First drive review: 2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon packs supercar power and crossover space

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If you know, you know.

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon flies under the radar for most onlookers, though. It’s a wagon, so it’s probably a geeky family car, right? That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a 603-hp rocket with a box attached, a quick-accelerating, hard-braking, luxurious track car that works for the family. It may look nerdy at first, but it’s one of the coolest cars on the market.

My tester is especially cool with its killer Brilliant Blue Magno flat paint finish.

A few other exterior bits reveal this car is built for performance. The car is 1.1 inches wider than a standard E-Class, with wheel arches stretched to fit fat 265 mm front and 295 mm rear tires. This car has also an optional carbon-fiber package with a woven front splitter, rear bumper insert, and side sills, and it’s also outfitted with an optional gloss black rear diffuser. Those kinds of aero components don’t don the typical family wagon.

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

The hand-built, twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 that lurks under the hood seals the deal that this isn’t your mom’s grocery getter. With a pair of turbos in the “hot V” between the cylinder heads to give the 18.9 psi of turbo boost a shorter path to the combustion chambers, it conjures 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque.

The V-8 is much like the car itself. It fires up with a subtle roar and stays low key as long as the car is in Comfort mode and I don’t go too deep into the throttle. Put it in Sport, Sport+, or Race, however, and the V-8 barks during acceleration, spits between gears, and rockets the car forward to the tune of a 3.4-second 0-60 mph time. It stays on boil to push this big box on wheels all the way to 180 mph.

The power hits the pavement efficiently, too, thanks to a quick-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission, standard all-wheel drive, and wide, sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. The AWD system sends the power to the rear wheels unless it’s needed elsewhere, like during a 0-60 mph blast, and it has a setting for a drift mode. How can you not love a 603-hp station wagon with a drift mode?

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

The car’s big shoes are another telltale sign that this is no family wagon, and so are the gold calipers that peak out behind the AMG forged cross-spoke wheels. They clamp down on large but light carbon-ceramic brake rotors that measure 15.8 inches up front and 14.2 inches out back. They’re a hefty $8,950 option, but even the standard brakes have 15.4-inch front rotors. The carbon-ceramics squeak while braking in the city, but they also provide confident, track-ready stopping power to haul this 4,725-lb wagon down from the big speeds it can build. The standard brakes should do the trick for all but track duty, where few wagon buyers will ever go.

The suspension can handle track use as well, but it provides a comfortable ride on the street. It’s a three-chamber air suspension with adaptive dampers and three levels of firmness. The air springs automatically tighten up to counteract body lean in turns and when stopping, and the dampers vary the ride between everyday comfortable and just a little too firm. It’s a pleasure to commute in this car, and once again Comfort mode keeps the capability on the down low.

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S wagon

But even as a docile daily driver, the E63 S wagon’s sharp steering satisfies, especially given how quickly the big car reacts to my inputs. With variable ratios and three levels of assist, it’s a bit too light in its base setting, but it firms up nicely in other modes and the ratio gets quicker the more I turn the wheel. That makes parking lot maneuvers easier and helps the wagon handle tight switchbacks like a smaller car. 

Inside, the E63 S wagon combines luxury, space, technology, and sportiness. The $1,320 active multicontour seats in my tester have a massage function, as well as heating and cooling. The Titanium Grey and Black nappa leather upholstery is set off by yellow stitching and piping, which interacts with the purple ambient lighting and glossy carbon-fiber trim to create a lovely effect. The tech comes in the form of dual 12.3-inch screens under a single piece of glass, one a digital instrument cluster, and the other the infotainment screen.

That’s the tale told up front. The back is a family story. The rear seat is wide enough for three across, and the car has 35.0 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and 64.0 cubic feet with those seats folded flat. That’s about five cubic feet more than the Mazda CX-5 in both dimensions, and with a lower liftover height that makes it easier to use.

Unfortunately, all this power, performance, luxury, and space comes at a steep price. The E63 S wagon starts at $113,500, and the options on this tester bring the total to $142,100. That’s a lot to pay for any car, let alone one that looks like a sleeper. If I had the means, though, it would be my daily driver…because I know.

Mercedes-Benz provided a one-week loan of its performance wagon for Motor Authority to bring you this first hand report.

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