The 2018 Mercedes-AMG E63S wagon is not a throwback to the classic hot-rod family haulers of the past. And, thanks to the latest Porsche Panamera, it’s not even the most powerful wagon on the market today. It is a fully-realized, technologically-advanced, five-person-and-tons-of-gear yacht-rocket that can tackle a racetrack and a road trip with equal ease. All you need is $108,000 to spend on such a thing. Actually, if you do plan to take it to the track, you want the $9,000 optional carbon ceramic brakes. Still, for a scant $117,000, this rip-roaring all-wheel-drive wagon can be yours.
Let’s start with the boosted, psychopathic gorilla under the hood. The old 6.2-liter V8, which Mercedes called a 6.3-liter, was one of the best engines in the production car world during its years of service. The naturally aspirated 6,208-cc motor produced more than 500 hp and a NASCAR Cup car soundtrack wherever it went. But this 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged powerplant delivers more power more efficiently and still sounds 85 percent as good as the old M156.
Max torque is reached at 2,500 rpm. That means that when you’re coming off turn 23 onto the longest straight of the 3.15-mile NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, you’ll have the full 627 lb-ft of torque delivered to which ever wheels the Mercedes AWD system (now called 4Matic Plus) and electronically controlled limited-slip differential sees fit.
The E63S uses a nine-speed multi-clutch autmatic. In addition to a torque-converter, Mercedes uses extra clutches to help keep the power coming, even as gear changes occur. It works. Instead of feeling: accelration, pause, acceleration. it just shoves your stomach back into your vertebrae and keeps it there until you let off the pedal or the next turn comes up. And the V8 roar, while not the 6.2-liter’s equal, is up there with the LT1s and Hellcats of the world.
The afternoon at NCM started with varying amounts of rain, from sprinkles to short heavy bursts. Here, the advantages of a 4,700-pound land-yacht-rocket—I’m trying to make that a thing—became apparent. With all-wheel drive, now fully variable (an electromechanically controlled coupling connects the permanently driven rear axle variably to the front axle), and those wide and sticky 265/30 front, 295/30 20-inch rear tires, the E63S wagon can still put lots of power down in the rain.
Likewise, the wagon scrubs speed without a problem. Granted these weren’t emergency panic stops, more planned and progressive. But the optional 15.8-inch front, 14.2-inch rear ceramic discs hauled this wagon to a stop swiftly in both wet and dry conditions (that’s after warming them up with a few stops). I would have liked the brake pedal to grab higher in the stroke—I always do—but it felt like an appropriate amount of effort was necessary over a few inches of pedal travel. Even when I thought I overshot a brake zone, I actually had stopping power to spare.