You can ignore the background of how I came to own this car by skipping the first few paragraphs. Entirely up to you.
My first (real) car was a 2005 VZ SS Holden Commodore. I had just turned 22. I remember the excitement of picking it up and being the only person in my suburb to have that model, at the time. I remember the regular comments from policemen with my green P plates displayed on the back (I was a late bloomer with my license) and most of all, I remember the joy of driving a naturally aspirated manual V8 all up and down the east coast, between Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
I had that car for 12 years and formed a real bond with it. I even managed to take it on the Great Ocean Road two years before we parted ways. In all the years I owned it, I only ever had one major mechanical fault, which was a new clutch at 150,000km. All other maintenance and repairs were just part of the deal. I still love that car and would never judge anyone who owns a Commodore.
Holden/HSV were really the only cars on my radar as a younger man. Big displacement, great sound and long-distance cruising/road trips. These cars were made for it and never disappointed (me anyway). I could easily cram five adults and luggage into my car and we could go anywhere. And I did. Many times. HSV was the next logical step… or so I thought.
It wasn’t until around 2010 that AMG moved from the periphery as a performance car that was out of my league and into focus as something I began to lust after. The W204 C63… we all know that car. The big displacement. The noise. The horsepower. That car really struck a chord with me.
When I finally saw one in the flesh though, it was smaller than I had anticipated. Sure, it was a beautiful car, but there wasn’t a whole lot of car for the money. Rear legroom and boot space wasn’t what I had expected. And, I had my SS. I love bigger cars and didn’t see the C63 as the same type of car.
Right about this time, the W212 E63 was popping up in magazines. It carried the same M156 V8 in the C63, but it had so much more in the way of interior real estate. These were rare where I was living. I had seen a few of the W211 E55/E63s on the road, so I had an idea of dimensions. The E63 was the car that I thought was right for me. Of course, I read the price in a magazine and gave up on that idea. But I never stopped dreaming.
Over the next few years, life changed, but the idea of one day owning an AMG didn’t. With marriage and dogs entering the equation, practicality moved up the list of things that mattered when it came to a car. The entire back seat of the Commodore was pretty much reserved for the dogs and the limitations of the sedan really became apparent when moving house.
It was also during this time that AMG started to adopt turbocharging on their bigger models, in particular, the E63. I was adamant that I was going to get one before the eventual demise of big displacement motors and began scouring the car ads religiously for an E63 Estate. Little did I know how rare they were.
I hit pay dirt in late 2015. A 2011 E63 Estate: check. M156: check. Black on black: check. This was the one. I was meant to have this car. Between the ad appearing online and me arriving home to discuss the car with the Minister of Finance, it was gone! I was crushed. But I hadn’t given up.
In late 2016, again scouring the online ads, another ping on the radar. A 2012 E63 Estate: check. Tenorite grey: umm… M157: a turbo? This wasn’t the one, was it? I had written off this newer motor, despite the reviews. Surely, it wasn’t as good. Surely it couldn’t sound like the AMG I’d wanted for so long? Knowing how quickly the last one disappeared, I got in touch with the dealer and organised a drive interstate to take a closer look.
It wasn’t particularly well cared for. There were a few dings in doors from careless (or reckless) children. A chipped windscreen. Some scratches in the paint and rear boot area, a few blemishes on the internal surfaces and a dodgy vinyl repair in the rear leather seat. I was immediately lowering the price in my head and my expectation when it came to the test drive. That all changed when I started the car up and left the driveway of the dealer.
Suffice to say, the test drive blew me away and the deal was done. I purchased the car and drove her home the very next week.
I’ve now been in possession of the wagon, which we’ve affectionately titled ‘Wanda’ for nine months, and have put on just over 13,000kms. Wanda is my only car and daily driver. I am totally infatuated with this car and thus far have had a good ownership experience. I’ve taken care of the dings, picked up a puncture and have experienced my first minor service cost. I’ve also had a nervous moment with what seemed like a pretty serious part failure, which I’ll get to.
What I like about Wanda…
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The torque and sound of this car is intoxicating. It is frighteningly fast for its size. I was never under any misconceptions about my previous car. I knew it was a powerful car, but it wasn’t a fast car. The E63 is both fast and powerful. A car this big should not move as fast as it does.
The limiting factor is traction. Despite the large 285 rears on Wanda, that’s sometimes just not enough. This car did not come with the PP (performance package) that included the LSD, but I don’t think it matters at all. The amount of power on tap has proven that even when an inside wheel has lost traction, the outside wheel is not far behind in following suit.
I have had the car come loose on me twice (once with traction control off… don’t do this!) and both times you wouldn’t know this car didn’t have an LSD.
