Sedan or wagon? We flog both mercilessly to help you decide
When it comes to super-swift, continent-carving executive transporters, the E 63 S is currently Daimler AG’s best foot forward. Sure, you can spend more and get more space and power in an S 63 or S 65, but the E will outrun them both—at the dragstrip and around the Nürburgring. And if you’re thinking the same engine will be hotter in the smaller C 63 S, sorry. Cramming it into that tight spot costs it 100 horses, 111 lb-ft, and 4Matic traction. The forthcoming AMG GT 63 S 4-Door will offer 27 more horsepower and 37 additional lb-ft, but with less headroom. So for now the burning question is: AMG E 63 S sedan or wagon?
To answer objectively, we strapped on our test gear and ventured to Corvette land—Bowling Green, Kentucky—to flog sedans and wagons mercilessly for an entire morning. The 3.15-mile (5-km) Grand Course at the National Corvette Museum’s NCM Motorsports Park features a technically challenging collection of 23 turns, many with interesting elevation changes.
Let’s start out with a review of the basics: The mechanically identical cars employ AMG’s M177 4.0-liter hot-V twin-turbo V-8 with a 603-hp, 627-lb-ft state of tune. Torque flows through AMG’s Speedshift MCT nine-speed automatic to the latest Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system, which can vary the front torque split between 0 and 50 percent. It even has a drift mode.
Our dragstrip results indicate car-to-car variation that caught our sedan’s engine on a lazy day, though our wagon’s was fully caffeinated: 0 to 60 mph took 3.2 seconds in the former, 3.0 in the latter. In the quarter mile, the wagon nipped the sedan by a tenth: 11.2 seconds at 125.1 mph (201.3 km/h) to the sedan’s 11.3 at 124.2 (200 km/h). (By comparison, the outgoing 5.5-liter twin-turbo E 63 sedan ran to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds and through the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds at 121.8 mph (196 km/h), with the wagon a tick behind.) The new wagon’s rear weight bias might have helped it outbrake the sedan in 105 feet versus 116 from 60 mph. The sedan’s 108-pound (49-kg) weight advantage no doubt helped it outcorner the wagon on the skidpad—0.99 g to 0.96 g—and on our figure-eight course, with 23.6 seconds at 0.88 g average versus 24.1 seconds at 0.84 g.
A fresh fleet of three sedans and two wagons await us at NCM. I start off in the sedan doing lead-follow laps behind brand ambassador and IMSA GT champ Tommy Kendall driving an AMG GT R. We are again emphatically discouraged from engaging Race mode and its RWD-only drift setting. However, we discover that the variable torque distribution and the electronic variable locking diff mean that even in Sport+ mode, the tail can be teased out with relative ease and safety. It’s been 14 months since my early track drive of BMW’s M5, but this car triggers all the same track-attack pleasure centers, despite weighing about 300 pounds (136 kg) more (roughly a half pound per horsepower). Both cars feature stupendous brakes for managing corner entry and adroit all-wheel torque distribution to handle the exits, leaning on myriad electronic aids devised to convincingly trick mere mortals into believing they can drive like their racing idols.
I jump directly into a wagon, and two things become immediately clear: Its weightier caboose further eases the task of cornering with a few degrees of chassis rotation, and that glass-lined echo chamber in back is a million times more effective than any electro-“symposer” at mildly amplifying and enhancing the engine’s already glorious exhaust note. The propensity to wag its tail is key, because folks, when the autonomodrones have forced every vehicle like this onto pricey car’ntry clubs, we driving enthusiasts will tell our grandkids that the greatest joy in driving was the controlled drift.
This wagon delivers that exquisite joy more abundantly than the sedan. In fact, when heading down into the Sinkhole (an off-camber, diving right-hander), my co-driver gets the wagon loose enough to send Fräulein Säfety Nänny into full OMG-We’re-Gonna-Crash mode—tightened seatbelts, passenger-seat slide-back, and her latest trick: Pre-Safe Sound. This momentary blast of pink noise (imagine loud radio static) triggers the stapedius muscles in the ear to contract to protect the inner ear from the high acoustic pressures of a wreck with airbag deployment. Our bags do not deploy.
