxurious performance-oriented wagon strikes your fancy, the list is even shorter still. BMW ceased selling wagons in North America years ago and Volvo just recently stopped shipping the V90 to our fair shores. The only choices left are the Audi RS 6 and Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo (if you can consider it a wagon), and the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S, which actually isn’t even listed on the Mercedes-Benz website at the moment as microchip shortages have (hopefully) temporarily paused the availability of V8 engines in some models. If you’re lucky you just may be able to find one on a dealer lot, otherwise you may have already missed your chance.
|Engine Cylinders||Twin-turbo V8|
|Peak Horsepower||228 hp @5,000–6,200 rpm|
|Peak Torque||258 lb-ft @ 1,500–4,400 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||14.7 / 10.4 / 12.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||640 / 1820 L seats down|
|Model Tested||2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon|
|Price as Tested||$146,545|
$15,250 – AMG Carbon Fibre, $2,500; AMG Night Package, $850; Intelligent Drive Package, $3,000; Premium Package, $7,900; 20-inch AMG Cross-Spoke Forged – Matte Black Wheels, $1,000