Updated: Feb 27, 2020
I’ve sat down to write this piece multiple times. Many of those drafts entered the world as prose about a week with a 2016 Mercedes Benz E63 AMG Wagon which was hacked and slashed and hated and reconciled and finally granted the freedom to develop into what it really felt like being, which was words about other cars. Some of those drafts you see interspersed on the story section on this site. For some reason, this car deftly eludes literary capture.
I think the problem here is me. Now, before I plug in the OBD-II reader to my brain to run some preliminary diagnostics, let’s get something out of the way.
It certainly is not a matter of inadequate expectations, I can assure you they were parked somewhere out between the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud. Near as I can tell, the E63 wagon is as good as I expected it to be. Probably surpassed those expectations by a margin, albeit a thin one, but a margin nonetheless.
Anyone who tells you that it’s not a Good Car (capital "G", capital "C") is likely using a burner account because they’re otherwise clandestinely engaged in a bidding war for one on BringATrailer. It’s a deeply satisfying means of conveyance. The car is immediately endearing, and where you might safely chalk that up in part to prior pro-wagon bias, this car gives off that "hear the first four bars of a song and immediately add it to a playlist because whatever happens next I'm going to love" vibe.
It is the kind of car that has me, past 11 o'clock on a school night, attempting to snatch words out of the darkness about a rental car (no, thank you, Turo!) that I paid my own money to drive months ago on a vacation that was in no small part inspired by my cursed affliction to the automotive persuasion. Something that was infrequently but strongly reinforced during our time as AMG custodians: you either know everything about this car or you don’t even know that it exists; which, like all things with limited market appeal and cult followings, only breathes pure oxygen to that fire.
Even when everyone in the room is nodding furiously about how good of a car it is, I can still write a haiku about AMGs, then tattoo that haiku* to my forehead, and, if you’ve made it this far into the piece, you might not heap too much judgement on my poor impulse control for having done so.
There is no debate or confusion about what this car is or what it does. It is impossibly, effortlessly, unforgettably capable. Here is a running tally I kept of our activities with this particular wagon in and around Carmel Valley:
- pass every single convertible Mustang rental at leisure on the Pacific Coast Highway, a feat that doesn't sound impressive until you realize there are eight hundred and forty-seven trillion convertible Mustang rentals on the Pacific Coast Highway and this Mercedes will pass them all in a single passing zone
- use the tailgate as a staging area for getting ready to go kayak with sea otters or cooling down after hiking in Big Sur
- take full advantage of the fold-flat cargo area to substitute for a makeshift changing area for fancy dinner reservations when you're an hour away from your AirBnB
- lay down in the back and take a nap among the coastal redwoods thanks to the massive sunroof and a plethora of California state and national parks
- be completely invisible to 99% of the general public
- become immediate best friends with the 1% of people who know exactly what car this is and why it's so special
- sit in San Francisco traffic listening to NPR with the ventilated seats on max cool in supple, serene comfort
- reduce all occupants of the vehicle to a puddle of giggles by simply using any advanced degree of throttle in the region's many tunnels
And that’s the problem for a somewhat one-dimensional writer like me. I like flawed cars because it isn’t difficult to find the conflict they carry with them from the factory or the aftermarket compromise that has been engineered into them for the sake of self-expression or speed. Hell if you know anything about me, it’s probably that I’ve got a unquenchable thirst for the French automotive industry: the automotive equivalent of unrequited, abusive, sinful attraction.
The only drawbacks I could take stock of over 7 days is that it isn’t Miata-sized and it doesn’t have a clutch. You can close the link now because I’m here to blaspheme: I didn’t miss either of those omissions one bit in this application. It was just fine. We're lucky enough to get this on our side of the Atlantic so I'm going to keep my words savory.
Wouldn't you know it, I've spent the last couple of nights thinking about deleting this draft too since I had no idea where it was going until right now, nearly midnight on February 6th. But I think I've got my angle now. Let's drive this on home, shall we?
We - and I hope you don't mind me lumping you in after all we've been through these last few paragraphs - love flawed cars because they demand attention for the sake of being cars. All those asymmetrical trade-offs with the ordinary world. Understanding them is understanding a language not everyone can pick up, but that resonates with a handful who appreciate the beauty in maximizing the pros frequently at the cost of maximizing the cons. When you have a car that's as great out of the box as this one, it's not necessarily the car that's screaming for your attention anymore.
I've read that bullet-point list a dozen times since I started writing this story. It's the only piece that I've kept and I only kept it because I wrote it for the review of the car and I'm lazy. This last read through, though, something finally caught me. When the car is this sure about its place in the universe, it redirects the spotlight of the story not on the car itself, but back on the adventure at hand. It's an amplifier, elevating not just the medium used to tell the story, but turning the volume up on the journey.
Escaping San Francisco to the mountains and taking a hard right when you get to the water. Watching people on Pebble Beach playing fetch with dogs that could not possibly fathom a better day. Side quests to Canepa and Laguna Seca. Having entire trails to yourself along the rocky coast with a morning fog that brings a cool, stinging mist scored only by the waves crashing against the cliffs below and the not-too-distant noises of sea lions chatting. Slipping the car into sport mode, leaning over to apologize to the person legally betrothed to you for what's about happen in that tunnel ahead, only to realize she's already got the window down and her phone out to record it.
Warm starlit nights, uncorking the second bottle of wine that was bottled just over the next hill, and realizing that you're on a bendy but sure course with someone you love no matter how your own attempts to maximize the pros occasionally maximize the cons. Realizing that for once in your life you feel like you're exactly where you want to be.
I'm always going to like cars that make my back hurt. Or that don't start in cold weather or that overheat in hot weather or that leak in the rain and have locks that freeze in the snow. I love the culture it's attached to. I love experiencing some tiny quirk an engineer took months working on decades in the past.
But I'm old enough to admit to you, dear reader, and to admit to myself that having a car that's just as good at turning gasoline into criminal noise complaints and endorphins as it is being *just* a car when the rest of the adventure takes center stage is, if I can borrow from Goldilocks, just right.
I guess all I'm trying to say is that the E63 AMG Wagon is a good car. You should try it out sometime. Good luck writing the review, though.
*Aufrecht, Melcher und
Großaspach: what Google says
AMG stands for