Simply calling the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon the "ultimate hauler" is like taking the easy and lazy way out - but it also seems downright wrong to refer to it as anything else.
The most beguilingly manic yet practical car on the road today, the E63 AMG wagon is a master of all trades. It's a fanboy's dream come true, and even though only a handful are sold every year, its mere presence leaves us very happy with Mercedes-Benz and its AMG tuning division.
This supercar is as adept at conquering Laguna Seca as it is lugging home a weekend remodeling project from Home Depot. Consider us intrigued.
What is it?
It's a simple recipe: The E63 AMG S 4Matic Wagon is a Mercedes E-Class station wagon with a taut (and adjustable) suspension, an enormous 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8, a fast-shifting seven-speed automatic gearbox and, for 2014, all-wheel-drive.
Slap a set of snow tires on the E63 AMG wagon in the winter and you may never stop driving it - unless you need gas, that is. With 577 horsepower and 590 lb-ft. of torque aboard, the E63 is not shy about passing filling stations, although we contend that an EPA-estimated 15/21 mpg isn't half bad for what this vehicle is.
Cargo hauling ability aside, the E63 wagon is essentially identical to the E63 sedan that was facelifted for the 2014 model year. Cosmetic changes included revised styling inside and out, but the aforementioned inclusion of 4Matic all-wheel-drive as standard equipment was the most notable hardware upgrade. The standard E63 sedan checks in with a not unimpressive 518 horsepower, but an optional S-Model trim (which is standard on the wagon - hence, the E63 AMG S nameplate) adds extra power plus a limited-slip rear differential, unique 19-inch alloy wheels and red brake calipers.
Our test car was further loaded up with optional adaptive cruise control and a lane keeping assistance program that automatically nudged the vehicle back into its lines if it started to drift. It was not optioned up with the nearly $9,000 carbon ceramic brake package, however.
What's it up against?
We doubt any E63 AMG wagon buyer really cross-shops the competition, but those who do might want to look at the Cadillac CTS-V wagon.
What's it look like?
A lowered German taxi, that's what the E63 S AMG wagon looks like. Well, that's not being entirely fair.
Revised for 2014, the E-Class range now features a more cohesive headlamp arrangement with LED running lights. The AMG treatment adds a special body kit, enormous exhaust pipes, big 19-inch alloy wheels (optionally painted black on our test car) and, of course, a lowered suspension. Naturally, no shortage of AMG badges are also included.
The look is undeniably subtle, even with the dark "bling" of our tester's black wheels. We'd probably opt for silver wheels just to blend in even more. If we lived in, say, New England, we'd stick a Dartmouth sticker on the back of the E63, peel off the badges and go about frightening the locals.
And on the inside?
Similarly updated for '14, the E63's interior now boasts a more convenient control arrangement and Mercedes' latest COMAND infotainment system. Ergonomically-arrayed controls combine with an excellent view out the front windshield to make just about any driver feel at home.
As you might expect, the cargo area is enormous - although the AMG doesn't offer a rear-facing third row seat.
AMG goodies start with well-bolstered heated and ventilated leather seats. From there, a sport steering wheel with metal paddle shifters for the seven-speed AMG-tuned gearbox greets drivers' hands. Special AMG instruments and the brand's quirky gear lever are also part of the package. A handful of buttons on the center console activate various engine and throttle management modes and they also configure the suspension between comfort and various sport-oriented settings. An AMG button brings up the automaker's "perfect" blend of track-ready settings.
Befitting its price tag, the E63 felt well screwed-together and highly upmarket inside. The big premium over a $45,000-cheaper E350 wagon here is, of course, what's under the hood - but it's worth noting that this interior feels essentially price-appropriate even past the century mark.
But does it go?
Never before has this question seemed so silly. Stomp on the skinny pedal and the V8 underhood wakes up quickly to deliver a 0-60 mph sprint in about 3.5 seconds. Top speed, not verified by Leftlane, checks in at 186 mph. Needless to say, this is a serious rocket ship when called upon.
But what's arguably more notable is just how docile the E63 can feel in normal driving. Other than the speed at which its fuel gauge plummets to empty, the E63 lopes along in traffic with all of the smoothness of a gentle E350. There's a little more engine rumble at idle and the big six-piston front and four-piston rear brakes can occasionally be grabby, but those seem like fair trade-offs given how ferocious this machine can be.
Twist the center console-mounted knob into sport mode and the transmission becomes more alive, trading syrupy smooth shifts for rapid-fire reflexes. Flap the paddles and you'll drop down a cog or two with a quickness, although the dual-clutch gearboxes seen on some sporty rides react more rapidly.
Though the E63 undeniably a firm-riding vehicle, it proved surprisingly compliant in comfort mode. Turn up the wick, however, and things become stiff enough for track use - yes, this wagon begs to be driven on a closed course. And then to pick up the kids at school.
Despite its size and heft - the wagon checks in at around 4,300 lbs. - we found this five-door to be a thrill to put through its paces. Its steering is more direct than ever before, although communication from the imperfections on the road is generally filtered out more here than in, say, the BMW M5. Yet the E63 feels lithe and agile when pressed into action. Grip is phenomenal, even though power is biased slightly more to the rear than the front. That means that the E63 can be fairly easily coaxed into a rubber-burning slide if the traction and stability control systems are set to a less aggressive mode.
A wagon that can drift? Count us in.
Leftlane's bottom line
A perennial wish list candidate for the way it blends supercar performance with SUV-grade utility, the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S 4Matic comes across as uncannily refined in its latest iteration.
In fact, it almost seems like a bargain - if that's possible - at just over $100,000.
2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S 4Matic Wagon base price, $102,370. As tested, $106,595.
Black wheels, $500; Driver Assistance Package, $2,800; Destination, $925.
Photos by Andrew Ganz.