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Practical Magic

Howard Walker

   Behold the unicorn, the mythical four-legged beast of European folklore so adored and revered for its rarity, purity and grace.
   Legend has it this exotic equine creature, with its pointy, spiraling horn, could be captured only by a virgin maiden and never tamed. Ladies who were, shall we say, economical with the truth were skewered by that impressive horn.
   While some time has passed since the last recorded unicorn sighting, there is a modern-day version of this fantastical filly. It’s called the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon.
   Like the unicorn, chances are you’ll never see one in captivity. You can’t even walk into a Mercedes showroom and take a test drive; they’re available only by very special order and delivered after the handing over of $92,400 with your first-born.

Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG - five-door luxury wagon

   Yet they do exist, and for a few brief, fleeting days, I held the keys to a snowy-white example that, just like the wild unicorn, kicked, snorted and refused to be tamed.
   Here is the five-door wagon version of Mercedes’ E63 AMG sedan. These days, Americans love wagons as much as a root canal, preferring instead the lofty, high-command driving position and oversized footprint of an SUV.
   They just don’t know what they’re missing. For here is the perfect melding of searing-hot sports sedan and versatile, carryall wagon. It’s powered by a weapons-grade 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 handcrafted by the power-meisters at AMG that spews out a massive 518 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque.
   Spend the extra $6,550—and why the heck wouldn’t you?—on the optional AMG Performance Pack, and that power output soars to a monstrous 550 horsepower and 590 pound-feet. To put that into perspective, a Lamborghini Gallardo offers a piffling 513 ponies.
   What this translates into is Exocet missile-like performance. Floor it from standstill, and this asphalt-hugging family-hauler will lunge to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds—and probably do so in the length of the average Starbucks drive-through. Don’t lift, and the speedo will kiss the 186 mph marker.

Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon - luxury car review

   Ooh, and what a soundtrack this beast plays. It’s a deep, throbby, Guns N’ Roses-like bellow amped through a quartet of shiny “squircle” tailpipes. Think Godzilla gargling with roofing nails and you’ll get the picture.
   Want to impress your kids when you pick them up from school? Hit the “race start mode” on the center console, keep your left foot hard on the brake, floor the throttle, then step off the brake. The rear tires will light up like Catherine wheels on the Fourth of July, engulfing the car in acrid smoke before depositing two huge tramlines of black rubber. Juvenile, I know. Devilishly entertaining? You bet.
   There’s a seven-speed AMG automatic to take care of shifting, with beautifully crafted metal paddle shifters for do-it-yourself gear swaps. Select Sport or Sport+, and the gears hold on longer and the revs go higher.
   And boy, is this fun through the twisties. The steering feels meaty and precise, and I love the salami-thick wheel with its racecar-style, squared-off lower section. With three suspension settings, the sports sedan offers its pick from comfy, no-roll sporty or let’s-head-to-the-track firm.

Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon - interior, dash and wheel

   Inside the 63 is a masterpiece of Teutonic cool, with lashings of taut black leather, brushed metal and high-tech carbon fiber. And front seats don’t come better than these—I love the power side bolsters that boost side support during hard cornering.
   At the press of a button, the tailgate powers skyward—albeit rather leisurely—doing a neat party trick of raising the load area cover with it. The load space is vast and practically proportioned with nice square sides, and the rear seats are split and easily fold flat to double the amount of load space. A 42-inch flat screen slides in with no problem. Trust me, you don’t need a towering SUV.
   This could well be my idea of the perfect car. Compact yet spacious, versatile, practical, stylish and obscenely powerful. And, of course, as rare as that unicorn.

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February 2015