Cognitive dissonance is an interesting concept. According to a well-known internet-based information repository (read: Wikipedia) this psychological term refers to “the excessive mental stress and discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values at the same time.”
|Engine: 5.5L twin-turbo V8 makes 577 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. |
Transmission: An AMG-modified seven-speed automatic gearbox is standard.
Fuel Economy: 15 MPG city, 21 MPG highway, 17 average.
Pricing: Starts at $103,295. $113,675 as tested.
OK, that seems pretty logical. Someone might hate big corporations but still shop at Walmart, justifying this decision because it saves money. Make sense? Good.
What does any of this have to do with cars? Truthfully not a whole lot, but the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S-Model 4MATIC Wagon is a perfect example of something that just does not make any sense. It’s a prudent family vehicle with copious cargo space and comfy accommodations, but it brandishes nearly 600 horsepower. That does not make sense!
The phrase “bringing a knife to a gunfight” is a fancy way of saying you’re outclassed. It’s akin to racing for pink slips in a stock Geo Prism; like Mitt Romney’s presidential bid you’re destined to lose.
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Fortunately, this bad-boy Benz has the opposite problem; it’s massive overkill. The car is like eliminating mosquitoes in a forest by burning all the trees down, it’s like bathing in bleach to keep from getting sick or cracking walnuts with a wrecking ball. It’s totally awesome in the most over-the-top way possible.
The E63 S-Model Wagon accelerates with enough force to cause internal bleeding. The car is so fast it’s been known to collapse lungs and rupture spleens. According to Mercedes it can reach mile-a-minute speed in just seconds; terminal velocity is limited to 186 miles an hour.
Organ-bruising propulsion is provided by a 5.5-liter V8. Upping the ante, it brandishes a pair of turbochargers as well as direct fuel injection. Rivaling the thrust of a solid-fuel rocket, output totals an awe-inspiring 577 horses, but torque is even more impressive. Twist clocks in at 590 lb-ft.
Not that anyone’s going to buy this car for efficiency, but fuel economy numbers are still important. Accordingly, it stickers at 15 MPG in the city and 21 on the interstate. Combined it ought to deliver 18 MPG. Start-stop technology helps bolster those figures and it’s pretty seamless, unlike competing systems from other German luxury manufacturers, particularly ones headquartered in Munich, Bavaria…
Harnessing all of that scrumptious goodness is an AMG Speedshift MCT automatic transmission. It gives drivers seven ratios to play with. Interestingly it features a multi-plate wet clutch instead of a traditional torque converter. Supposedly this arrangement is better for both acceleration and fuel economy.
Ensuring every pony makes it to the pavement this wonder wagon is equipped with Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. It saves your bacon by keeping the car shiny-side up and it preserves tires by preventing the rears from going up in a cloud of acrid smoke. If you’re the curious type, 33 percent of available torque is routed to the front axle while the remaining 67 percent heads rearward.
Offering motorists plenty of choice over how the vehicle behaves, four selectable drive programs are available. They range from “Controlled Efficiency” for thrifty everyday motoring to “Sport,” “Sport+” and “Manual” for total control. Paddle shifters allow you to pick the gear you want.
Naturally a sport-tuned suspension is standard. Steel springs support the front end while load-leveling air bladders prop up the rear; the car’s dampers are electronically adjustable. Additionally, the brakes are suitably massive, with bright-red calipers clamping down on massive disks.
FEROCIOUS YET CAPACIOUS
But don’t let all of this ass-hauling performance blind you to the E63’s other virtues. This carbon fiber-lined sledgehammer is still a wagon and as such it’s got cargo space in spades, with capacity that comes close to small crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape.
Behind the second-row seat there’s an ample 29 cubic feet of volume. Fold that bench down and you get more than 57 cubes to load with any manner of junk. Hitting up garage sales this summer? No problem. The E-Class is up to any shopping challenge. Donating unnecessary items to the Salvation Army that you purchased at said garage sales? The E63 can handle that too.
SUMPTUOUS YET SUBTLE
Moving forward from this wagon’s storage compartment to its main cabin, passengers are treated to supremely comfortable front sport seats that are especially supportive. The already aggressive side bolsters can be brought in even more to help support those that are of the slender persuasion. Of course the back seats aren’t a bad place to sit, either. Two adults will fit in coach-class without much trouble, though three would be a bit of a squeeze.
The E63 AMG Wagon I evaluated featured a cabin dressed with optional designo Mystic Red Nappa leather. It’s soft to the hand and rich to the eye and forms a somewhat subtle contrast with the rest of the cabin, which is overwhelmingly black. The trimmings may have been upscale but regrettably some of the other parts weren’t quite as nice.
First of all, the cabin brings to mind a bathtub ring. There’s stitched leather running along the top of the dashboard and doors, but below this stuff the materials become considerably more run of the mill. They’re not cheap looking but juxtaposed to the beautiful cowhide they seem a little off.
And then there’s the gear selector; it looks like a total afterthought. You can almost hear engineers in Stuttgart late on a Friday when they were developing the car.
The gear selector looks absurd; it’s stumpy with a weird leather insert on top and a hole running clean through the side. There’s even a separate button for park, which is located next to the shifter.
It’d be better if they used a separate stalk like in the S-Class. It’s up on the steering column and out of the way, which would free up all kinds of space on the center console.
STURM UND DRANG
Despite wearing a pair of turbos, this car still rumbles like a proper V8. The engine provides so much thrust it practically makes you feel like an astronaut on takeoff. The only vehicle I recall driving that felt fleeter than this is the Porsche 911 Turbo S and that’s a proper sports car, not a station wagon.
Underway there’s nothing about the way this car behaves on the road that’s worth carping about. In typical AMG fashion it’s extremely well done and nicely dialed in. The steering has a direct, chunky feel to it but it’s not darty. The brake pedal is tight yet easy to modulate.
The ride is firm no matter which driving mode you use but it’s never brutal. It’s engaging but totally livable, which seems to be a recurring theme with the E63 AMG Wagon; it’s sporty yet functional, fast but easy to drive.
As for the transmission it’s probably the weakest part of the experience, if only just. The wet-clutch arrangement feels a little odd, kind of like a dual-clutch transmission. Sometimes there’s a slight slipping sensation at low speeds. It’s not as smooth as a torque-converter automatic but it’s hardly a problem; most people will never notice the difference
Of course the main attraction with this amusement-park ride is the acceleration; it’s just bonkers – again, zero to 60 in 3.6 seconds. Punch the gas and it hits back like an MMA cage fighter. Fortunately it can’t give you a broken nose or cauliflower ear.
WHAT’S IT WORTH?
In regards to pricing we hope you’re sitting down, or preferably crumpled in a ball on the floor. This car kicks off at $103,295 including destination and delivery fees. But our tester was a fair step up from there. It crossed the finish line with an out-the-door MSRP slightly less than $114,000. Options that swelled the sticker included Mercedes’ $2,800 driver-assistance package, an extra $500 for 19-inch, 10-spoke wheels, plus an additional $2,850 for carbon interior trimmings. But if your carbon-fiber fetish needs even more attention you can pay an extra $1,500 for an engine cover made from the material (naturally our car had this)!
The E63 AMG S-Model 4MATIC kicks the notion that station wagons are boring square in the teeth with a steel-toed boot. It’s three scoops of outrageous crammed into an Autobahn-proven kiddy cone. This thing is luxurious, sounds good and is scary fast, yet it’s spacious and practical enough for the whole family. No, it does not make any sense, but if this car is crazy then we want nothing to do with sanity.