During my sessions riding shotgun, I play with AMG’s latest track-mapping and lap-timing app, which can store lap times and segment times, displaying them in the right instrument cluster gauge and/or the central display screen. It also keeps track of whether you’re running quicker or slower on various sections of the track by highlighting the elapsed time in a bright red or green box that your peripheral vision can pick up. This is great for experimenting with different lines through the trickiest corners.
Toward the end of eight sessions of five laps each on a 97-degree track, Kendall senses we’ve learned the line. So he turns up the wick, letting us really rip around the big course, even as our Pilot Sport 4S tires begin self-reporting temperatures topping 200 degrees on the tire monitoring screen. Now I’m even oversteering on the cool-down lap, and I’ve cemented the wagon as my choice between the two variants. If you need further convincing, consider exclusivity. Mercedes sells some 3,000 E-Class Wagons per year, about 10 percent of which get the AMG treatment. That’s approaching the number of GTC4Lusso wagons Ferrari sends here. (That should also help put the AMG wagon’s $107,945 USD price into perspective.)
|2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 S||Sedan||Wagon|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$145,160||$140,820|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||4.0L/603-hp/627-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8||4.0L/603-hp/627-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||9-speed automatic||9-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,581 lb (55/45%)||4,689 lb (54/46%)|
|WHEELBASE||115.7 in||115.7 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||196.4 x 75.1 x 56.6 in||197.1 x 75.1 x 58.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.2 sec||3.0 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||11.3 sec @ 124.2 mph||11.2 sec @ 125.1 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||116 ft||105 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.99 g (avg)||0.96 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||23.6 sec @ 0.88 g (avg)||24.1 sec @ 0.84 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||15/22/18 mpg||16/22/18 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||225/153 kW-hrs/100 miles||211/153 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.11 lb/mile||1.06 lb/mile|
Wagon or SUV?
Obviously, the sheeple that comprise the majority of the car-buying public will provide an overwhelming answer to that question: SUV. In fact, Mercedes offers two versions of the AMG GLE 63 S: normal SUV and quirky-looking cargo-compromised Coupe. But you, the car cognoscenti, should know that there’s an even better reason why the wagon should be the superfast cargo-schlepper of choice this year: The GLE doesn’t get a refresh until 2020, and between now and then the SUV variants soldier on with the now superseded 5.5-liter twin-turbo M157 V-8. Bigger is not better, meaning the utes must make do with 26 fewer horses and 50 fewer lb-ft of twist. Check out the test results comparing an AMG GLE 63 S Coupe with our wagon, below. Big difference! Yes, there’s a bit more passenger and cargo space in the GLE SUV than in the wagon, but let’s face it: If you’re popping for the 63 engine, you want max on-road performance, and the wagon runs rings around those taller, even heavier utes.
|2018 Mercedes-AMG Haulers||E 63 S Wagon||GLE 63 S Coupe 4Matic|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$140,820||$114,340|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||4.0L/603-hp/627-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8||5.5L/577-hp/561-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||9-speed automatic||7-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,689 lb (54/46%)||5,359 lb (54/46%)|
|WHEELBASE||115.7 in||114.8 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||197.1 x 75.1 x 58.0 in||192.6 x 78.9 x 67.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.0 sec||3.9 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||11.2 sec @ 125.1 mph||12.5 sec @ 110.5 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||105 ft||112 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.96 g (avg)||0.93 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||24.1 sec @ 0.84 g (avg)||25.2 sec @ 0.77 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||16/22/18 mpg||14/18/15 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||211/153 kW-hrs/100 miles||241/187 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.06 lb/mile||1.25 lb/mile|