Fast wagons have a new ambassador in the Mercedes-AMG C63 Estate.
WHAT IS IT
Mercedes’ C-Class flagship in wagon form – for customers who are as practical minded as they are performance focused. Mercedes continues to use the quaintly English label Estate to distinguish it.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
We’ve driven the AMG C63 sedan a few times. This is our first experience of the extended-roofline, five-door version.
High-end, high-performance wagons are rare. BMW doesn’t bother to offer an M3 in this body style. The best bet for a direct competitor is the Audi RS4 Avant.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Estate sounds posh but super-wagen would be more apt. The AMG C63 marries stupidly quick performance to what remains one of the more intelligent body styles, despite limited popularity in Australia.
PLUS: Sound from V8 and exhaust; balanced handling; mighty pace; wagon styling
MINUS: Boot space technically little larger than sedan’s; Comfort ride could be softer
THE WHEELS REVIEW
WE'RE NOT suggesting there’s the prospect of an abrupt end for the boom in luxury SUVs, but C-Class wagon sales have increased nearly seven-fold locally in the past decade. The version loaded to the gunwales with so much credibility that a roof-pod is almost mandatory is the C63 AMG Estate.
We’ve driven the sedan at Bathurst and declared it yet another step forward for Mercedes’ biggest-selling AMG line. This is our first taste on local roads of the more practical version.
While boot volume increases by five litres over the previous model to 490L, the cubic capacity of the V8 under the bonnet drops significantly, from 6.2 litres to 4.0 litres.
A couple of monoscroll turbochargers nestled between the angled banks of cylinders ensures performance and efficiency both move onwards, however, with the wagon’s 4.1 seconds 0-100km/h and 8.7L/100km figures just the usual fractions behind the sedan, due to its additional 75kg mass.
Our thinking is that the Estate’s extra helping of sheetmetal makes it the more attractive of the current choice of C-Class body styles, even if that’s unlikely to grow the percentage of wagon buyers beyond a tenth of C63 sales.
There’s no discernible deformity in the handling after the transition from shrink-wrapped limo to load-hauler. There’s still a deft balance that makes the Estate easy to guide at a significant pace along a challenging road.
The steering is quick, and our preference over the rack in the AMG GT S. It’s more consistently fluid regardless of speed, and offers more feel when searching out the adhesion levels of the 19-inch Michelin Super Pilot Sports.
It’s not a challenge to get the power down early, and when grip levels are breached, Sport and Sport Plus modes allow some minor slip angle before the electronics rein in the torque with a degree of subtlety.
AMG’s wagon doesn’t feel as balletically light on its feet as its supercar but the chassis still copes effortlessly with aggressive weight transfers. And the dampers synchronise with the road surface more effectively – particularly when their fluid is set to a higher viscosity in aggressive modes where the GT S is prone to being fractionally deviated by mid-corner bumps.
The suspension can still thump over surface joins in Comfort, though, and a less firm ride in this mode would help perfect the C63 AMG’s dual-purpose directive.
We can’t think of anything we’d change about the hand-built 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. There’s an extra 50Nm compared with its twin in the long-snouted GT S – essentially for the benefit of the C63’s extra weight – and the sensation from our drive of the AMG double act is that the Sedan and Estate require even less accelerator pedal travel to generate speeds that are comically quick for a wagon.
Throttle response is generally terrific, with Sport Plus where the engine feels least like a turbocharged unit. And sounds least like one.
Open the taps – as well as the flaps in the exhaust via the sportier modes or dedicated exhaust button – and glorious, guttural noises are unleashed in tandem with pops and bangs. All natural, too: no speakers involved here.
The multi-clutch seven-speed auto doesn’t feel like a poorer, slower-acting cousin to the dual-clutcher used in the GT, either, especially in Sport Plus where the transmission is remarkably alert and responsive.
Operate the paddles instead and it’s possible to discover a third gear that can tackle a winding road almost single-handedly, such is its wonderful elasticity. It is capable of ranging from urban tootling to instant licence-loss velocity.
Maximum velocity in top gear is 10km/h down on the sedan’s 290km/h to add another performance deficit, leaving Estate buyers with the compensation of the more convenient rear access (as boot space is actually only an extra 10 litres).
But both share the benchmark C-Class interior garnished with flashier and sportier AMG trimmings, and both take the C63 badge to loftier heights.
Of course, for many shoppers their seating positions simply won’t be tall enough.
Model: Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate
Engine: 3982cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, twin turbo
Max power: 375kW @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 700Nm @ 1750-4500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 4.1sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 8.7L/100km
On sale: Now
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