The new Mercedes E63 AMG Estate aims to offer buyers an unparalleled combination of practicality and pace.
There are few cars that will fit as much in their boot, but despite the Mercedes' overall size, this 550bhp twin-turbo V8, rear-wheel-drive wagon is just 0.1 seconds slower to 62mph than the Jaguar F-type V8 S.
We've already driven the standard range of Mercedes' vast and well-equipped E-Class Estates, but this is the first time we've sampled the most potent version on UK roads.
To complement the considerable power increase over its siblings, the E63 AMG Estate features a styling pack that includes heavily sculpted front and rear bumpers, chrome trim in the curved front splitter and five-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels.
What's the 2013 Mercedes E63 AMG Estate like to drive?
As soon as you start it, you'll discover a rather different character compared with its rivals. The deep bellow from the exhaust rumbles like a muscle car at idle, which seems to be amplified as it reverberates around the enormous boot space behind you.
The E63 leaves you in no doubt of its intentions it feels like an aggressive, industrial-strength piece of kit before you've even set off.
Once you do, the feeling is reinforced by the feel of the sports suspension that comes as standard on the E63. The set-up is very firm but it will be perfectly tolerable for most buyers, given the performance on offer. Furthermore, it's an adjustable system with three settings: Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus.
The first is, unsurprisingly, the most accommodating of the three. On most roads it will be comfortable enough, and you'll only notice thuds through the cabin over the most pitted surfaces. Switch to either of the sport settings and the ride can become unforgiving over rough roads.
However, both of the firmer settings neutralise the slight roll on turn-in, giving the car excellent body control at high speed. The steering is precise and well weighted regardless of your velocity.
You'll have no problem reaching those high speeds either, because the propulsion on offer is astonishing. The 550bhp twin-turbo V8 shoots the car from 0-62mph in a supercar-rivalling 4.3 seconds, and on to a limited top speed of 155mph.
The soundtrack that accompanies this acceleration is a full-bodied, brutal howl that makes the refined tones of the BMW M5 sound ordinary in comparison.
However, the driving experience isn't without fault. Firm ride aside, the greater problem is AMG's Speedshift version of Mercedes' seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox, which is too slow to react when pulling away. If you drop the gearbox into Drive to accelerate from a traffic light or busy junction, only if you tickle the throttle gingerly will the E63 move off smoothly. Squeeze the throttle a bit more when you need to make a quick exit into a gap in the traffic, and the 'box seems to dither for a second or two, which can be incredibly frustrating.
Switching to Sport or Sport Plus mode doesn't help in this regard, but it does make the gearbox far more eager to drop down when accelerating hard, and will hang on to the ratios longer as it heads for the redline.
Overall refinement is very good wind noise is well-suppressed considering the E-Class Estate is such a large and fairly boxy car, although the firm damping and big wheels mean road noise is occasionally intrusive.
What's the 2013 Mercedes E63 AMG Estate like inside?
Equipment levels are high, regardless of the E-Class Estate you choose. Electric adjustable heated seats, sat-nav, nine airbags, automatic headlights and wipers, Bluetooth and digital radio are all included on the entry-level trim.
A standard electric tailgate also makes life easier when you're filling the boot, which is enormous. There's well over 1900 litres available when the split-folding rear seats are down, and you're unlikely to be caught short for space, even when you've got passengers in the back.
The E63 AMG also features a plush leather interior, climate control, panoramic sunroof, brushed aluminium pedals and a 14-speaker surround-sound system. Be wary of the substantial E63 AMG options list: it would be easy to get carried away and spec one into six figures.
The E-Class Estate is a five-seat car on paper, but given the size of the transmission tunnel that intrudes into the cabin, it's really only suitable for four people on long journeys. That said, those two rear passengers will have plenty of leg- and headroom, even if they're six-footers.
The perceived quality of the cabin is very luxurious, but some of the materials - particularly in areas that you look at or touch less often - aren't quite up to the standard you'd expect at this price.
Should I buy one?
The key rivals at this price are the BMW M5 and Audi RS6 the former can currently be ordered only as a saloon, the latter only as a wagon but as a visceral driving experience, the E63 steals the show. Its gearbox is a slight disappointment, yet it still achieves the best compromise between being thrilling and cosseting.
The E63 also looks to be better value than its CLS63 Shooting Brake sibling the latter is more stylish, but it's also 7545 more expensive and has 400 litres less luggage space.
The E63 is not as refined or as stylish as some rivals, but it's the best all-rounder and should leave anyone who can afford to buy one wanting for very little indeed.
What Car? says...
Engine size 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged petrol
Price from 75,535
Torque 531lb ft
0-62mph 4.3 seconds
Top speed 155mph (limited)
Fuel economy 28.3mpg