Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: May 10, 2021
Wagons are rare in Canada, sport wagons even more so. Fortunately, we have been blessed by a few rare apples. We recently reviewed the Audi RS 6 Avant, and reported it to be one of the most well-rounded V8 wagons on sale despite its soft and supple approach to delivering performance. The Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo is another German wagon that learned how to swim, dishing out uber straight line speed mixed with exquisite build quality. But there’s one wagon that’s been in the fight longer than the rest, the E 63 AMG Wagon, and it just so happens to be the most savage, exciting, and emotionally-driven longroof on this side of the pond.
The E 63 Wagon has always been one of our favourite, performance-focused, family haulers, not just for its sleeper and unassuming looks that fly under the radar, but also for its sharp handling, excellent cabin packaging, and thrilling exhaust note. We reviewed it back in 2018, and even thrashed it around an icy racetrack in 2020, but now we’re testing the refreshed 2021 model.
Doused with updated sheetmetal that includes a deep front apron and domed creases on the hood, the E 63 is the last AMG to receive the Panamericana vertical-slat front grill. It appears striking in person - photographs don’t seem to do it justice - and offers a great deal of road presence, but it doesn’t help that the E 53 also receives the same grill, making them difficult to distinguish. New headlights and taillights that now extend into the trunk lid, wider wheel arches to accompany the wider track and more aerodynamic 20-inch wheels, and new paint colours such as Graphite Grey, High-Tech Silver, and Brilliant Magno Blue, round up the aesthetic revisions.
New grill aside, something about those softer and slimmer headlights give the E 63 a less distinctive look. It appears less muscular and less imposing than the outgoing model. Being draped in Obsidian Black with the optional Night Package like our test vehicle was, does give it some darkened, upscale vibes, but the RS 6 Avant still has our vote for the best looking performance wagon on North American soil.
The interior is mostly carried over, from the dual widescreen setup housed within the floating dashboard panel, and trackpad unit with dedicated buttons flanking both sides, to the small and limited cubby beneath the center stack cover. The only significant change is the steering wheel. By the heavens, leave it to AMG to design the most gorgeous wheels in the business. BMW could learn a thing or two. Four vertical spokes run left to right and look spectacularly upscale, each housing haptic feedback buttons with grooves so there isn’t any ambiguity left on the table. It works well, as do the chunky paddle shifters flanking from behind.
Like the previous AMG wheel, there are two circular dials budding out the lower spokes. The right dial controls the driving mode, while the left can be configured to activate the exhaust, suspension settings, traction control, and auto start/stop feature. Handy when you need some performance in a pinch. We’ve mildly criticized these dials before for being somewhat low-rent and plasticky, and that criticism continues here. Of course, most people won’t notice that there is considerable flex when the dials are pushed, or the squeaky noise that accompanies it like a Hasbro action figure, especially when the driver is focused on the road ahead, but we do, and we wish they were mounted and secured better like Porsche’s wheel. We’re being nitpicky at this point because there really isn’t much else to fault with this Mercedes’ impeccable interior.
There is excellent seat room all around, and one of the biggest advantages of a longroof wagon is rear seat headroom. My six-foot figure has no issues sitting in any one of the five available thrones, and there’s plenty of cargo room to boot, more than both the rivaling RS 6 Avant and Panamera Sport Turismo.
Power remains unchanged for 2021. Canada only receives the top-tier S model, which means a hand-built 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that produces a prodigious 603 hp and 627 lb-ft, with a 9-speed automatic sending it to all four wheels via a rear-biased, fully variable all-wheel drive system. None of that EQ Boost mild-hybrid trickery here. Just pure muscle.
0-100 km/h comes in a swift 3.5 seconds, just one-tenths of a second slower than the Sedan and the BMW M5. That’s supercar-like acceleration. Don’t believe us? The E 63 is only two-tenths of a second off the lighter, smaller, and more nimble Lamborghini Huracan EVO RWD (3.3 s) we recently tested. It can also outrun AMG’s own halo sports car, the AMG GT R (3.6 s). In addition, the E 63 carries over its dynamic engine mounts, Drift Mode that disconnects the front axle, adjustable air suspension. and cylinder deactivation that cuts off an entire cylinder bank when under light power loads between 1,000 to 3,250 rpm, to save fuel.
Out on the open road, you will be hard pressed to make full use of the E 63’s exemplary performance output. The V8 produces wicked acceleration, just as a chariot with over 600 horses should, and matches that ferocity with the sure-footedness that only an AWD setup with sticky Pirelli P Zero tires could provide. With lightning quick gear shifts and boatloads of low-end torque, the E 63 manages to feel light on its feet despite being one of the heaviest in the segment, and demonstrates a sense of athleticism that the more compliant and friendlier Audi just can’t match.
Due to customer feedback and even our previous reports of the E 63’s harsh and punishing ride at low speeds, AMG admits they have softened the suspension. But it’s still quite stiff, and we honestly can’t detect much of a difference with the outgoing model in terms of road comfort. There is still a heavy dose of underlying firmness that jitters the spine when the dampers bottom out. The E 63 remains taut, steady, and well-controlled, but it can’t help but hug and explore every crevice in the pavement. Great for trips on smooth highways. Not so great for backroad excursions. Might want to stick with the RS 6 Avant or even the more lax and off-road focused E 450 All-Terrain Wagon if comfort remains a top priority.
The positive tradeoff to this taxing ride is the handling. The E 63 is one of the most remarkably satisfying cars to drive, not just for a wagon, but for cars in general. It’s longer than a Honda Accord yet it corners like a Civic Type R with an ecstatic rear end. You can add heaps of throttle mid-corner without fearing loss of traction, as the clever stability and traction control system keeps the safety margins wide and your pride in check, cutting when it’s too much, and letting power through when there’s room for error. It’s a delicate combination of both mechanical and electronic brilliance, rewarding drivers of all skill levels.
Is it just us or is the exhaust slightly quieter than the previous E 63? Either that or there is more cabin insulation. It doesn’t help that the driver’s seat is so far away from the rear exhausts either with so much leather, carbon, and aluminum in between. Still sounds wicked from the outside, like its towing its own thunderstorm, and subsequently fills in that sonic gap left by the underwhelming V8 vocals of the RS 6.
Despite being deprived of forbidden wagons like the BMW M3 Touring, Subaru Levorg STI, and Jaguar XF Sportbrake, Canadian car enthusiasts are still lucky to have a few ballistic missiles to choose from. The E 63 S is simply one of the wildest wagons we’ve ever driven. It’s as quick as a supercar and matches its performance claims with high-grade dynamic acuity. While the AMG easily turns a daily commute into a daily escape, the ride is still jarring and not quite as composed and comfortable as the RS 6, but it delivers spades in all other departments, from the wicked exhaust and finely crafted interior, to the imposing new grill. We still aren’t sold on the E 63’s softer exterior elements but they do successfully augment its sleeper looks. And isn’t that what sport wagons are all about?
Model: 2021 Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+ Wagon
Paint Type: Obsidian Black
Base Price: $127,900
Price as Tested: $140,650
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,996 / 1,872 (without mirrors) / 1,474
Curb weight (kg): 2,143
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8
Horsepower: 603 hp @ 5,750 - 6,500 rpm
Torque: 627 lb-ft @ 2,500 - 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 15.1
Tires: Pirelli P Zero; 265/35R20 front; 295/30R20 rear