"High-performance station wagon." It sounds like an oxymoron. Who is the likely buyer? The well-off soccer mom or dad with a secret desire to be a race car driver? Hey, it doesn't have to make sense. Maybe that's why the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG High Performance Wagon is a special-order vehicle.
Appearance: If you pull up next to one of these sleek wagons at a light, you won't know it's a performance car unless you notice the red brake calipers or AMG badges. (Of course, the trunk-lid spoiler, dual twin-chrome exhausts and 19-inch forged alloy wheels might also give it away.) Our tester, not pictured, looked even more stealthy with its optional "designo" Mocha black paint. (That'll be an extra $2,300, thank you.)
Performance: Get this: The regular 5.5-liter AMG Bi-turbo V-8 puts out 518 horsepower. But our tester kicks it up with the AMG Performance Package ($6,550 extra), which pumps out 550 hp with a top speed, according to Mercedes, of 186 mph. We doubt you'll come close to that on your Publix run. This wagon also has some massive low-end torque (516 pound-feet normally, a whopping 590 with the package). The 0-to-60 time is listed at 4.3 seconds, but some car mags have clocked it under 4. With that much power and a weight of almost 4,300 pounds, you need Herculean brakes, and this wagon has them. The 7-speed multiclutch transmission clicks off the gears smoothly, although maybe not as quickly as we've found in some German performance cars. If you want more control, go for the manual mode and use the aluminum paddle shifters. There's a start/stop engine feature when you are in the C (controlled efficiency) mode, but then if you order one of these, you probably aren't worried about $4-a-gallon gas like the rest of us. The MPG is a mediocre 15 city, 23 highway.
Interior: It's an orgy of all things AMG and Mercedes — carbon-fiber trim, double-stitched leather-contoured seats with dynamic bolstering and an Alcantara headliner. So, yes, it's comfortable and luxurious. The numerous AMG touches include a race-inspired steering wheel and brushed aluminum sport pedals. Another nice touch: the embossed logo on the leather-wrapped shift lever on the center console. Like most Mercedes, there's electronic overload that includes a Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround-sound system, memory card reader, satellite radio and navigation. The rear seats are split-fold, with 57.4 cubic feet of cargo space, so there's plenty of room for your kids' soccer equipment. The open cargo area may contribute to the nice exhaust bark that wafts through the quiet cabin, especially on downshifts.
Our 3 favorites
Exhaust: Love that engine bark.
Style: Sure it's a heavy wagon, but it looks sleek and classy.
Exclusivity: Mercedes isn't building many of these and you probably won't find one at your local dealer.
Incognito: It's Clark Kent. You won't know it's a powerful beast at first glance.
Seats: Premium double-stitched perforated leather, multiple adjustments and, my favorite, dynamic bolstering.
Panorama sunroof: A sky view for passengers.
The bottom line: The Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG High Performance Wagon is an expensive, luxurious and powerful cure for the minivan blues. Go ahead, take the long way home.