Mercedes-AMG is setting the world on fire. At a time when many car companies are struggling to gain ground, sales of Mercedes-Benz’s highest-performing vehicles are up 45 percent in the U.S. from two years ago. That’s due in part to the introduction of the brand’s gorgeous AMG GT family as well as the new AMG 43 lineup. But there’s another group of AMGs worth paying attention to: fast family haulers that can tear up a track and be back before school is out.
Among these are the AMG GLC 63 midsize SUV, its fastback sibling the GLC 63 S coupe, and the E63 S Wagon. As enthusiasts know, the AMG 63 models begin with a four-liter biturbo V-8 engine, each built by hand in Affalterbach, Germany. On country roads that lead from Nashville, Tenn., to Bowling Green, Ky., I pilot the GLC 63 S coupe, which growls satisfyingly in Sport mode around narrow twisting corners with the utmost confidence and stability. Sport suspension with Mercedes’ air body control, standard on all AMG models, eats up what few bumps there are in the road with ease.
This sleeker version of the GLC is available only with the S designation, which means more aggressive tuning and 503 hp, 24 more horses than the more upright GLC. Both the coupe and SUV are set apart from their Mercedes counterparts by an AMG-specific front grille and wider wheel arches for a more muscular look. Lower-powered versions of the GLC compete with the likes of the newly redesigned BMW X4 and the Porsche Macan, while the GLC coupe closely rivals other superfast crossovers, such as the new Lamborghini Urus and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
But the real star of AMG’s family car lineup is the AMG E63 S wagon. Long a cult favorite among aficionados, the 603 hp sleeper has the most loyal—and affluent—customer base of any Mercedes-AMG vehicle. Fully redesigned last year, along with the standard E-Class wagon, the E63 S strikes a perfect combination of performance and practicality.
At Bowling Green’s NCM Motorsports Park (with the yellow spire of the National Corvette Museum rising up nearby), racecar driver Tommy Kendall—driving a bright-green AMG GT R—leads our pack of E63 S wagons around the track. The moment we pull out of the pits, we’re hit by a deluge. Although speeds are slow and we can’t see much, the standard 4MATIC all-wheel-drive configuration keeps us planted, as does AMG’s variable torque distribution system, which in “drift mode” sends 100 percent of torque to the rear wheels. In this case, however, we’re glad for a more equal torque split, which means more grip all around. Once the downpour subsides and a dry line starts to appear, we can push it harder, braking later and going full throttle out of the turns.
The wagon’s V-8 engine not only cranks out a full 100 hp more than the GLC coupe, but it also makes a whopping 627 ft lbs of torque, which send us hurtling down the straightaway at speeds of more than 120 mph (in the U.S., the E63 wagon is limited to 180 mph). A nine-speed, multi-clutch transmission is lightning quick, especially in Sport and Race modes. Cornering is aided by an electronically controlled rear limited-slip differential, with variable settings to give the driver more or less control. In Sport Handling mode, the rear can step out a bit under fast cornering, but not enough to cause a panic.
The AMG 63 vehicle lineup not only serves up blistering performance, but it also offers an abundance of elegance and utility. Mercedes and AMG have some of the best interiors in the business, and these cars are no exception (we particularly liked our GLC coupe wrapped in “red pepper” and black leather). And for the times when you’re not looking to break any lap records, you can switch on the E63’s suite of semi-autonomous driving features and just cruise. In any case, one thing is for sure: Your family will arrive in style—and on time.