The E55 AMG--A station wagon that gets to the grocery store before you do
By Scott Mowbray
Some of my fellow editors hold the station wagon in special contempt, and it's true that the basic wagon is sexy like elastic-waistband pants. But I like the wagon because it is a car, not a car pretending to be an after-school bus (i.e., a minivan) or a truck pretending to be a Bradley Fighting Vehicle (any full-size SUV).
But what is Mercedes's E55 AMG wagon? (AMG is Mercedes's in-house unit that tricks out basic Benzes with monster engines and other performance equipment. You find souped-up AMGs up and down the company's model line.) At 14 mpg city on premium gas, the E55 ain't fuel-efficient, and an 83-grand sticker makes it an exotic that only a few appreciative Americans will probably buy. In short, it's Superwagon. Outwardly handsome but still basically resembling a big elastic-waistband-pants sort of car, this machine is so muscular, so fast, so comfortable and so practical that it's like Clark Kent's own private joke.
The E-class AMG wagon packs a 469-horse 332-cubic-inch supercharged V8 and has brake discs the size of manhole covers. Try 0 to 60 in the sub-five-seconds zone and 70-to-0 braking sub-175 feet (the latter according to Car and Driver). These are Porsche/'Vette/Ferrari numbers, in a station wagon. They don't mean much, though, until you feel this grocery-hauler lunge past 60 in second gear, still a good way below the redline, and then slow down under hard braking as if it's being sucked to a halt by a black hole in the pavement. I did that up and down a backcountry road in North Carolina, laughing, then took it to 130 before remembering to be sensible (an electronic speed governor kicks in at 155, if you happen to live near the salt flats). Cornering on the Conti ZR-18 tires was equally fierce, with assorted electronic stabilizing systems making you feel like a better driver than you are.
The transmission is a five-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted manual-shifting buttons. The AMG seats, in â€activeâ€ mode, inflate right or left to bolster your body during cornering-it's like someone pressing your sides with boxing gloves-and there's an odd slow-motion back-massage mode as well. The payoff is that over a 13-hour road trip of the sort that wagons were meant for, I was never stiff or uncomfortable. Rear seats split and fold down for massive storage increase. The sound system is adequate but not sensational. Leather, wood and handsome dials adorn the cockpit; controls are logically configured; cruise control is precise; and the data-screen interface is intuitive, although a touchscreen would be nice.
Sure, this car still looks like a wagon because it is a wagon-as interpreted by the AMG engineers on Krypton.
2006 E55 AMG Wagon
Engine: AMG-built 5.5-liter aluminum V8, producing 469 hp at 6,100 rpm and 516 pound-feet of torque
Performance: 0â€60 in 4.5 seconds; 155 mph (electronically limited) top speed
Next Page: Driving the S65 AMG.