2018 Mercedes-Benz AMG E 63 S Wagon and GLC 63 S Coupe First Drive | Edmunds

2018 Mercedes-Benz AMG E 63 S Wagon and GLC 63 S Coupe First Drive

Two Practical AMGs Can Haul Your Family With Gusto


Mercedes-Benz makes luxury vehicles of all different sizes and shapes. From two-door roadsters to SUVs that seat seven, each fills a specific role. The Mercedes subsidiary AMG has a specific role, too, and it's to ensure nearly every one of those vehicles packs enough driving thrills to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

The AMG treatment extends to the Mercedes family haulers such as the 603-hp 2018 AMG E 63 S Wagon and the 503-hp 2018 AMG GLC 63 S Coupe SUV. Do you have to sacrifice practicality to get impressive performance? To find out, we need extensive seat time in both. First up is the E 63 wagon at the very windy NCM Motorsports Park road course, in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Mercedes-Benz AMG E 63 S Wagon

Hauling the Wagon
While many shoppers prefer SUVs today, the E-Class shows Mercedes has not given up on the wagon. Its offerings start with the 329-hp E 400, a pragmatic vehicle for traditional long-roof buyers. But what if you want that capability and space and eye-watering acceleration, too?

Enter the E 63 S, which offers 603 hp and 627 pound-feet of torque courtesy of a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8. A nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive help the AMG wagon accelerate to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds — a stark contrast compared to the E 400's time of 5.3 seconds.

Brutal power isn't all the E 63 offers. An adjustable air suspension changes ride height and stiffness, keeping the car level through sweeping turns and abrupt transitions. Its three modes equate to increasing levels of stiffness and response. The track-oriented Sport+ lets you feel the road surface and keeps the nose from diving too much under the influence of the optional carbon-ceramic brakes. On the other hand, Comfort is compliant, but it lets enough of the road into the cabin to remind you that you're driving something special.

Mercedes-Benz AMG E 63 S Wagon

Aside from the powertrain and suspension, the E 63 has a few tricks that make it one of the most capable vehicles on the road. The optional AMG Performance front seats are essentially sports car-style buckets swathed in leather and complete with heating and ventilation; their large bolsters keep your body stationary through turns. The upgraded rear suspension hardware allows the tires to maintain grip on the ground as the wheels compress and rebound over bumps.

Rather than focusing on all-weather traction, the all-wheel drive system improves performance by delivering full power to the rear wheels and adding in the front wheels only when more traction is needed. Through the correct sequence of button pushes, it can disconnect the front wheels altogether, enabling burnouts and power slides that make muscle cars envious. An electronically controlled limited-slip differential keeps order, ensuring both rear wheels are spinning in harmony.

Overseeing these features is the E 63's Dynamic Select System. The wagon can be placed into five different drive settings, including a user-customizable preset. These modes progressively stiffen up the suspension, quicken the throttle response, loosen stability control, and increase the speed of gear changes. 

The result of these technologies means the E 63 is a big beast of a wagon on a racetrack. Even with repeated lapping sessions on a humid, 94-degree day, the car experienced minimal fade and overheating issues. Turn-in remained consistent, as did brake pedal feel and transmission response. If you never looked in the rearview mirror to see the wide, 40/20/40-split folding rear bench seat and 35 cubic feet of cargo space, you'd swear you were in a smaller sport sedan.

2018 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 63 S Coupe

When a Coupe Isn't a Coupe
After our wagon experience at the racetrack, we head to Nashville, Tennessee, at the wheel of the AMG GLC 63 S Coupe. With its sloping roofline, limited cargo space, and prominent duckbill carbon-fiber spoiler, it stretches the definition of both "coupe" and "SUV."

The GLC 63 has one feature that makes up for it: The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 under the hood that makes 503 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque. The real reason to get the GLC 63 is to listen when the active exhaust system opens its pipes and lets the engine rev loudly as it rips through the gears. Like the E 63, the GLC 63 comes with a nine-speed automatic. Instead of using a heavy and sluggish torque converter to disconnect from the engine for gear changes, as traditional automatics do, it uses a multiplate clutch setup that's lighter and more responsive.

The ride is smooth and well-controlled, with excellent compliance through numerous backwoods roads. Despite the 20-inch wheels, there's very little harshness or road vibrations in the cabin. Steering weighting is high, and there's not much on-center feel. These traits make the GLC 63 feel more substantial than it is as large sweeping turns and changing lanes require a little more muscle than other sporty compact SUVs. While steering feel improves as you load up the front wheels, the weighting gets even higher with cornering load.

At the end of the drive, the GLC 63's excellent on-road manners make us think of this as a taller C-Class rather than a traditional SUV. The GLC Coupe provides more cargo space and rear seat room than a C-Class sedan, in addition to an upright seating position and additional ground clearance. And in AMG guise, you get 0-60 mph acceleration in 3.7 seconds, smooth on-road manners and comfortable seats in one sleek package.

Mercedes-Benz AMG E 63 S Wagon

You Get What You Pay For
To get this level of performance without penalty doesn't come cheap, and you could say that the price is the one compromise you have to make. The GLC 63 S Coupe starts at $81,745, including destination, which is nearly double the price of the less exciting but equally practical GLC 300 4Matic Coupe. In spite of the limited cargo capacity, the GLC 63 is a comfortable and quick compact luxury SUV.

The E 63 Wagon's extreme track performance does not come at the expense of practicality. It rides worse than the E 400 Wagon, but this is an easy compromise to make for the shopper who demands performance. The E 63 Wagon starts at $107,945, including destination. That may sound steep, but the list of vehicles that match it in cargo space, performance, and overall comfort is short.  For us, it's a benchmark vehicle that shows you can have your cake and eat it, too.

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