The torque curve is sensational. You are in the pocket from 1500rpm and it just doesn’t let up as it pulls through the gears. Fuel economy is remarkable for such a big car. Wanda is my daily driver, but not having to contend with a long commute or Sydney traffic means I never really feel the pinch of stop/go/stop/go driving. On the open road, I’ve had this car down to 8.5L/100kms. Around town, it averages around 13L/100kms.
However, if you decide to wring the neck of the E63, it drinks like a sailor. I’ve had it showing 26L/100kms with some hard driving. That said, I challenge anyone to drive this car and not smile as you plant your right foot. It might not have the same sound as the M156 I wanted so badly, but it is by no means a letdown. I adore the sound of this car.
The size. This is a wonderful car to be on in a long haul. I’m not overly tall at 6 foot 1, but I love the headroom and legroom available to me in the front, without sacrificing any real estate for my rear passengers.
Add to that the front massaging seats (which I didn’t even know we had for the first four days) and you look forward to stretching the legs in this car. We drive regularly between Canberra and Sydney and being able to carry our dogs and luggage in the rear cargo section and still seat adults in the rear seats is one of the prime reasons for wanting this car for so long.
When we were moving house while in possession of Wanda, it completely changed my opinion of wagons. Being able to fold the rear seats flat and fit just about anything into the cargo section has been a blessing. No joke, I moved two queen size beds (not mattresses) in a single trip and didn’t have to play Tetris to make them fit.
Being able to transport items that I just couldn’t fit into my old car is a huge positive. A whole Christmas’ load of cardboard boxes for recycling was easily accounted for in a single trip to the tip. Visibility in the cabin is excellent and the dual panoramic sunroof really throws in the natural light and helps make the car feel even bigger on the inside.
The brakes and handling. There’s no mistaking or masking the size of this car when you’re driving it hard. It’s just short of 2000kg. You do get the feel of a little rollover on the front wheels, which is to be expected, but, you also get substantial grip.
The understeer is nowhere near what you’d expect for such a weighty car. No doubt the inclusion of the non-OEM Pirelli P-Zeros help in this regard, but tyres can only do so much. The ability to tip a big wagon into a corner and know you will come out the other side in a straight line is so satisfying.
The rear end squats down well when the car is placed into ‘Sport’ or ‘Sport+’ mode and it almost encourages you to push it harder on the next bend. The steering is a little light, but it never seems vague and you can place the car quickly and easily when it gets a little loose. Whenever you feel yourself being a little too overzealous, stand on the brakes and you will stop. It’s that simple.
I’d been in many hairy situations in my previous car where braking was a combination of dropping gears and using the engine as much as possible while hoping like hell you stop, but this is not the case with the E63. You can brake late and know that it will peel off speed almost as quickly as it generates it. For what this car is, a five-seater wagon that isn’t light on the scales, the brakes and handling are exceptional.
The rarity. I was trying to pin down numbers on sales of E63 Estates in Australia. There was a previous article I read online on the release of the facelifted W212 E63, stating that the Estate would not be making it to Australia. It indicated in this article that, between the years of 2009-2013, only five E63 Estates had been sold in Australia!
Knowing that the M157 only landed in Australia in January 2012, this places Wanda in an exclusive club. A friend said to me jokingly “you happen to own 20 per cent of the fleet in Australia”.
Not only do I like the rarity of Wanda, car people I meet on the street (mostly strangers) do too. Many often tell me that they “didn’t know it came in a wagon” or “this is the only one I’ve ever seen”.
Add to that the early non-facelifted look, with the sharp angular lines for the lights, the exposed chrome exhaust and bonnet trophy, I think it has a look that really distinguishes it from the later AMG models, all of which appear to be designed with the same end state in mind. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think Wanda is a real looker.
Further to that, Wanda is a colour I don’t think I ever would’ve chosen had I been in the position to order an E63 brand new. I’m a pretty boring person – black on black was my intention. That said, I love the colour of this car. It sometimes looks darker than it is when the clouds are overhead and it’s not a very common colour amongst the E63s I’ve seen on the road.
What I dislike about Wanda…
Comfort and road noise. I found this really difficult to admit, but the front seats are not that comfortable on long trips. I used to commute for work in my Commodore, travelling just under 600km a week up and down the Hume.
Maybe I’d developed an ‘ass groove’ in my previous car’s front seat, but the Commodore had more comfortable front seats – without a doubt.
The E63 has wonderfully supportive front seats, with almost unlimited options for adjusting the lumbar, height, tilt et cetera. But, no matter what I try, I can’t seem to find a comfortable setting for the long drive. After three hours in the car, I’m uncomfortable and it’s better to stop and stretch. The massaging function might sound like it can help here, but it really doesn’t make a difference.
Road noise is up there. Despite the wonderful ‘thunk’ you get when closing the door in the E63, there is still a bit of noise coming through at speed. This might be worsened by the choice of the Pirelli P-Zeros, or, it might just be the E63 as it is.
