Mercedes-AMG E63 Estate
"The Mercedes-AMG E63 Estate has all the appeal of the fearsome saloon model, with added practicality"
- Incredible performance
- Top-notch quality
- Huge boot
- Expensive to run
- 'S' model hard to justify
- Some safety features optional
The Mercedes-AMG E63 Estate made a big impression when the first version arrived almost a decade ago and the intervening years have seen a lot of changes to Mercedes' family-friendly dragster.
This latest version still faces competition from the Audi RS6 Avant estate, but to make sure it fights on even terms, the E63 and its even hotter E63 S stablemate now have 4MATIC four-wheel drive as standard, matching the Audi's quattro system in its promise of improved traction in wet weather and on poor roads.
While some may miss the tail-happy rear-wheel-drive antics of the previous model, the latest car is far easier to drive enthusiastically and there's no doubt it sends its power to the ground effectively. An output of 563bhp is enough for a 0-62mph time of just 3.5 seconds, while the 604bhp E63 S can dispatch with the same sprint in just 3.4 seconds, making this one estate that really is on nodding terms with supercars.
The E63 is more than just a fast, great-looking estate car, though – it also impresses in the way it cossets passengers when the pedal isn't to the metal. Like any other E-Class, it has a hi-tech interior with a glossy, expensive look, and occupants are treated to great comfort while being surrounded by high-class materials. There's stacks of luxury equipment fitted as standard and a bespoke front bumper, unique wheels and AMG body styling kit ensure your E63 will never be mistaken for a lesser E-Class Estate.
While the latest 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo engine uses less petrol than the previous engine, the E63 is still some way from being truly economical. However, overall fuel consumption of 30.1mpg is still creditable for a two-tonne car with such impressive performance. Other running costs will be substantial, though – you'll receive a £450 yearly road-tax bill, servicing will be quite costly and consumable parts such as tyres and brakes can be very expensive indeed.
In all other respects, the E63 offers the same package as any other E-Class Estate. That means one of the biggest boots in the business, loads of space inside and a generous roster of safety equipment, with more available optionally. The E-Class boasts a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and, although it didn't feature in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, the brand has a good reputation for reliability.
Owners of previous E63 Estates won't be disappointed by the new model, and anybody in the market for a spacious family estate car that can embarrass a Porsche 911 with its straight-line speed would be wise to check one out.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The decision to buy a car like a Mercedes-AMG E63 Estate isn't to be taken lightly. Although it resembles other models in the range, monthly running costs are deep into sports-car territory and you could feel it pinching your pocket with every mile you travel.
There's some good news in that its 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged engine is by some way the most fuel-efficient ever fitted to an E63, but some will still find 30.1mpg fuel consumption a bitter pill to swallow – and it's likely to drop rather a lot if you regularly make full use of all that power.
Doing that might also quickly introduce you to the next expensive part of AMG ownership: the replacement of wear and tear components. Things like tyres – and particularly brakes – can be very costly, and this is not a car where you can skimp on regular maintenance. Mercedes does offer service plans to help spread the cost and there's a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty.
With CO2 emissions of 199g/km, the E63 is not a machine that company-car users will relish paying tax on – it occupies the highest 37% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band. Private buyers will face expensive annual tax bills, too – as with all cars over £40,000, owners face a bill of £450 the first five times annual road tax is paid, falling to £140 from year six.
Engines, drive & performance
The E63 shares its Mercedes-AMG badge with the six-cylinder E43, but its V8 engine unlocks a whole new level of performance that the less expensive model can't hold a candle to. This has always been the case with Mercedes' most powerful estate car – it really can be seen as a supercar with split-folding rear seats.
Key to this is a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine. It's smaller than those in previous E63s, but you wouldn't know it to look at the list of vital statistics – there's 563bhp on tap, or 604bhp if you go for the even more unhinged E63 S model. That translates to 0-62mph times of 3.5 and 3.4 seconds respectively.
Both versions start with the same portentous rumble, which settles into a soft burble until you put your foot down – and if you choose the optional £1,000 AMG performance exhaust, the sound becomes ever more thunderous as the rev counter and speedometer needles race each other. Mercedes has even engineered the engine computer to produce evocative bangs and pops when you lift off the throttle.
This is a two-tonne estate car that encourages mischief behind the wheel, but whose handling is ultimately benign and easy to drive quickly while remaining safe. The steering response is immediate when you first turn into a corner and the E63 feels a lot more willing to work with you than an Audi RS6 Avant – while the Audi coolly responds to your inputs, the Mercedes goads you on with encouragement.
There's loads of scope to tailor the E63's responses, too. The driving modes (comfort, sport, sport+ and race) tweak the suspension, steering, gearbox and accelerator response to suit your mood and have enough variation between them to be worthwhile. What's more, despite huge alloy wheels with low-profile tyres, comfort mode is indeed comfortable when all you want to do is get home swiftly and without stress.
And, although the exhausts fire off menacing salvos when you're driving fast, the noise backs off at cruising speeds, where the E63 takes on a more relaxed persona.
