So, how would you feel if we told you there’s a large family size wagon out there with enough grunt under the bonnet to power up an entire city, and outpace all but the world’s fastest supercars? Well, perhaps not quite that powerful, but how does 410kW and 800Nm sound? Is that something you might be interested in?
It’s called the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Estate, and its engine is hand-built by those performance-obsessed AMG tuner folks in Germany.
It’s a bit of sleeper this Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon. Apart from those enormously conspicuous bright red AMG brake calipers and quad exhaust tips, it could easily pass as your local dentist’s daily drive. You could look at it as the ultimate stealth-mobile.
There are none of the usual extravert signs, such as extra wide wheel arches, or oversized bonnet bulge to suggest anything like the kind of nuclear powered performance that this thing is capable of.
That’s especially true of this particular test car, which has been fitted with the optional AMG performance pack (there’s never enough), which lifts the stock E63 AMG Estate’s power and torque output by 24kW and a whopping 100Nm, respectively.
Despite the fact AMG is still holding on to that glorious-sounding naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8, at least for the current C63 AMG model line up, Mercedes-Benz as a whole, including the ‘go fast’ AMG division, is in the midst of a downsizing mission when it comes to engines.
Although the E63 AMG Estate’s nomenclature suggests otherwise, the ‘V8 BITURBO’ badges on the front three-quarter panels provide a more accurate description of the car’s powertrain. Engine displacement might have dropped from 6.2 to 5.5 litres, but with the addition of twin turbochargers and a host of other high-tech weaponry on board, output, especially in the torque department, is substantially up on the previous model.
Performance from this eight-cylinder powerhouse is nothing short of mind-altering, particularly when you consider it doubles as the family wagon.
Absolute aural bliss begins from the instant you hit the large silver ‘Start/Stop’ button. The blown V8 fires up simultaneously with a sharp crackle that is simply a teaser to the full-blown thunder this engine produces when first planting the throttle.
You don’t have to be travelling quickly, either, to enjoy the E63’s heroic engine note. Moving the car just a few metres, in and out of the garage or shopping mall, generates an intoxicating rumble that’s reward enough, even for the most ardent enthusiast.
For most folks, though, it can be hard to get your head around such stratospheric output numbers like 410kW and 800Nm for the family wagon (V8 supercars produce less torque).
The new lightweight, direct injection engine with its twin-turbochargers eliminates all but a fraction of that always-undesirable turbo lag, whenever you have cause to nail the throttle from near idle. From the moment the rev counter nudges 2000rpm, you can be assured of the full force of all 800 Newton metres.
While standing starts in the big AMG wagon are indeed formidable, in-gear acceleration is ridiculously fast. Keep you right foot planted and huge speeds are possible, and the torque doesn’t let up.
Putting all this power to the ground is the job of AMG’s superb 7-speed 'Speedshift MCT' automatic transmission. It’s confusing, but this isn’t a dual-clutch unit but rather an automatic 'box with a wet start-up clutch in an oil bath. It’s also very good and very fast shifting. In fact, you’d swear blind that it was a proper dual-clutch system, especially when driving in the ‘M’ (for manual) mode, which demands the use of paddle shifters. Applying an extra dose of throttle and pressing on a bit reveals barely a blip between upshifts.
It’s an intelligent gearbox, too, offering four unique driving modes: controlled efficiency, sport, sport + and manual. For family duties and suburban driving conditions, using “C” ensures a lazy take-off with a soft accelerator response – and always in second gear.
It also means that whenever you come to complete standstill, the stop/start function automatically switches off the engine – in the interest of reduced fuel consumption. You have the option of switching it off via the ‘eco’ button, but the system is so utterly seamless that you may as well leave it on in such conditions.
Switching to the more aggressive sport and manual modes is akin to an F22 Raptor pilot going ‘weapons hot’ with his selector switch, such is the potency of the transformation from docile family wagon to outright supercar.
Dial up manual mode and you’re in compete control of the shift points via the steering wheel mounted paddles, which are perfectly positioned to exploit the full potential of the 5.5-litre biturbo under the bonnet. Just don’t expect the transmission to shift for you, even at the limit, as that function is left totally up to the driver in this mode.
