There's something inherently good about station wagons that truly makes me wonder where America went wrong and developed a taste for SUVs. Perhaps it's that wagons of yesteryear were often bloated and had wood paneling, or their owners were seen as uncool and unfashionable. Whatever the case may be, it's driven station wagons to near-extinction in the U.S. Not all hope is lost, however, because we can still save the species by adopting one of these long-roofed beauties. And if you have the means to do so, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon is a mighty fine specimen to bring home.
The recipe for a good station wagon, much like that of a hatchback, is simple: it's got to be practical, it's got to be comfortable, it's got to be multi-purpose, and last but not least, it's gotta be affordable. At over $140,000, the E63 S wagon Mercedes loaned me threw that last qualification out the window and all the way to Affalterbach, but what about the other three?
Don't worry, I'm not here to wax poetic about how everyone should drive a wagon (preferably a brown one with a stick-shift and all-wheel drive). Or that if you prefer SUVs—which are largely responsible for the demise of the sedan and other staples of the automotive world—you should go to hell. No. I'm actually a big fan of cushy SUVs and you'll often find me favoring a comfortable ride over a fast one. What I am here to do, however, is tell you how Mercedes managed to combine key elements from its high-performance sedans and excellent family SUVs into one elongated package.
2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon: By the Numbers
- Base price (as tested): $113,500 ($142,100)
- Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 | 9-speed automatic transmission | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 603 @ 5,750 to 6,500 rpm
- Torque: 627 lb-ft @ 2,500 to 4,500 rpm
- 0-60: 3.4 seconds (est.)
- Top speed: 180 mph
- Seating capacity: 5
- Cargo volume: 35 cubic feet | 64 with second row folded
- Curb weight: 4,669 pounds
- EPA fuel economy: 16 mpg city | 23 highway | 18 combined
- Quick take: The perfect mix of performance and utility.
The State of the Wagon
The recent passing of the Volvo V90 wagon in the States shows just how dire the situation is for station wagons, especially relatively affordable ones. In the attainable realm there are slim but decent offerings from Volvo (V60), Subaru (Outback), Audi (A4/A6), Mini (Clubman), and Mercedes-Benz (E 450). If you've got the need for speed, however, you'll have to make do with the 591-horsepower Audi RS6 Avant or the 620-hp Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo.
Then there's this story's protagonist, the E63 S wagon, which falls in the middle of the two with 603 ponies under the hood.
Regardless of which route you go, though, you'll spend well over $100,000 to bring either model home. And in the case of the Porsche, you'll easily cross the $200,000 mark. It ain't easy being a wagon fan in the States.
Looks and Comfort
Putting off affordability for the moment, the E63 S wagon is everything you'd expect a luxury car to be in 2021 inside and out. It recently was grafted the AMG GT's face, which is a very good thing. The new Panamericana grille and front fascia give the wagon a more aggressive stance without making it look overly macho. Up front, the air intakes and splitter have been completely redesigned for 2021, reportedly optimizing the wagon's aerodynamics—something which is rather important given its 180-mph top speed.
The profile remains the same, with long swooping lines making their way across the door handles and culminating near the taillights. The 20-inch AMG Forged Cross-spoke wheels with grey accents are new and downright gorgeous. And in the rear, the bumper and diffuser were also redesigned for 2021, creating a softer overall look that balances out the profile and aggressive front end.
Inside, the E63 S sports the same elegant interior that's been a staple of the E-Class for a couple of years now, but with an updated steering wheel design that now includes trackpads and others buttons to control the MBUX infotainment system. This particular build featured the optional AMG Performance steering wheel wrapped in leather with Dinamica (Alcantara-like material). Quite frankly, it looks really cool and feels great, but I doubt my ability to keep it clean during everyday life.
Speaking of MBUX, the surfboard-style display that's found across the Mercedes lineup also resides in the E63 S, with each of its dual 12.3-inch panels—one acting as a gauge cluster and the other an infotainment touchscreen—doing an excellent job at relaying vehicle, navigation, and media information. I've covered this system more in-depth previously in my test of the GLB and GLS.
One can always expect comfortable seats in an E-Class, and the E63 S wagon is no exception. This particular model Mercedes loaned me was equipped with the optional multi-contour seats($1,320), which offer regular and hot massaging options. Even if you don't splurge on that, the leather and Dinamica seats are comfortable on their own for regular and spirited drives—though I found the bolsters a bit more aggressive in the AMG than in a Porsche or BMW.
The back seat is spacious enough to haul three adults or kids, though the only cupholders are hidden in the foldable middle armrest—these are a bit flimsy, too—and there's only one 12-volt charging outlet in the rear with no USB ports. Besides that, there are vents for rear occupants and the seats themselves are well-padded and comfortable, with decent headroom thanks to a fairly flat roofline.
The AMG Express
If there's one reason anyone would ever spend nearly $150,000 on an AMG wagon, it's because it's essentially an AMG performance sedan reshaped to look cooler and with a more spacious trunk. It's not hard to put into words what it feels like when you step on the E63 S's accelerator. It's easy to sum it up actually: your stomach feels squished, your lungs compressed, you feel a bit squeamish. Things start coming at your eyeballs at speeds they're definitely not used to.
