Forget crossovers – America needs to embrace the wagon.
While long roofs may conjure up images of hot, sticky family road trips and Clark Griswold, today’s wagons are cool. And when it comes to cool wagons, there’s only one that packs a 603-horsepower twin-turbocharged V8, all-wheel drive, impeccable interior trimmings, and an SUV-like cargo hold. Yes, we’re talking about the Mercedes-AMG E63S 4Matic Wagon.
The E63 has a lot going for it. Pricing, though, is not one of those things. This brute starts at $106,950, but to get one like ours requires a check for $140,320. That said, the long-roof variant of the E63 doesn’t demand much of a premium over its sedan counterpart – a mere $2,550. The option pricing is identical, too, and our tester had a lot of optional gear.
There’s $8,500 in carbon-fiber tinsel, so if you’re pinching pennies with your six-figure wagon, it’s best to avoid the engine cover, exterior package, interior trim, and mirror covers. We would advise going for the 20-inch cross-spoke wheels, though. And, as we doubt most E63 Wagon owners will be tracking their cars, you can probably avoid the $8,950 carbon-ceramic brakes (although they look fantastic, thanks to the gold calipers).
What you do need, though, is the $3,600 Premium package, which includes Mercedes’ entire active safety system, as well as a surround-view camera, and a head-up display. The $1,500 Advanced Lighting package adds killer LED headlights with automatic high beams, while the $1,100 Acoustic Comfort package hushes up the cabin with sound-insulating glass and additional sound deadening.
On the flip side, if you like a louder driving experience, grab the $1,250 AMG Performance exhaust. AMG Performance seats cost $2,500 and do an even better job keeping both driver and front passenger in place than the standard seats, while the $760 three-zone climate control keeps backseat passengers happy.
Gallery: 2018 Mercedes-AMG E63S Wagon: Review
The E63 looks fine in sedan form, but like the broader E-Class range, it arguably looks better as a wagon. There’s something refined and – surprise, surprise – European about it. The profile is particularly attractive, although the head-on and rear views give a good idea of how much more aggressively flared the E63’s wheel arches are. Speaking of that tail, we like the E-Class Wagon’s slimmer, horizontal taillights more than the S-Class-inspired design on the sedan model.
The E63 garnered most of its points not for its exterior, but for its lovely interior. Mercedes can do no wrong with its interior design, and the E63 Wagon carries on this trend. Once you get over the all-glass surfboard atop the dash (the home of twin 12-inch displays that show the instrument cluster and infotainment system), the E63’s cabin is conventional and attractive.
Simple lines, smartly laid out controls, and beautiful materials abound. The leather work, in particular, is excellent, with high-quality hides throughout the interior. The Nut Brown leather is the way to go, as the vibrant color plays nicely with the real metal accents, and while black and brown are generally tricky to marry, this no-cost shade of leather looks great with the optional carbon-fiber interior.
The E63’s front chairs, particularly if you go with the upgraded AMG seats, offer immense support. But they’re also impressively comfortable for such hardcore thrones. These are quite clearly sports seats, but they don’t pinch or feel claustrophobic. We can easily imagine taking the E63 on a road trip.
Said trip would include stuffing a couple of folks in the back, as well. It’s plenty roomy back there, with adequate shoulder room and enough legroom. But if you plan on using your E63 for people hauling, it might be worth passing on the sports seats. They feature a hard back that’s unforgiving and eats – only slightly – into the second row’s legroom.
Cargo capacity is deeply impressive in the E63. With up to 64 cubic feet of space with the second row folded, the Mercedes served me well as a moving vehicle while I prepared my house for sale. In between trips to a storage unit, it swallowed box after box. Its low, flat floor and tall rear hatch height meant loading and unloading was a breeze. And unlike its closest rival – the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo – the E-Class Wagon’s rear wheels don’t eat into the cargo hold much. In fact, the cargo hold of the Mercedes is nearly as wide at the back as it is at the front.
There aren’t really any six-figure vehicles nowadays that don’t come laden with tech. In the Mercedes’ case, the aforementioned twin displays dominate the cabin and are the driver’s main interface for the E63’s assorted bits of tech. Those include an extensive active safety system, an infotainment system that’s like a hybrid version of Mercedes’ older, dial-controlled infotainment system and its new MBUX OS, and what is unquestionably the best ambient lighting system around.
