The C63 S Estate is the pinnacle of C-Class power aimed directly at the hardcore driving enthusiast that refuses to compromise on practicality. We took the ultra-wagon for a weekend blast out of the city to see if it has the edge over increasingly accomplished SUVs and other hi-po boot-boosted options.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
It’s fair to say that with the rise of SUVs in Australia, wagons are far from a volume seller, and the high-performance wagon offerings from premium brands are an even smaller niche.
If you’re after a mid-sized car with a little more practicality than a sedan and want the uncompromised performance of a pedigree, the realm of autobahn blasting wagons offers something SUVs can’t quite compete with – if you have the budget to match.
They might have minute customer bases, but these massively powerful models with generous boots are celebrated performance heroes of their respective brands and there is a number of choices if you fit the profile.
Read next: 2016 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe review
Sharing all of the major mechanical bits of its coupe and sedan siblings, the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate offers brutal twin turbocharged V8 performance with the soundtrack to match, wrapped up in an elegant wagon body, for families that simply refuse to give into the SUV tsunami.
- At the heart of the C63 S, the 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 coupled to a seven-speed automatic transmission is a technical masterpiece delivering monstrous power and torque across the rev-range. The noise it produces is as eye-opening as the claimed 0-100km/h acceleration of 4.1 seconds and defies the practical appearance of a wagon. One observer commented that “a wagon shouldn’t sound like that”.
- In full auto mode the transmission is spookily intuitive and manages gear selection perfectly, especially when switched to the required driving mode. There’s comfort, eco, sport, sport plus and race to choose from. It even has a cruising function where it disconnects from the engine to save fuel.
- With a low centre of gravity, handling and road-holding is excellent. Right from the first turn of the wheel, the Mercedes imparts a sense of confidence and encourages the driver to get involved with positive steering response, a body that’s highly resistant to roll and impressive stability.
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- Only on a track is it possible to detect that the Estate has anything different going on at the back compared with the sedan. The sophisticated suspension set up controls body movement even during fast cornering and only your destroyed groceries will indicate that you came home via the scenic route.
- Bizarrely, the rear-wheel drive set up actually offers impressive traction on slippery unsurfaced roads. Manoeuvring out of a steep muddy driveway forced the clever traction control to divide braking and power, preventing the car from getting stuck in a manner more commonly associated with four-wheel drives.
- Styling manages to strike a balance of sophisticated and refined without playing too much to the performance hero card. The Merc has an aggressive stance on the road but doesn’t have to resort to vulgar design tricks to earn respect. Four square tail-pipes, razor front splitter and clean, arch-filling 19-inch wheels speak the AMG language without having to embarrass anyone at the traffic lights.
- On the inside, the AMG continues its statement of intent with unapologetically deep bucket seats complete with silver harness slots, integrated headrest and electric adjustment for the ultimate balance of comfort and support. Finding the ideal driving position takes seconds and every touch-point screams quality and style.
- A 490-litre boot is a decent size even when compared with vehicles in the mid-sized SUV segment. Electrically folding rear seats boost that capacity to 1510 litres for a very practical load area.
- $159,711 is a lot of cash for a mid-sized wagon but, in addition to the hammer-blow of performance, the C63 S adds a long list of equipment as part of the deal. A 360-degree camera with parking radar all round, Nappa leather, bigger AMG brakes, LED headlights with clever adaptive beams, keyless entry and start, cool ambient lighting and Burmester surround sound system with 13 speakers, nine-channel DSP amplifier and 590-watt output to name a few highlights.
- Fuel consumption can get on the thirsty side and is easy to push far beyond the claimed average of 8.7L/100km.
- Unfortunately, the excellent MBUX information and entertainment system has not yet found its way into the C-Class and the ageing Comand approach remains with too many sub-menus, tabs and screens to navigate.
Read next: Mercedes-AMG E43 Estate revealed
- Steering wheel paddles are a little stiff to operate occasionally causing a gear swap to be missed and there’s no manual selection possible with a central selector lever (it’s mounted to the steering column) which means changing gears is harder in tight turns with the wheel locked over. The position of the gear selector may also irk some owners but it’s easy to get used to.
- While the V6-powered C43 gets four-wheel drive for optimum traction, the more powerful C63 V8 is limited to rear-wheel drive. While this undoubtedly offers a more thrilling and purist’s experience when possible, it severely limits how much of the bountiful performance can be used day-to-day, especially if the roads are wet.
- Regardless of the suspension mode that’s selected, the C63 S ride is always stiff. For those used to sporty cars it is completely acceptable, but a customer expecting something limo-like from Mercedes may be disappointed. It’s especially obvious in the second row, where uprated springs to cope with the heavier body translate to a firm ride for rear occupants.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER
Audi offers the RS4, which unlike the less potent S4 sedan and S5 equivalent coupe is only available in Avant wagon form. It’s powered by a strong twin turbo V6 petrol that produces power comparable with the Mercedes but can’t quite match the holler of a V8. It does however, send power to the road via the quattro four-wheel drive system for better traction whether the road is wet or dry.
If you want something with a propeller badge, the Alpina B3 S Touring brings M3 levels of power but with a big boot. With a straight six engine, the BMW-based option also misses out on a V8 but it does offer a level of exclusivity that only a brand as new as Alpina is to the Australia can afford.