The compact AMG station wagon is a sportier utility vehicle—but it's not available here.
Many Americans still think of "mom" and "station wagon" in the same sentence, ignoring that the ubiquitous modern SUV is essentially the 21st century's Wagon Queen Family Truckster. But in Europe, wagons are still cool, still the preferred utility vehicles for people with sporty lifestyles. And the faster the wagon, the cooler it is. Which makes the 2020 Mercedes-AMG C63 S wagon about as cool as long-roof load luggers come.
The C63 S wagon is of course the E63 S 4Matic+ wagon's little brother, 11.5 inches shorter, 3.8 inches narrower, 1.3 inches lower, and rolling on a 3.9-inch-shorter wheelbase. It's powered by the same 503-hp, 516-lb-ft version of Daimler's versatile 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 as the AMG GLC63 S Coupe sold Stateside, rather than the big-hitter 603-hp, 627-lb-ft engine of the E-Class version. Can't have the 600-pound-lighter—and, in the U.K., the 23 percent cheaper—little brother upstaging things, can we?
The C63 S wagon's lighter weight is partly because, well, it's smaller, and also because it doesn't have the bigger car's 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system. By Daimler's own numbers, it's about half a second slower to 62 mph than the E 63 S 4Matic+ wagon, which suggests a zero to 60 time of about 3.5 seconds. Given the heavier, all-wheel-drive AMG GLC63 we tested a few years back recorded a zero to 60 time of 3.2 seconds, that might be a touch pessimistic. And there's nothing in it in terms of top speed between the two; Daimler says the E 63 S is good for 180 mph, while the C63 S will do 174.
A 2018 face-lift added the toothy AMG grille up front and a new rear diffuser, plus the option of 19-inch forged alloy wheels instead of the regular 18-inchers. Interior upgrades included a 12.3-inch digital dash and 10.5-inch infotainment screen, a flat-bottomed steering wheel with touchpad controls on the spokes, and a rotary mode controller similar to Porsche's Sport Chrono unit.
While the engine remained untouched, the old seven-speed torque-converter auto was replaced with AMG's nine-speed wet-clutch automatic, and it added an e-diff. AMG Traction Control—the same nine-stage system first seen on the AMG GT R—was made standard on the S. The AMG Dynamic Select system offers five predetermined driver modes, along with an Individual mode that allows you to choose the engine, gearbox, steering, and exhaust settings. AMG Ride Control manages the steel springs and adaptive shocks, and the AMG Dynamics system enables you to manage the ESP settings and torque distribution to the rear axle through four further settings: Basic, Advanced, Pro, and Master.
What's it all add up to? A rambunctious little thug of a wagon, that's what. Next to the C63 S, the E63 S seems calmer, more mature—if any station wagon with Saturn V thrust, a rolling thunder soundtrack, and Drift mode could be called calm and mature. The C63 S feels livelier, noisier, busier, especially at 120 mph or more on the autobahn, where the shorter wheelbase and different suspension settings mean high-speed turn-in response feels more aggressive, and there's much more vertical motion through the chassis. The rear drive balance is real rather than digitally remastered; accessing Drift mode in this thing simply requires turning the traction control off, instead of the video-game cheat code sequence of button presses, paddle pulls, and menu fiddling E63 drivers must engage to defeat the AWD and access its rear-drive mode.
It might not have the brute power of the E63 S, but Lordy it's still fast. On a trip that saw us in a single day dispatch the 700 miles between London and Dresden in eastern Germany, we averaged 100 mph on one 55-mile stretch of autobahn that included more than 5 miles of slow running through construction. The C63 S cruised easily at 130-140 mph when traffic allowed, and on one stretch we saw an indicated 156 mph.
The best thing about the C63 S wagon? Not just that it flies, but that it flies below the radar. Unless you're an enthusiast, it could be one of tens of thousands of diesel C-Class wagons running around Europe on fancy AMG wheels. There's something deeply engaging about a supercar that to most people looks like an ordinary grocery getter. It has utility. But it's very, very sporty.