Interior & comfort
We're big fans of the E-Class interior – it exudes much of the class and sophistication of the flagship Mercedes S-Class, combining classic, elegant lines and cutting-edge technology, and special AMG touches lend the E 63 a sporty ambience. There's a veritable stack of standard equipment, too.
All E63s boast Mercedes' excellent widescreen display, which creates the impression of a single full-width screen that runs halfway across the dashboard. The portion ahead of the driver incorporates a digital instrument panel that offers AMG-specific data such as engine and gearbox temperature as well as a lap timer. The second swathe of full-colour screen plays host to the COMAND infotainment display, with 3D mapping and online functionality.
The front seats are heated and power-adjustable with a memory function, while they and the steering wheel are richly upholstered in soft Nappa leather with AMG emblems. The upper section of the dashboard is trimmed to match with Nappa leather on the E63 S model and Mercedes' man-made Artico leather on the regular version. Similarly high-quality materials are found elsewhere inside – any plastic surfaces your fingertips encounter are either soft to the touch or made from heavy, resilient materials that feel built to last.
Other standard equipment includes power-folding mirrors, LED headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, 64-colour ambient lighting with a 'welcome' feature, DAB radio and two USB ports that support Android Auto and Apple Carplay.
At cruising speed it's also quiet enough inside the E63 to allow all this entertainment to be enjoyed – and although there's a bit of a roar from those huge tyres, comfort mode does a good job of smoothing out most road imperfections.
Practicality & boot space
E63 Estate buyers really can argue that their choice is justified by its practicality. The fastest E-Class loses almost nothing in terms of day-to-day usefulness compared to lesser models – it has the same 640-litre boot, which can be expanded to 1,820 litres when the rear seats aren't in use.
No estate car is more adept at carrying luggage than the E-Class, and a hands-free remote control boot lid adds to its convenience when the premium pack is chosen. Unlike other versions, though, the E63 can't be specified with a tow bar – Mercedes doesn't list the model as suitable for towing.
It's just as good at accommodating passengers as other versions, though. The luxurious leather-lined interior offers loads of space for the driver to remain comfortable even after long spells behind the wheel, while those in the back can relax with plenty of legroom. It's a relatively wide car, so front and rear-seat occupants enjoy generous shoulder room, while a higher roofline than the saloon means that headroom is plentiful, too.
There's loads of interior storage, too. Two 750ml drink containers can be held by the centre-console cupholders, with a generous centre compartment adjacent. The large glove box is air-conditioned to keep drinks and snacks cool, while rear-seat passengers have door bins and front seatback nets for oddments and magazines.
Reliability & safety
Too few owners of the Mercedes E-Class, from which the E63 was developed, participated in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey for it to be featured, but the Mercedes brand as a whole finished in a lacklustre 21st position out of 27 carmakers covered.
Reliability wasn't seen as a problem, though – owners regarded the brand as satisfactory in this regard, even though 15.2% reported at least one fault during the first year of ownership.
A car as specific in appeal as the E63 might inspire different customer views, though – while few will have any complaints on the engine, performance and handling fronts, owners will either condemn or praise its economy depending on whether it's evaluated from the perspective of family workhorse or five-door supercar – it's a car that fulfils both roles.
Safety is not a factor that gives rise to any concerns, though. The E63 boasts the same five-star Euro NCAP crash safety score as other models, with an enviable 95% score for adult occupancy protection and a similarly impressive 90% rating for child occupancy protection. Autonomous emergency braking is standard.
You can add a 'driving assistance plus package' with further autonomous features, such as active steering assistance, which will gently apply steering if the car senses you're drifting out of your lane. Active speed-limit assistance works with traffic-sign recognition to comply with prevailing speed limits when active cruise control is engaged, while evasive steering assistance will support you if it detects that you're reacting to avoid an obstacle ahead.
Price, value for money & options
The closest direct competitor to the Mercedes-AMG E63 Estate is the Audi RS6 Avant – and although its description as a muscle-bound large family estate car matches that of the Mercedes, it actually goes about its business in a rather different way. It's well worth testing both cars to see which take on the breed you prefer, although the RS6 can't match the E63 S when it comes to outright power and pace.
An all-new RS6 is expected soon, though, based on the next-generation Audi A6 Avant, and it'll likely pose an even greater challenge to the E63. With no sign of a BMW M5 Touring on the horizon, the RS6 and E63 have the category all to themselves, although the saloon versions of all three models are well worth considering if you want something outrageously fast with space for five, but don't need to carry big loads frequently.
When choosing an E63, the biggest decision involves whether to spend the extra £10,000 on the S version, which adds dynamic engine mounts, an electronic rear differential and red AMG-lettered brake calipers in place of the silver items on the standard car. It also adds 'AMG track pace' for Apple iPhone users – this enables lap times and driving videos to be recorded and analysed later. It also gives you that headline-grabbing 604bhp power output.
It's worth considering the AMG Driver's package, which includes an AMG driver training event, while also recalibrating the speed limiter for a top speed of 186mph. Carbon-ceramic brakes are also available for ultimate stopping power, at an eye-watering £6,995.
Other options available on both models include wireless charging at £250, a colour heads-up display for £825 and heated rear seats at £295. You can also choose a premium package that includes a panoramic roof, Burmester stereo and multibeam LED lighting for £2,595.