2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon first drive review: Save the unicorns!

There aren't many sporty wagons left for American buyers. Fortunately, only the strong survived.

Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
  • North American Car, Truck and SUV of the Year (NACTOY) Awards Juror
Antuan Goodwin
5 min read

The best version of Mercedes-AMG's uber  is back and mostly better than ever. Meet the 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon. It's packing more than 600 horsepower and all-wheel drive. It handles like a dream while boasting more cargo space than many SUVs. And, in my example's Pure Blue Magno satin-finish paint, it's a damn-near-perfect super-sport wagon.

For 2021, Mercedes' hottest E-Class wagon gets a touch of rhinoplasty with a restyled front bumper and splitter, as well as tweaks to the AMG-specific grille. The LED headlamps also receive the same reshaping seen throughout the 2021 E-Class lineup.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon is a beautiful blue beast

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Aside from a selection of new paint colors, the rest of the E63 estate's body is largely untouched. The new hues include Graphite Grey metallic, Cirrus Silver metallic and my personal favorite, Designo Brilliant Blue Magno with its satin finish. The semi-matte paint requires a bit more care when detailing, but the look is totally worth it.

The 197.1-inch long E63 boasts 35 cubic feet of cargo capacity with its rear seats upright, expanding to around 64 cubes when folded flat. From the driver's seat and second row, the head, shoulder and legroom are all about identical to (and as spacious as) that of the AMG E63 sedan I tested last year.

The whole kit rides atop staggered 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 265/35ZR20 front and 295/30ZR20 rear Pirelli tires. A revised AMG Sport Suspension with Air Body Control dampers has settings for Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Track. Interestingly, while the ride gets noticeably more responsive between the various modes, it doesn't feel any more harsh. I'm able to ride around comfortably in Sport Plus all day long, even over some of the more poorly maintained road surfaces in my area. 

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic+ Wagon

At night, the E-Class' leather and carbon fiber are highlighted by customizable ambient lighting.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Luxurious appointments meet motorsport-inspired style in the E63's cabin. My example mates new Titanium Grey Nappa leather upholstery with optional AMG carbon fiber trim, punctuated with contrasting yellow stitching by day and an extensive and customizable ambient lighting system by night. 

Ahead of the driver's seat is a new AMG Sport steering wheel with a split-spoke layout. I love the suede texture and flat-bottom hoop design, and I especially enjoy the new AMG Drive Unit controls. These two OLED pods live at the wheel's 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock positions. You can twist the right ring to quickly select one of the E63's drive modes -- Snow, Individual, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Track -- and customize the left with toggles for a variety of vehicle systems, including suspension settings, transmission modes, stability control programming, performance exhaust sound and more.

I'm not a fan of the new capacitive infotainment thumb controls, which fellow Roadshow editor Steven Ewing also complained about during his time with the E450 All-Terrain. These capacitive pads on the wheel's left and right spokes allow drivers to swipe and tap to control the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and the MBUX infotainment system without letting go of the wheel. The resized touchable areas are now much smaller than before to accommodate the wheel's split-spoke design. This can make it difficult to perform precise inputs and often detects vertical swipes when I'm trying to go horizontal. It's frustrating, especially since I'm a huge fan of the old, larger thumb pads. You'll surely get the hang of it after a while, but I didn't fall in love with this detail during my few days of testing.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic+ Wagon

Drivers are able to customize the sport wagon's performance while keeping hands on the wheel with the new OLED AMG Drive Unit selectors.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Fortunately, I'm spoiled for choice with ways to interact with the MBUX infotainment system. Aside from the thumb pads, there's the large haptic touch pad on the center console. The 12.3-inch main display itself is also touch sensitive with a proximity sensor that enlarges the home screen icon you're about to select when it detects your hand approaching. Finally, there's the "Hey, Mercedes" voice command suite. The hotword detection seems to have improved since my last go with MBUX, with not a single false positive detection during the entire week of testing.

As a whole, the new MBUX tech is a great improvement over the E-Class' old COMAND system, with excellent augmented reality navigation, standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a menu structure that, while complex, is smartly organized. I'd recommend you get acquainted with programming commonly accessed features to the favorites menu and setting up some themes before hitting the road. MBUX also has AMG Performance and AMG Track Pace pages for monitoring vehicle performance data and saving race track maps, lap times and more.

Finally, my E63 tester features a full suite of Mercedes' driver-assistance technologies including full-speed adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go assist, a remarkably subtle lane-keeping steering assist system with lane-change assist, automatic emergency braking assist, blind-spot monitoring and more. New for 2021 is a Parking Package which adds surround-view cameras to aid with precision parking.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic+ Wagon

I know why you're really here and don't worry, the 603-horsepower biturbo V8 is just as sweet as ever. 

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The E63's main attraction is the handcrafted, 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V8 engine beneath its hood. Mated with a nine-speed, dual-clutch transmission and standard rear-biased all-wheel drive, this engine splits 603 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque between all four contact patches. Of course, if you'd prefer, there's still the hidden Drift Mode that locks the E63 S Wagon in full rear-wheel drive for big, smoky drifts and burnouts.

Launching in its sportiest all-wheel-drive setting, the E63 S Wagon will hit 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds before continuing on to its electronically limited 180-mph v-max. All the while, the AMG Performance exhaust roars with a satisfying tone and punctuates each shift with pops and burbles.

As nice as it is, the beauty of the E63 is not its overwhelming power. Rather, it's how all of the performance comes together. From the consistent and powerful stopping force of the optional carbon-ceramic brakes to the steering's perfectly weighted feel to the nicely tuned air suspension, the E63 is a remarkably balanced ride.

2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic+ Wagon

The real beauty of the E63 S Wagon is just how balanced and flexible this powerful grand tourer is in almost any driving situation.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The 2021 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon starts at $113,500 including in the required $1,050 destination charge. That's an increase of about $700 over last year, which I think is justified by extra standard equipment like the AMG Drive Unit controls and MBUX tech. Optioned up with nearly all of the driver-assistance, lighting, style and cabin tech options in Mercedes' arsenal, my example arrives with a $141,050 as-tested price.

The E63 S Wagon arrives in US dealerships later this year, just in time to do battle with Audi's RS6 Avant, the significantly more expensive Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo and… well, that's about it. There aren't many wagons left for American buyers to choose from, let alone super-sport wagons like this AMG. That makes the E63 S Wagon a bit of a unicorn, and one worth saving. It's not just the last of a dying breed, it's also one of the best.