Don't get me wrong, I love wine, and I like to think that I can appreciate the difference between Barolo and Beaujolais, but the subtleties in variance between 2009 Bordeaux from Château Larrivet Haut-Brion or Château Tronquoy-Lalande are lost on me.
There's a similar story to be told, I think, with this almost completely incomparable 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S 4Matic wagon – and I'm not only talking about the coded and lengthy proper name. For guys like me, and a lot of you, there's something almost sexually compelling about the idea of a 577-horsepower, 590-pound-feet-of-torque V8 engine powering a freaking station wagon. Something primal in the desire for a vehicle that can both carry a rented pressure washer back to the house, and beat a Corvette Stingray out of the Home Depot parking lot.
That combination of things might interest you about as much as the subtle difference between grapes grown on neighboring vineyards in Provence interests me. Rational people, even rational people that like cars, might legitimately look at this $100k rocket boat and scratch their heads at my (our) ardor. But if you care on that level of geekery at all – wine or wagons – chances are good that you care a lot.
Last year Michael Harley put together an excellent Track Test and video on the AMG wagon, fully endorsing the hauler as attack-ready track weapon. Feeling better balanced even than the E63 sedan for the extra 155 pounds over the rear axle, Harley was surprised to find the 4Matic Wagon to be an excellent handler even on a very tightly wound street circuit.
Hilarious output figures become vividly believable from the first moment you goose the throttle.
With no track time planned during my weeklong loan of the car, I hoped to chart the other half of the "superwagon" equation then – just how useful and livable is this E63 in the daily grind?
Both the specification sheet and the driving experience of the E63 wagon are dominated by the 5.5-liter, biturbo V8 engine, of course. The hilarious power and torque output figures become vividly believable from the first moment you goose the throttle. All 590 pound-feet of torque are available at just 2,000 revs, meaning gaps between you and other fast-moving traffic can be closed up in less time than it takes to tell your wee ones, "Don't make me come back there..."
Though summoning up heroic AMG thrust is simple, by keeping the modular transmission in its least-aggressive setting I was also able to nose through traffic with no more drama than I'd expect from a 200-hp crossover. Motive histrionics can be yours if you like – accompanied by a low-pitched, powerful bellow from the quad-exhaust tips – but the wagon hasn't lost its ability to cruise in quiet comfort for this translation to Germanic Godsled.
Motive histrionics can be yours if you like, but the wagon hasn't lost its ability to cruise in quiet comfort.
When I plug the E63's $102,000-MSRP into a generic car-loan calculator, I come up with a monthly payment that's just a tiny bit shy of what I currently pay for my home mortgage each month. While there's no question that the cargo area of the Benz wagon is an improvement over the trunk of a sedan, and admitting that the AMG team does better furniture than my mostly IKEA-upholstered homestead, I can't recommend living in the car.
Seriously though, the wagon back offers more than enough room for most big cargo you might want to lug, or a couple of Irish Setters if you don't mind the vacuuming, but still less than your average small crossover. (A Toyota RAV4 has roughly 16 more cubes than the 57.4 cubic-feet offered by the E wagon, as a frame of reference.) Both front and rear seats, meanwhile, offer pleasing and roomy accommodations for all but the lankiest of passengers. You can put three adults across the rear bench seat in a pinch if you need to, though the AMG tune of the wagon doesn't offer the rear-facing, third-row jump seats as an option any more. That's what I'd call a sensible pity, considering the temptation to use the potent launch control while your whining kids are in the way-back.
There's more than enough room for big cargo, or a couple of Irish Setters if you don't mind the vacuuming.
Mercedes makes some of the world's finest long-haul grand touring cars in my estimation, and though the E63 Wagon might not fit your typical idea of a GT, in practice it might be one of the best such that money can buy. Obviously the huge power and ultra-composed, high-speed ride make the car a proper highway missile, but its ability to dance over winding back roads, when the chance happens upon you, takes its driving suite to the next level.
Echoing Harley's track findings, I saw the AMG brush off fast, tight road bends with the same ease as I might have expected with a sports car a thousand pounds lighter and with two fewer driven wheels. The all-wheel-drive system never interrupted my good time on curvy roads, feeling for all the world like a rear-drive setup save for the occasional tightening of my line on a hot exit. Just a button push to move out of Sport Plus mode (throttle, transmission and ESP affected) to Controlled Efficiency, and I was done with river-road-attack and ready again for the freeway doddle.
The only small downside is a predictable dearth of road feel through the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel.
The only small downside for driverly types, a predictable dearth of road feel through the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel, was almost completely made up for by the surefootedness of the underpinnings, and the available insanity under my right foot.
As your favorite sommelier might tell you (master or no), there's no substitute for the perfect bottle of wine with a given meal. Likewise, while cars like the now-outgoing Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon and Audi RS7 offer something like direct competition for the E63 AMG Wagon, nothing in the world is a perfect match. The Caddy is more brutal, less grippy and less posh than the Mercedes, albeit for a price that starts around $40k lower. Audi's longroof burner doesn't have the same traditional wagon practicality in terms of rear-seat space or cargo volume, and is down on power (though I'll be the first to admit that it feels every bit as fast without a stopwatch to tell me the difference).
Cars like the CTS-V Sport Wagon and RS7 offer something like direct competition for the E63, but nothing in the world is a perfect match.
The truth of the matter is that, if you're trying to do rational comparison shopping with a car like this AMG, you should probably quit considering the model right this instant. I admire the sack of the Mercedes product planners for bringing this to the US market, but I do so with full knowledge that it isn't a car for everyone.
This is for car geeks who want everything all at once, and quickly. Win the lottery, place your order, and haunt the dealership until your baby rolls in. Somehow, blending the most reasonable kind of utility vehicle, with a mind-blowing power, consumption and price, all makes total sense if you're just the right kind of nerd, I guess. If your tastes align with mine, I can't recommend this 2014 vintage highly enough.