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Time for a Minivan? Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG to the Rescue

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author photo by Alex Palmeri December 2016

If you're a parent and a car enthusiast like myself, discussing which family-hauler you buy can be stressful. After all, you know the dreaded word -- minivan -- may come up. After baby No. 2, you realize that your midsize sedan works well for commuting to work and that once-a-year date night, but it doesn't quite work so well with a double-wide stroller and a diaper bag that could moonlight as a full-size suitcase.

The conversation starts off like this. Your wife: "Honey, I really like my sister's Odyssey. It's so nice with the kids! And it drives just like a car." You internally: "Oh no, is this actually happening?" You think back to that night you made a pact with all your buddies. It was a long night of underground street racing (or sitting in the parking lot of White Castle all night with your hoods popped -- who can remember?). You guys said that under no circumstance would you ever buy a minivan.

But then you realize you are soooo prepared for this.

You know that in 2007, Mercedes-Benz was crazy enough to offer an R-Class with a 507-horsepower 6.2-litre V8. Mercedes called it a Grand Sports Tourer, but really, it's a minivan. After all, Mercedes already offers SUVs and station wagons -- and what else can you call the R-Class? I was working at a Mercedes-Benz of Chicago when the R63 AMG came out. I can assure you that every one that crossed my path smelled of rotten milk and had Cheerios glued to every seat.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This post is from Alex Palmeri, a reader in the Chicago area who had the chance to drive a Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG. We accept posts from readers who drive 507-hp minivans.)

So you pitch your wife all the typical minivan features. The seating for six. Multiple rear screens. Headphones, navigation, heated seats, a power lift gate. Roughly 100 airbags.

The hook is in. Now you just have to find one. The R63 AMG was only made for 2007 -- and while it was always meant to be a low-production car, it ended up being an ultra-low-production car: Many estimates suggest fewer than 100 were sold. This is partially because the R63 AMG was a $95,000 minivan-looking thing that got 12 miles per gallon in the city, so it didn't have much appeal. The R63's poor sales also stem from its timing: It debuted right before the Great Recession of 2008.

In searching for an R63, I found a few owners talking about selling or discussing their purchase online. The car's value estimate on Autotrader is right on: Around $30,000 will get you one with about 100,000 miles on the clock.

I was fortunate enough to find one of these gems at a local car dealer. The owner of iCars Chicago, a Chicago-area car dealership, apparently got the sales pitch down to a science, and his wife uses their R63 AMG exactly as designed: as a family minivan. They were nice enough to let me review the R63, and I took the opportunity to bring my wife.

You can tell right way that the R63 has had the AMG treatment. Although it weighs 5,100 pounds, its handling is far superior to the normal R-Class. Multiple suspension and transmission modes help it feel more like a sports car than a minivan, although I place it somewhere in between.

But of course, it's the straight-line performance where you'll be most impressed. The all-wheel-drive R63 does 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds, putting it right up there with all other AMG offerings of that era. Chances are, you'd even fare very well from a stoplight against most 2-wheel-drive sports cars due to increased traction from the R63's all-wheel drive. Stay in it, and the R63 will even do 155 mph. And massive brakes -- 15.4-inch rotors in front and 14.4-in ones back -- help you stop after you realize you aren't that late for little Jimmy's soccer practice.

As you can probably tell in the video, I really enjoyed the way this car sounds. The thing just sounds angry when let loose. Stall it up a little before launch, and the R63 will even break the tires loose.

Now, my wife Chrissy can have quite the lead foot sometimes, so it wasn't long before she figured out why I had been so excited to show her a minivan.

She definitely enjoyed all the interior features and the high-end feel of driving a Mercedes, but it was the power that caught her attention. In the video, you see her playing around a couple times, even surprising me with a little hole shot from a light. In the end, I don't think it would be too difficult to get her on board with the R63 -- and it's safe to say we would keep the baby seat facing rearward a tad bit longer if we owned one. Maybe we'd even invest in some racing helmets for the kids.

Given how much I enjoyed the R63 AMG, I remain hopeful that a car manufacturer will one day come to the rescue with another performance-based minivan. Is a Hellcat Caravan too much to ask for?

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Time for a Minivan? Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG to the Rescue - Autotrader