Estate-car practicality needn’t mean a sacrifice of flair on the road – or, indeed, rip-roaring performance around the race track – as Tiff Needell discovered on a rain-soaked ride in the Mercedes AMG C 63 S Estate through North Yorkshire
There always used to be some confusion as to why the Mercedes-AMG 63 range was given that numeral when the engine size of every model was actually only 6.2 litres – or, to be precise, 6,208cc. The answer, apparently, is that German law dictates that you must round up your capacity figure rather than peg it to the nearest decilitre. But all this has been consigned to history now that the 63 range has moved into the fashionable world of turbocharging. Today a V8 unit of a mere 3,892cc supplies the power, albeit with the help of electronically controlled direct fuel injection and two turbos. On the S version this produces a whopping 510hp and 700Nm of torque.
I was fortunate to be able to drive to the Croft circuit in North Yorkshire to put the new C-Class 63 S Estate to the test for my new filming venture, Forbidden Drives, which is due to appear on US website motortrend.com this year. This variant is deemed “forbidden” because Mercedes has no plans to send it across the Atlantic to a land where “wagons” have very limited appeal.
While Audi is still preparing to launch its RS4 Avant and there’s no sign of either a BMW M3 Touring or a Jaguar XE Sportbrake any time soon, the Merc doesn’t have much opposition over here right now. So, if you’re in urgent need of a barnstorming new mid-sized estate, this is the one for you.
Apart from the bold statement made by its quad exhausts, there’s nothing particularly flash about the exterior. The little touches that distinguish it from the standard C-Class model include a deeper front bumper with gaping vents, power bulges in the bonnet and subtly flared wheel arches.
A stylish interior features AMG sports seats clad in napa, with a steering wheel to match. The dashboard, in high-gloss black with aluminium trim, exudes quality.
On the undulating B-roads that I took across the rain-soaked moors to Croft, the car’s stiff suspension was exaggerated by its very firm seats. It took me a while to get used to this combination, but I came to appreciate its quality more and more. I felt no need to switch away from the “Comfort” driving mode, as I could feel the computer gently doing the work in keeping all that power under control. While its performance was still blisteringly quick, I could remain relaxed. Once on the circuit, though, I decided to bypass “Sport”, “Sport+” and even “Race”. I moved straight to the “Individual” option and started playing.
As a track weapon, it almost has too much torque to handle in the wet. With traction control turned off, even the gentlest touch on the throttle would spin the rear wheels. But, as luck would have it, the track dried out and the joy of putting a powerful rear-wheel-drive car through its paces brought an ever-widening smile to my face.
Helped by its electronically controlled differential, I was able to drift past the camera car with inch-perfect precision. I admit that this may not be the first thing you’d think of doing when you’re looking to buy a family estate car, but it’s most definitely the best. The cloud of tyre smoke that I produced in the process may still be hanging over the circuit.