Rolling down the street, you feel how it's planted to the road and its meaty 265/35 ZR 20 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 Ss can handle most things you throw at them. These, paired with Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel-drive system and air suspension with special tuning by AMG, dominated long stints on the interstate, pothole-ridden Chicago streets, and torrential downpours during my weeklong test.
The quick-acting suspension adjusts to offer the best possible setting of whatever drive mode is chosen; Comfort, Sport, and Sport+. I spent most of my time cruising around in Comfort mode (because kids and all), but much to no one's surprise, it's in Sport that the wagon really comes alive and gives you a taste of what years of F1 supremacy can do to an automotive brand.
Get frisky with the accelerator while on Sport and the V8 will give you all the power you can handle (or even more, I'd argue), while the nine-speed transmission quickly downshifts to give you all the revs your heart desires. The electronic nannies also loosen up in Sport and Sport+, allowing the rear tires more play in the corners or during hard acceleration. It's not exactly difficult to get the rear to step out a bit, y'know. I call this the "Feel Like a Hero" mode because the computers let you have a bit of fun but still step in before shit goes completely sideways—literally—making you feel like a hero behind the wheel.
When it's time to come down from the high, the massive carbon-ceramic brakes—which are adorned in a glitzy gold paint on all four calipers—intervene to powerfully control the situation. At an eye-watering price of $8,950, they'd better. But most importantly, despite the massive stopping power of these oversized units, their day-to-day performance was flawless and never felt sticky or the pedal unpredictable (though they tend to squeak a bit under braking before they're up to temperature).
Last but not least, there's the sound. The sound! The airwaves emanating out of the quad tailpipes sound and feel as if Armaggedon were upon us. A couple of weeks before the AMG, I spent some time in a 2021 BMW M5 Competition, which at 617 hp is most definitely not a slouch. But compared to the AMG's turbo-V8 wail, the BMW is more of a whimsical carousel that lullabies babies to sleep. The AMG V8 is an unapologetically loud Metallica concert.
Having 603 hp is unnecessary in any car, awesome in a sports car, but absolutely hilarious in a station wagon. It's borderline maniacal, and therefore very special. The best part is it has real soul and character—mostly due to its noise and monstrous acceleration—making you love it rather than chastise it as another expensive toy for a rich douchebag who has more money than sense.
So far we've established the E63 S wagon fails the affordability test, but it's comfortable and an absolute rocket. But is it as practical as, say, an SUV? Unless you absolutely need significant ground clearance, the answer is yes.
I took advantage of the long weekend to get out of town and stuffed the seats and trunk of the wagon full of cargo. Up front, mom and dad. In the middle, son and daughter and their corresponding junk. In the back, four carry-on suitcases. As you can see in the photos, space was not an issue, but what you can't see is that there was still about six to eight more inches of room behind the suitcases, but the privacy cover housing got in the way of the bags. Remove the cover, and I'd argue that there's room to stuff two more suitcases sideways and even more on top.
At 35 cubic feet of trunk space, the E63 S wagon offers twice the amount of the 2021 Bentley Bentayga's 17.1 cubic feet and a bit more than its cousin, the GLE SUV, with 33.3 cubic feet. Only the three-row GLS, with 42.7 cubic feet behind the second row, edges out the wagon in terms of trunk space. But if you need more room, simply push a button and fold the second row flat for a total of 64 cubic feet.
Another aspect that made the E63 S a useful daily was its ride height, which made it practical to get in and out of while running errands or loading stuff into the trunk. With five inches of ground clearance, it essentially sits right smack in the middle between a lowered sports car like the AMG GT at 3.8 inches, and the seven inches of the GLE SUV. It's a fair compromise that, once again, aims to deliver good looks and performance without sacrificing utility.
In addition to the options I've already listed, the test car came outfitted with Brilliant Blue Magno paint ($3,950), carbon fiber trim ($2,850), head-up display ($1,100), and a driver-assistance package ($1,950). Total vehicle price came to $142,100. Of course, there's no reason to spec your E63 S wagon the way Mercedes did. A standard AMG E63 S wagon comes with the twin-turbo V8, all-wheel drive, automatic transmission, 20-inch AMG wheels, leather upholstery, wood trim, and the exact same amount of practicality.
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon is, by all means, the pinnacle of station wagons, and probably the last of its kind. With electrification becoming the norm, we can assume upcoming generations will feature Mercedes' EQ electrification system or whatever tech exists by then. Yes, the cars will most likely get quicker in the future, but at the expense of that roarin' V8.
A station wagon isn't the perfect car for all, but it surely deserves more love and attention than it currently gets in America. Yes, this particular model may cost nearly as much as my house, but a de-tuned version of this über-wagen would be just as practical and nearly just as much fun at a considerably lower price. Review on the E 450 wagon coming soon!
If you've got the means to adopt one, however, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon promises to reward you with years of face-melting performance and SUV-like levels of utility. What's not to love about that?
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