Under full throttle on some very twisty roads, the E63 AMG Estate is ferociously quick with gearshifts taking just 100 milliseconds. But even greater pleasure can be derived when downshifting into the tighter bends when the aural notes of the automatic double-declutching function are at their best. You’ll also want the driver’s window down for the full surround-sound effect.
The piece de resistance of this engine isn’t just its stupendous performance despite downsizing. It’s as much about the engineering efforts undertaken and overcome to get combined fuel consumption levels down to the impossibly low figure of 10.0L/100km.
The car is also fitted with an electronically controlled damping system called AMG Ride Control, which allows drivers can also select the optimum suspension setting, with a choice of “Comfort”, “Sport” and “Sport plus” modes. The adjustment between the various damping positions is immediate, although it must be said that even in comfort mode there is little or no body roll.
There’s a tonne of grip, too. It’s the combination of a superbly tuned chassis, high-tech stability systems and some seriously large 285/30-series tyres that provides vice-like traction for the E63.
Ride quality, even in “comfort” mode, is on the firm-ish side, with small imperfections on the road surface being transmitted through the cabin. Larger potholes and speed bumps, though, are miraculously soaked up by the full air suspension system on board the AMG wagon. The understandably stiff suspension is also something that AMG buyers are probably prepared to compromise on, given the exceptional performance this wagon offers.
In sync with the adjustable damper system is AMG’s electromechanical speed sensitive steering. It’s always quite heavily weighted, even for parallel parking manoeuvres, but press on, and the level of power assistance decreases even further (good thing).
There’s a solid level of feedback through the steering, too, but again it’s not so sensitive as to prove uncomfortable or nervous. No matter how slow or how fast you’re travelling in the E63 AMG Estate, the car always feels immensely stable.
Tipping the scales at a solid 1945 kilograms, this AMG behemoth is a lot of car. But the extraordinary thing is that it doesn’t feel like you’re piloting a large car from behind the wheel. On the contrary, it’s surprising how agile this thing is, even under heavy loads. It’s also a huge amount of fun. Even when you’re moving quickly through the twisty stuff, it still feels more like driving a sedan.
It won’t matter how quick you might be travelling in the E63, either, with the AMG braking system offering terrific stopping power without a hint of brake fade, at least on public roads.
Supercar performance aside, it’s easy to forget that the E63 AMG Estate also masquerades as an entirely practical station wagon capable of swallowing a huge amount of cargo. That space grows from a sizeable 695 litres with the rear seats in their upright position to a van-like 1950 litres with the seats folded flat.
There’s a stack of legroom available and those at 190cm won’t be hitting their heads on the superbly soft Alcantara headliner, either. Just don’t expect to get three adults in the rear seat bench - at least not comfortably. This is really a four-person car, if passenger comfort is a priority.
Inside, the E63 is like most AMG cars; more business class luxury than outright opulence. But that doesn’t mean a downgrade when it comes to the quality of materials used throughout the cabin. There’s hand-stitched leather everywhere you look, including the entire dashboard and there are very few plastic bits to be found inside here; it’s almost all soft touch.
The AMG sports seats are some of the best pews in the business; a combination of supple leather and an adjustable side bolster system that may as well be tailer made for each and every driver.
There’s a huge inventory of features on the E63 Estate, but the standout items include the AMG sports leather/Alcantara steering wheel, which is flattened on the top and bottom of the rim. Naturally there’s a superb-sounding audio system on board by Harman/Kardon, but it still plays second fiddle to the notes produced by the AMG quad exhaust pipes.
The car’s audio, telecommunications and telematics functions are all controlled through the Mercedes-Benz Comand system, which is similar to the iDrive system used by rival carmaker, BMW.
Despite the fact that the centre-mounted display screen is high definition and very functional, it’s not nearly large enough to compete with the 10.2-inch screen offered by BMW, or the 12.2-inch unit that will debut in the all-new Lexus GS.
Mercedes-Benz does safety very well, so the E63 comes equipped with more than a dozen sophisticated driver assistance systems on board. They include active blind spot assist and active lane keeping assist, designed to help drivers avoid collisions altogether.
By the laws of physics alone, a family-size station wagon should simply not be able to perform like the E63 AMG Estate does; this is a technological tour de force in an entirely practical package.