Join Date: Nov 2004
First Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon
Pop quiz: Name the rarest model Mercedes-Benz sells. I'm thinking most of you hotshots will have answered SLS AMG Gullwing. Nope. A few of you might think it's one of the V-12-powered CL coupes, as Mercedes-Benz makes two, the CL600 and CL65 AMG. You'd be wrong. What about that new Black Series Coupe? Well, AMG is going build only around 1000 of those over the next year, which is about twice the number of E63 AMG Wagons to be constructed over the entire production run. We are talking exclusive -- Mercedes-speak for rare.
But is this wagon actually exclusive, or just a slow seller? Remember, Mercedes is in the process of "sunsetting" Maybach, not euthanizing it. As far as this wagon goes, you can't even walk into a dealer to buy one. No sir, the new E63 AMG, like the previous couple AMG wagons, is special-order only. Though, unlike the old E55 AMG Wagon, at least this one is on the Mercedes website.
Exclusive doesn't just mean small numbers. It can also mean only a few with select taste are interested. A Mercedes PR person once explained to me that the typical CL customer is a man between the ages of 50 and 60 who earns between $600,000 and $2 million a year. "Dang," I said (or something to that effect). "That's a pretty sweet demographic. That has to be your best, right?" Turns out, no -- there is a class of Mercedes customers that's even richer than those dudes, and the car they buy is the E-Class wagon. Guys with Ferraris and Bentleys like to buy Benz wagons for their wives and kids. The net worth of the people purchasing this here AMG version then, well...discretion is the better part of filthy rich.
But you don't need to be filthy rich to own one. Plain old regular-flavor rich will do just fine. Based on the E63 Sedan, the high-performance wagon version costs just $2600 more, starting at $94,075 including the $1700 guzzler tax. Expensive by any standard, sure, but you do get quite a bit of wagon for your money. Replacing the dearly departed M156 6.2-liter V-8 is AMG's new and still handbuilt M157, a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8 that creates more power and gets an AMG-claimed 25-percent-better fuel economy. The output numbers are more impressive still, as the new motivator churns out 518 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque in standard trim. Remember, a Corvette Z06 makes 505 hp and a Lamborghini Aventador makes 509 lb-ft of torque.
Broken record time, but we'll forever miss the crazed shrieks the naturally aspirated motor made. However, for a turbo motor, AMG figured out a way to make this one sound really good. Maybe the cargo area in the wagon acts as a resonator? For the sake of comparison, I should let you know that the last wagon's big block made 11 fewer horsepower (507 hp in 2009) and a wagonload less torque (465 lb-ft). Of course, there's something I'm not telling you about this engine. The Cuprite Brown E63 Wagon you see here stickers for $111,665, and $7300 worth of options pays for the P30 Performance Package. Via what's essentially a computer reflash--turbo boost is raised by a few pounds from 14.5 psi to 18.8 -- power jumps up to 550 hp and torque skyrockets yet again to an astonishing 590 lb-ft at just 2000 rpm.
As you can imagine, the E63 Wagon is fast. Laughably so. Ready for some silly numbers? Our testing team recorded a 0-60-mph time of 3.9 seconds. Again, a 4510-pound station wagon can hit 60 mph in less than 4 seconds. The quarter-mile time is equally baffling, happening in 12.2 seconds at 117.9 mph. Ridiculous, right? I mean, the 580-hp and 460-pounds-lighter Chevy Camaro ZL1 hits 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and runs the quarter mile 0.1 second quicker. However, the brown station wagon has a 1/2-mph trap speed advantage. In terms of actual competitors, the Porsche Panamera Turbo S hits 60 mph in a screaming 3.5 seconds and runs the quarter mile in 11.8 at 118 mph. Credit the Porsche's AWD. The E63 AMG does beat the Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon, its closest wagon competitor here in the States, though barely. The best numbers we've seen with the Caddy are 4.0 seconds to 60 mph and a 12.3-second quarter mile at 116.7 mph.
But here's what both the Porsche and the Cadillac are lacking: stealth. Unfortunately, the P30 package comes with red brake calipers, which is akin to spotting a tramp stamp tattoo when a woman bends over to pick up her kid. Why let anyone know anything? If this were my superwagon, I'd exercise the red-caliper delete option and figure out a way to get brown brake calipers behind those 19-inch forged-aluminum wheels, or whichever color looks the slowest.
Then I would debadge the car completely. If you can recognize the quad tailpipes, then you know what I'm driving. If not, you don't need to know. Or, to really go cloak and dagger, one could go the extra step and grab some E350 emblems and replace that Biturbo V-8 fender badge with 4matic. The total opposite of dudes who slap an M5 badge on their 528i. Always remember, the entire point of a Q-ship is that the enemy never sees you coming, and this wagon is very much the Q-ship.
The E63 AMG doesn't disappoint in the handling department, though it doesn't necessarily thrill, either. The great enemy of great handling is weight, and, at 4510 pounds, this wagon is definitely a plus-size model. But, as various other German super-sleds have shown us, weight can be overcome -- Porsche Cayenne Turbo/BMW X5 M, anyone? Still, you can feel the weight. The AMG returned a much more than respectable 25.2-second run around our figure-eight track, which is exactly the same as the Cadillac CTS-V Wagon. However, the Caddy generated a higher average g (one-hundredth more, 0.75 g versus the AMG's 0.74 g), meaning that the Mercedes Wagon kept the pace because of that reservoir of torque, not through superior road holding.
Ready to get really nitpicky? Then there's the transmission. Maybe I'm spending too much time around world-class dual-clutch transmissions like the PDK in the new Porsche 911, but the Mercedes' single, wet-clutch MCT seven-speed feels slower and slower all the time. Mercedes seems to be out of the manual transmission business altogether (save for a few taxi cabs), and while rumor has it AMG is working on a fast-shifting dual-clutch, (A) no one from Mercedes will confirm anything about it, and (B) this car doesn't have it. It's not that the MCT is bad. For a true automatic, it's exceptional. But unlike the engine and the superwagon itself, it's not special. And, frankly, seeing as this is Mercedes' most exclusive product, it should be.
I also cannot stand the mushy throttle response. The tuning of the throttle response is tied to the sportiness of the transmission mode, so when you start the car, the transmission/throttle defaults to C. You push the gas pedal and wait. Instead of a throttle cable, it feels like yarn. This phenomenon is especially exaggerated in reverse. Switch into S, and things are a little better, except that you lose the nifty stop/start gas-saving feature, as that only works when you're in C. But the throttle feels like one in a hybrid when left in C, so 90 percent of the time, I cruised around town in S, sucking down more gas than necessary. A small crime, admittedly, but still. Why can't I get sharp, quick throttle response, and stop/start? Now, as the numbers show, throttle response doesn't make a difference in measured performance. Rather, it's a feeling thing. Because if the throttle and transmission were as good as the rest of the car, the E63 AMG wouldn't just be the rarest car Mercedes-Benz makes--it would be the greatest. For now, that title rests with the epic SLS AMG. This here wagon will have to settle for second place in the three-pointed star pantheon.Next Page >>
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