All hail the AMG wagon. For over two decades it’s been a go-to choice for fat-walleted grown-ups who want speed, outrageous character and enough room for the family and pets. Mercedes wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of a fast estate, but it got the formula pretty much bang-on from day one.
We’ve had a look back through the archives at some of the pinnacle moments from the AMG estate back catalogue, and catalogued a few of our favourites here. Many of them even make justifiably tempting used buys, if you’ve got access to the classifieds and 10 minutes to spare…
As tough as it probably is for the more extreme Mercedes and BMW fanatics to reconcile the tags of ‘E36’ and ‘AMG’ in the same car, this is where the hot Mercedes estate really started. At the time, AMG was an independent engine developer who, with Mercedes’ approval as part of a 1990 cooperation agreement, adapted the W124 E-Class into something much harder and more aggressive.
AMG had previously made upgrade kits for the W124, W123 and several other Mercedes models from the 1980s, including the famous 5.6-litre AMG Hammer, but with the E36 AMG it got serious. This was a factory-approved, reliable, quality-controlled estate based on the E-Class, packing a 268bhp 3.6-litre straight-six. It would hit 155mph and crack 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds. Far from slow, even today. And thus, a legend was born. If you want the original, they’re rare enough to be absent from today’s classifieds, but £20,000 is about the ballpark entry point.
In the decade-plus between the W124 and the W202 C-Class being designed, Mercedes cars got just a little sleeker. After plenty of success with its ‘36’ AMG models and a general firming-up of AMG’s role alongside Mercedes, the car maker asked for more. Much belly laughter followed from test drivers and the media, thanks to a cracking 4.3-litre V8 that AMG managed to get its hands on early in the production run in order to make improvements.
It wasn’t just AMG’s first wholly AMG-assembled car. The end result of the significant engine tweaks was a 302bhp, 302lb ft monster that liked going sideways. A lot. It had to use the five-speed automatic transmission normally reserved for Mercedes’ V12 cars because it produced so much torque. The C43 also had double-wishbone suspension at the front, and shared a basic chassis setup with the contemporary DTM car. Nice. Today, estates like this one are selling for almost £15,000
By the early 2000s, though, AMG had taken the then-unusual decision to downsize the powerplant in its fettled C-Class. The W203 generation AMG wagon moved to a 3.2-litre V6. On the other hand it did have a beefy supercharger that made it fast. It may have dropped two cylinders but it had 349bhp and could slice off the 0-62mph sprint in just 5.2 seconds – 1.3 seconds faster than the older V8. It was good for 175mph.
Things were getting serious between Mercedes and AMG, now. On 1 January 1999 the two companies climbed into bed together and meant it, with Mercedes acquiring 51 per cent of the tuner’s shares and effectively making it an in-house outfit. We couldn’t see any estates in the classifieds, but this lovely, low-mileage saloon is a guide at £8995.
Now we get to the really fun stuff. This year saw Mercedes buy the remaining 49 per cent of AMG’s shares, incorporating it into the brand completely. As if to celebrate, although we know the development had started long before, the fire-breathing facelifted W203 C-Class regained its lost two cylinders and added enough cubic capacity to power a large car on its own. Commence drooling.
Badged a 55, the engine actually measured 5.4 litres. It was normally aspirated in the C55 and supercharged in its larger cousins, but the second AMG V8 C-Class still had 362bhp and 376lb ft. It wasn’t that much faster than the supercharged C32, but it was the first full AMG to feature quad exhausts. By this point Mercedes had begun to see the C55 as something a bit special. AMG had also sorted the C32’s slightly iffy handling and the C55 was 15 seconds faster around the Nurburgring. This 85,000-miler is yours for a deeply saddening £16,995.
Turbocharging had been the way forward for AMG ever since announcing in 2006 that it was done with superchargers. The power gains have since gone through the roof. Badged as a 63 for heritage reasons but stuffed with a 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8, the 2009 E63 came in two versions; the 577bhp, 590lb ft standard car and the truly mental 607bhp, 664lb ft tyre destroyer simply badged as the ‘S’. Even the standard car smashed through 62mph in 4.5 seconds.
By this point, and it feels very much like recent memory, AMG was developing engines that sounded and felt almost life-changing in their bizarrely over-the-top German joie de vive, whatever joie de vive translates to in German. The E63 of this era was a special thing, but right now it’ll cost you over £30,000 for sure.
Was this the result of a couple of beers too many at the AMG Christmas party? We like to think so. The company had already shoe-horned the thunderous, awesome, sharp-edged 6.2-litre V8 into the C-Class chassis to create one of my favourite cars ever made. The estate version was slightly less well-balanced between the front and rear suspension settings, but its extra practicality was a must.
This, for me, is possibly the high point of the entire AMG back-catalogue. In the DR520 AMG’s mighty 6.2, arguably the best engine it has ever made, was cranked up to 513bhp and 479lb ft; a 59bhp, 37lb ft boost. It was a beast, only customised from the standard car in a batch of 20 and only sold by the people who came up with the idea, at Mercedes’ Specialist Vehicles division based at Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands. Only five of those were estates so they’re like hen’s teeth, but here’s a saloon claiming to be a DR520 on offer for a shade under £35,000.
Just look at it. The 2013 CLS63 shooting brake has to be Mercedes-AMG’s best-looking car yet. Made in both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive guises, the UK only got the rear-drive version that would still bat aside the benchmark 0-62mph sprint in 4.2 seconds. On the continent, the 70kg heavier four-wheel drive S model would do the same in a frankly bonkers 3.6 seconds. Big, practical estate car, remember…
For 2013 the car swapped from the 6.2-litre normally-aspirated engine to the more modern and still laugh-out-loud characterful 5.5-litre BiTurbo unit still in use today. The basic CLS AMG had 549bhp, while the S (because you would) upped that to 577bhp. Plenty for wafting you in heated, cooled and massaged comfort all the way to the next continent. Expect to pay £32,750 for a nicely-specced one like this.
Having conceded that they probably didn’t need to make the previous E63 any more powerful, AMG’s engineers didn’t trouble themselves. Having dropped cubic capacity again to adopt the latest 4.0-litre V8 with F1-derived ‘hot vee’ technology, the E63 S has lost just a few ponies compared to its predecessor, at a still rather healthy 604bhp and 627lb ft.
It now drives all four wheels, though, so makes a faster getaway to 62mph: just 3.4 seconds is all it takes. The 155mph electronic speed limiter can be raised to 186mph if you like your autobahns, but even so, today’s E63 could be knocking on the door of 200mph if it was allowed. It might be one of the smallest-capacity AMG cars ever made, but like all of its brothers in arms before it right back to the E36, it’s a natural, born fighter. New, it’ll easily cost you north of £90,000 once you’ve finished adding options (possibly much more than that), but there’s the twin-turbo V6-powered E43 AMG estate, which, nearly new, will set you back just under £60,000 for one like this.