If you remember when the station wagon was the quintessential American family car, congratulations—you’ve been around for a while. That means you’ve seen wagons all but disappear from the nation’s driveways over the years and then more recently reappear in smaller numbers dressed like SUVs, with plastic body cladding and jacked-up suspensions. But that fate has not befallen the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S wagon, which remains a low-riding, sticky-tired, 603-hp raised middle finger to the current faux-SUV wagon trend.
AMG’s E63 S wagon is a family hauler from hell that can blaze down a twisty road like a supercar yet handle any domestic task you throw at it. Schlep the kids to school? Done. Pick up lawn fertilizer from Lowe’s? No problem. Dust a new Mustang GT500 to 60 mph? Hold my Starbucks. How could we not love this car?
For the record, Mercedes has caved to the public’s predilection for SUV-styled wagons with the 2021 E450 All-Terrain. But the company also has a long history of offering E-class wagons that have been hot-rodded by AMG. The current-generation E63 S wagon first arrived for the 2018 model year. For 2021, it’s undergone a mild update along with the rest of the E-class lineup.
Only a few things about the E63 S have changed with the refresh, which we and lead-footed moms and dads everywhere should be thankful for, given how exciting this car already was. Remember that the E-class’s platform undergirds AMG’s gut-punching GT63 S four-door coupe, so the wagon has some serious performance chops.
The hardware that supplies the thrills is virtually unchanged from last year’s model. The E63 S is powered by a familiar 603-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8, which sends its 627 pound-feet of torque through an AMG-tuned nine-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system. The wagon rides on standard air springs and adaptive dampers and grabs the pavement with 20-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires, sized 265/35R-20 in front and 295/30R-20 at the rear. There are five conventional driving modes—Comfort, Sport, Sport +, Individual, and Race—plus a Drift mode that disconnects the front axle and directs the power solely to the rear tires, enabling lurid powerslides suitable only for locations far from public roads. Top speed is electronically limited to a claimed 180 mph.
The most obvious changes for 2021 are a new front fascia and toothy AMG GT-like grille. Mercedes’s latest MBUX infotainment system also has been added, as has a new AMG sport steering wheel. None of these updates alters the E63 S’s racy feel or awesome performance. It flashes to 60 mph in just 3.0 seconds, shoots through the quarter-mile in 11.1 seconds at 122 mph, circles the skidpad with 1.00 g of grip, and stops from 70 mph in 150 feet.
Better still, all of that performance is easily accessible and contained within a car that’s refined enough to drive every day. It takes only a couple of button pushes to access the launch-control system for eye-widening takeoffs. Hold the right pedal down and the V-8’s exhaust note cuts with buzzsaw intensity as it approaches its 7000-rpm redline. Ride quality is almost supple with the suspension in Comfort mode, although the big Michelins do clomp solidly over pavement seams. We liked driving the E63 S best in Sport, where its clipped ride motions seem in perfect synch with the sharp, weighty steering and responsive carbon-ceramic brakes, which were an $8950 option on our test car. The E63 S wagon’s spectacular bandwidth—its ability to both effortlessly haul ass and comfortably haul the family—means it remains solidly competitive with the two other mega-performance wagons on the market, the Audi RS6 Avant and the Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo. Sadly, the AMG version nixes the third row of seats found in the E450 All-Terrain, but its 35 cubic feet of cargo space does make it highly versatile.
If only we felt as enthusiastic about the updates made to the E-class’s richly appointed cabin. The latest MBUX system is complicated, and its multi-layered menus enable you to control almost too much of the in-car experience—ranging from the intensity of the front-seat massage function to the instrument cluster graphics to whether it will remind you to call your mom every Tuesday on your commute home. We’re not kidding about that last one, which is at least a feature that can be shut off. The system also contains AMG-specific gauge displays and a performance data logger.
MBUX allows you to control all of this information in multiple ways, including through the large touchscreen in the center of the dashboard and via the center-console touchpad. You also can use the numerous controls on the new-for-2021 AMG steering wheel, the four-spoke design of which reminds of a double-neck electric guitar, only the wheel is even more of a handful to use. The wheel’s spokes are packed with small switches and a pair of tiny touchpads that together operate the adaptive cruise control, gauge displays, and the central touchscreen. Two cheap-feeling plastic knobs below the spokes control the drive modes. There’s nothing wrong with how those knobs operate, but we found the spoke-mounted touchpads to be fussy and overly sensitive when swiping to adjust even minor things like the info screen in the cluster or the radio station. A car as driver centric as this deserves a more user-friendly setup.
Prices for the E63 S wagon start at $113,445. Our test car, with its optional carbon brakes, massaging front seats, blackened exterior trim, Driver Assistance package, adaptive headlamps, and several lesser extras, came to $139,205. While it isn’t cheap, we think moms and dads should consider that price as an opportunity to improve their family’s finances. After all, purchasing an E63 S wagon saves you from needing to buy both a supercar and something more practical, like an SUV. With AMG’s long-roof E-class, you get both cars in one.
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