211 miles of range, nippy acceleration and neat looks
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£90,035 when new
Is the Mercedes-AMG E63 S the fastest estate in the world? Well, the Audi RS6 is almost gone, the Cadillac CTS-V estate is gone, and there’s no BMW M5 estate. Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo? Well, that’s not really an estate is it. But that brief list sells this car short. It’s got all you need for extremely rapid transit: a 604bhp twin-turbo V8, nine speeds in the transmission and all-wheel-drive with electronic distribution of the torque among the wheels. And the world’s biggest estate? It’s pretty much that, too. The world’s most luxurious and well-equipped?
We wouldn’t disagree. That’s all very fine on paper. How is it on the road? Titanic, really. The engine is a major character, while stopping short of an antisocially loud exhaust. It’s able to summon masses of pull at any sane road speed, and most insane ones. There are nine ratios in the transmission, which means it’s confusing to select your own on the paddles, but with such a torquey engine and quick-witted gearbox you might as well leave it to its own devices. It does 0-62 in 3.5 seconds (versus 3.4s for the saloon), and then really hits its stride. It’s the most fabulous machine for safe, decisive overtakes. Traction is sterling. How does all that weight and power feel in corners? Actually I set out on the track first, and it’s very composed indeed. As composed as a roadgoing two-tonne car has any right to be anyway; the damping keeps hold and the clever diffs vector the torque around as part of the action. It feels rear-driven mostly, but will put the front tyres to use to balance things up before it gets lairy, so you can actually make it move around with your right foot, even with the ESP on. It’s really very impressive if things are greasy underfoot. Thought this was a road test… Sorry. On the Queen’s Highway, it still feels rear-driven: there’s no reluctance for the steering to do your will. It’s all very alert. But take a draft from that deep well of power and it securely gets it straight to the road. And communicates what it’s doing. It’s a wonderfully secure feeling. The suspension, as the saloon, is an air-spring system, where the car open and closes air chambers in three stages. So it can adjust the springing as well as the damping. It’s still always firm, but not ridiculously harsh even when the going’s pretty lumpy. The steering isn’t corrupted by road camber either. That’s what we were keen to find out by driving it in Britain, and the news is good. As an estate? A 640-litre space under the parcel blind, a 40:20:40 split back seat (which can also incline slightly more upright if you need to get a little more in the boot), lots of load tie-down points, electrically latching seatbacks, et cetera. Doesn’t it also look better than the saloon? I’ll ask the questions. But yes. Now here’s another. What about drift mode. That’s when you turn off the stability control and switch the entire engine output to the rear tyres. I didn’t because there was no need and I was on the road. But if you want to use smoke signals to demonstrate your on-track car control, it’s there for the having. It’s even more marvellously silly in an estate than a saloon.