Mercedes-AMG's hot wagon gets a subtle refresh that brings smarter, better creature comforts.
Editor’s Note: While Mercedes-Benz USA hosted a wave of the E63S Wagon drive for US publications, restrictions on travel due to COVID-19 prevented anyone from Motor1.com’s US-based team from attending the event in eastern Germany. Instead, our colleagues at Motor1.com Italy got the privilege – what follows is a translation of their original story. It has been edited for clarity.
The eternal battle for high-powered wagon dominance is back on in recent years, with the Mercedes-AMG E63S facing a new rival in the redesigned (and now US-bound) Audi RS6 Avant, which has been a star across the pond in Europe. But while Audi was hard at work federalizing its updated RS6, Mercedes has just updated the E-Class.
Packing a number of changes to its interior and exterior design, along with a few important mechanical updates, the E63 is preparing to take the fight to Audi in both Europe and abroad. But despite these changes for 2021, the engine remains the same: a righteous twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 with 603 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque.
A Thing Of Beauty
If you opt for the beautiful Blu Magno color (a matte shade previously limited to the AMG GT 4-Door), it’ll be hard to go unnoticed – the light plays on the bodywork well, highlighting the creases on the hood and sides that create the typical sinuous, but powerful, lines that characterize AMG’s latest models.
The front grille, with its vertical slats, is wider and draws inspiration from the AMG GT sports car; the Mercedes logo, hiding the adaptive cruise control sensors, is larger and the wheel arches have swollen by almost an inch compared to the standard E-Class Wagon. In front, a new lower whisker featuring a glossy black finish separates the upper and lower grilles and embraces the secondary air intakes. The profile is very dramatic, with 20-inch wheels completing the picture.
At the rear, there are fewer differences. Four squarish exhaust pipes and a prominent diffuser jut out from the rear bumper, while the taillights feature new detailing in a familiar shape – a chrome strip now connects them. Owners, meanwhile, can choose from body color accents, chrome, gloss black, or carbon fiber.
There’s a perfect combination of luxury, technology, and sportiness in the E63’s cabin. In terms of comfort, you get everything you’d expect of an E-Class – plenty of space for passengers and high-quality materials – but it’s mixed with elements like high-performance sport seats, AMG badges, and an Alcantara-like steering wheel with a pair of display knobs for adjusting the car’s settings.
The right knob adjusts the various driving modes, while drivers can cycle the left knob’s display through pages for the stability control, exhaust system, stop/start mode, suspension firmness, and to activate the gearbox’s manual mode. There are redundant buttons for these systems on the center console, near the touchpad for the infotainment system.
There’s a perfect combination of luxury, technology, and sportiness in the E63’s cabin.
That infotainment, the popular MBUX system, matches up with other new Mercedes products, offering drivers a touchpad, as well as a touchscreen, thumbpads on the steering wheel, or via a virtual assistant. The main infotainment screen spans 12.3 inches and remains in single slab with a 12.3-inch display for the digital instrument cluster. This setup works especially well in a performance product, though, allowing drivers to bring up engine stats, a G meter, or a stopwatch with ease.
The E63 continues to offer an impressive suite of active safety, too, although the 2021 E-Class range stands out with a capacitive steering wheel. To keep the systems engaged on the freeway, drivers won’t need to apply steering torque to a sensor – instead, the wheel can recognize when the driver’s hand is on it.
The E63S Wagon’s goal is to offer exploitable performance in ever condition, and it does so brilliantly. The seats envelop the driver and remain comfortable at the same time, while the suspension absorbs everything a highway can throw at it, allowing easy and quiet long-distance runs until the 17.4-gallon tank runs dry.
In Comfort mode, and between 1,000 and 3,200 rpm, the 4.0-liter V8 deactivates half its cylinders to reduce noise and improve fuel economy, although it’s pretty much impossible to get more than 23 mpg in our experience (especially when you’re taking advantage of the willing nine-speed automatic or the inexhaustible supply of torque).
Switching to Sport Plus or Race mode changes things drastically, as the V8 starts to encourage the driver with all 627 lb-ft of torque coming in between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm. So much as think of overtaking and the E63 will happily surge to speeds that could cost you your license. It’s that quick. On the straights, it seems to hurl you towards the horizon as G forces crush you into the seat. The performance is supercar-like, with this five-seat wagon reaching 60 miles per hour in just 3.4 seconds.
We were concerned that the restyling would come with a decrease in exhaust volume, as Mercedes attached additional filters to comply with newer pollution regulations, but guess again. This may be a twin-turbocharged engine with modern emissions controls, but the engineers in Affalterbach were able to preserve the E63’s rich baritone.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to try the new E63 on the track, instead spending our time on straight and flat roads in eastern Germany, a place so uniform in elevation even a telescope can’t help you see a hill. That said, we did get some impressions, despite not fully putting the adaptive dampers, active engine mounts, revised steering calibration, or 4Matic all-wheel drive to too much of a test.
Entering hard into corners, the E63 exhibits virtually no understeer, thanks to the fat tires and neatly tuned steering. Feedback is clear and the rack is weighted well, but it’s not too heavy. At the same time, it’s easy to cause liftoff oversteer.
The 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is rear-drive by default, but uses an electromechanically adjustable clutch to transfer torque forward if necessary. In the sportier drive modes, the system shunts less torque forward for improved cornering performance. If you’re brave, though, you can also select Drift mode to lock off the front axle completely and transform into a pure rear-wheel vehicle. Drift mode isn’t selectable via a knob like Comfort or Sport Plus – instead, you need to select Race, deactivate the stability control, and pull both wheel-mounted paddles.
Of course, we don’t recommend such shenanigans. This is still a 16-foot long, 4,700-pound object after all. That said, if the E63 does get loose, the long wheelbase helps with stability.
Entering hard into corners you don't feel the slightest understeer, thanks also to the generous tread tires and a steering that, in the mixed, is always sincere and clear and never too heavy. Exaggerating as much as enough comes out that pleasant tendency of the rear end to widen that helps to close the curve.
Dulcis in fundo, said the Latins. But this time, we’re going to end with what failed to satisfy in the E63. First, the brakes are powerful (especially the optional carbon ceramics), but the brake pedal was lite on bite under light pressure – with over 600 hp on tap, we were hoping for more immediate response. And while the steering is largely good, stability on center and at high speed isn’t what we’d expect of a vehicle that’s supposed to be brilliant at going very fast in a straight line.
It’ll Cost Ya
Prices for the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63S start at $112,450 in the United States with deliveries slated for late 2020.
Gallery: 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 Wagon: First Drive
2021 Mercedes-AMG E63S 4Matic Wagon