The dual displays are the tip of the iceberg for standard equipment. The E63 carries all the usual suspects, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED headlights, push-button start, heated and ventilated front seats, a power rear hatch, and a Burmester audio system.
Unsurprisingly, it’s easy to option up the E63, too. From an obnoxious light-up Mercedes logo on the nose to an expansive suite of active safety gear, to a stunning set of carbon-ceramic brakes, our tester’s $33,000 in options isn’t that excessive.
This may be a wagon, but it’s a Mercedes-AMG E63S first. That means there’s a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 under the hood with 603 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. This long-roof can get to 60 miles per hour in 3.4 seconds thanks to that engine, a standard nine-speed, automatic, and the brand’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. This wagon, with its comfy seats and cargo space, is a tenth of a second faster to 60 than an AMG GT R.
Straight-line performance is effortless, with vast amounts of low-end torque and mid-range punch. Just think it, and the E63 surges ahead with a delightful bellow from the optional AMG performance exhaust. But much of that effortlessness is down to the all-wheel-drive system, which quells any and all instability.
This is not like the E63 of old, cars that required drivers to be cautious with the throttle to not to overwhelm the rear tires. The standard 4Matic all-wheel-drive system manages the grip level so the driver can exploit the engine’s power without thought. There’s also a Drift setting, in case the driver wants a callback to the rear-drive E63’s of yesteryear. And it’s not some fancy torque-split trickery – switch to Drift, and this car becomes fully rear drive, sending 100 percent of its power to the back axle. This is the mode of choice if you feel like getting up to some shenanigans.
Like AMGs of the past, the E63’s “Speedshift” is excellent in both everyday driving and when set to a more aggressive drive mode. Around town, it’s fast to engage off the line, avoiding some of the histrionics associated with dual-clutch setups, while delivering similar shift performance. This gearbox blends into the background in Comfort mode, and with the engine in the same setting, the E63 does a fair impression of a more mainstream Mercedes E-Class. Tap the gearbox button to the left of the infotainment dial to select Manual mode and that impression vanishes. Grab the wheel-mounted paddle shifters and enjoy faster and sharper shifts.
The E63’s ability to jump from comfortable and composed family station wagon to hardcore rocket ship is most readily on display in the suspension’s behavior. In Comfort, the AMG Sport air suspension soaks up even big bumps without complaint, minimizing the comfort cost of those stylish 20-inch AMG wheels and their low-profile rubber. Again, the goal here seems to be for drivers to forget they’re driving an E63… until the suspension firms up.
In the Sport and Race driving modes, there’s very little body motion. Despite its size and mass – this car weights 4,669 pounds – the E63 can change directions quickly. The steering is tight and fast, with just enough weight and an impressively small dead zone. Feedback, though, isn’t great. There are so many layers between the tires and those lovely AMG Sport seats that it’s hard to pick up all the important sensations and feelings.
The name might not indicate it, but the $3,600 AMG Premium package carries most of the advanced active safety gear on the E63. That roster includes typical equipment such as lane-keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring, to more advanced features like active lane change assist (which can changes lanes for the driver), steering assist, and full-speed adaptive cruise control. While it’s not marketed as such, the E63 feels like it could drive itself. It’s a remarkable suite of gear, especially for long-distance freeway driving.
While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) doesn’t crash test the E-Class wagon, it rates the E-Class sedan as a Top Safety Pick Plus. That rating requires top marks on all crash tests, active safety gear that earns the mid-range “Advanced” rating (the E-Class earns a “Superior” rating, the top score), and highly rated headlights. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does crash the five-door E-Class, rating it five stars overall.
The E63, like every AMG model, requires Premium fuel. It returns an EPA-estimated 16 miles per gallon city, 22 highway, and 18 combined. For a 603-hp, all-wheel-drive wagon that can accelerate to 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds (faster than some full-tilt supercars), those are relatively impressive figures, even if our scoring system doesn’t recognize them as such.