I’ve found that the suspension in Comfort mode really isn’t that comfortable. Sure, someone’s rolling their eyes reading this, saying “you bought a performance car, you should expect a little stiffness”. I can concede on this point. However, Comfort mode shouldn’t be called Comfort mode if that’s the case. The E63 does feel the bumps. I have dialled the suspension up to the hardest and you do really feel and expect to feel the bumps there, but not to the same degree when you dial things back to the softest setting.
Gadgets. I’m not a gadget guy. I lived with a bog-standard SS Commodore for 12 years and never felt like I needed anything more in the way of gadgets. Sure, cars have changed in that time. There are a lot of gadgets in the E63, some which I really, really appreciate, and some which I’d rather it not have.
One gadget in particular is the night vision mode. For those that haven’t seen/used it, it essentially allows you to view objects at night on poorly lit roads. But of course, the only way to see said objects is to take your eyes off the poorly lit road and stare at a screen in the centre console. I think it’s a gimmick and really doesn’t serve any purpose in the way of safety. In fact, I think it’s a dangerous distraction and would advise against using it.
It has a TV tuner in it, but that stops presenting any picture as soon as you start to move. It’s another gimmick that really serves no purpose for anyone in the front seats. Then, there’s the inevitable concern around the longevity of gadgets.
I experienced my first failure of the “ASSYST PLUS” feature in Wanda a few weeks ago. When cresting a hill with the distronic (radar assisted) cruise control engaged, Wanda suddenly disabled the feature and advised that it was inoperable. This also knocked out my blind-spot sensors in the rear of the car.
I hoped a simple reset (turn off the car, turn it back on) would resolve it. Not so. As there are really no moving parts with this system, there was nothing I could do to try and self-diagnose the issue, so I visited the local workshop that I trust. After a few hours with my local workshop, they referred me to the local Mercedes-Benz service dealer, as many of the codes being thrown by the computer were indicating a possible fault with the radar system.
It was suggested that a software update (which my local guys could not carry out) may shed further light on the issue. The last thing my local guy said was “just be prepared… these radar systems are obscenely expensive”.
You can imagine the gut wrenching feeling I had when dropping the car off for a diagnostic check. Thankfully, the issue was resolved with a “simple” re-calibration of the sensors and radar. Being unable to engage cruise control because the radar or sensors were misaligned really left a foul taste in my mouth. But, I guess this is the modern car.
Transmission. I came from a manual and am now driving an auto.
That in itself isn’t such a bad thing, as bouncing the clutch in traffic is never fun. But then, I’ve always found driving a manual so much fun when it came to connecting with the car. The automatic transmission in Wanda isn’t quite what I expected. I find that the car will sometimes ‘buck’ when taking off on low revs, i.e. not standing on the pedal.
This will happen in both first- and second-gear. This is a little disconcerting, and I’m sure it looks hilarious to the driver behind/beside me.
When using the ‘Stop/Start’ fuel-saving function, there is always a noticeable jerk from the transmission when you take your foot from the brake and move it to the go-pedal. From what I’ve read, these behaviours are not uncommon and just part of the experience.
The MCT that comes with the E63 is sluggish, particularly in Comfort mode. I do enjoy the change in behaviour when driving in Sport or, particularly Sport+, though driving it in ‘Manual’ mode doesn’t satisfy like you think it would.
The E63 does take time to change gears, even if you pull the next one before redline. You will find yourself bouncing the limiter in Manual mode if you’re not careful. I do like that you can hold the Down paddle and the transmission will select the best gear for overtaking. I tend to use this when dipping into a corner.
And the sound of the engine revving on the down shift is just delicious. Hold the Up paddle and the transmission will return to the regular automatic mode. I love the shape of the gear selector, but it does feel a little flimsy and it’s an odd experience in using it for the first time and explaining to your mates how to use it, as it’s not very intuitive at all.
I suppose I can’t really complain too much though, when you consider how much torque this transmission must cater for, it’s a very strong unit, but I think I expected more from such a premium brand.
Foot Brake. I hate this thing. Selecting Park on the transmission is strange enough with a little ‘P’ button near the gear selector, but then having to push a foot brake up on the inside of the foot well is not at all a premium solution in my mind.
And, although it has rubber mounts on the pedal, don’t step on them barefooted with any semblance of moisture on your feet. You’ll slip off and almost tear the webbing between your toes as you put your force into the pedal.
I can’t find any positive here. I would’ve thought that pressing the ‘P’ button near the gear selector would’ve electronically engaged the park brake. This was a big disappointment.
Wanda is my first Mercedes-Benz and I plan on keeping her for a long time. I simply love driving this car and if you are in the market for a W212 E63 Estate (or must “settle” for the sedan), I would highly recommend it.
It is such a Jekyll and Hyde car. A gentleman and a maniac, depending on what you want when you want it. Just put some money in the bank for your servicing and parts costs. We all know that all cars are money pits… it just depends on how deep you want to dig.