The Brabus website may now boast a whole section dedicated to its work on electric Smart cars, but rest assured this is still very much a tuner devoted to the job of extracting big performance from Mercedes-sourced engines. Only last year it launched the twin-turbo V12 GV12 900, after all, and its newly launched Shadow 900 XC super boat uses a 4.6-litre motor to achieve its 60 knots. Brabus knows combustion engines and power as well as anyone.
We were reminded of that fact with the arrival of what is claimed as the world’s only 850 Estate in the classifieds. The Bottrop-made machine first made headlines back in 2013 as it was comfortably the world’s most powerful and fastest wagon. The all-wheel drive machine (though you could order it with rear-drive) was based on the Mercedes-AMG E63 wagon, and used a twin-turbo 5.9-litre V8 with 850hp and 848lb ft of restricted torque (capped from a 1,069lb ft peak, to protect the driveline!), enabling a top speed of 217mph. That was the ‘at least’ number as well, with Brabus apparently not having a tarmac strip long enough to test the actual maximum. We're inclined to believe its estimate.
Brabus’s gains weren’t achieved with a dreary ECU flash either, but rather a comprehensive re-engineering of the 5.5-litre V8. The block was bored out, the pistons forged and there was a new, precision-balanced billet crankshaft connected to eight billet piston rods, which sat underneath flowed cylinder heads. New turbos with bigger compressors provided more boost, and beautifully sculpted exhaust manifolds helped force the gases out quicker.
Engineers also swapped the original plastic intakes for a carbon fibre module, which was fed cold air by a bonnet duct, while the turbo pipework was wrapped in gold heat reflecting sheathing to increase air density. At the other end of the system, there was a stainless-steel exhaust system with valves to control its volume; the quietest setting made for a docile tone, while the loudest freed those Brabus-finished eight-cylinders to growl without restriction. In its quickest guise, the 850 was claimed to hit 62mph in just 3.1 seconds – which is rapid even by today’s super-estate standards. The new Audi RS6 is half a second slower.
But because this is a Brabus, the accompanying exterior tweaks were minimal, with some new pieces on the bumpers, different wheels and, as per tradition, the B badges in place of the three-pronged star. Back in 2013 it looked the nuts. In 2020, it still looks the nuts. And let’s not forget, this remains a five-seater with an E-Class Estate boot, so it’s as practical (fuel bills aside) as anyone could realistically expect a car to be.
Thanks to all that built-in prowess, and extreme exclusivity whether this is in fact the only 850 or one of a very small number, this isn't a cut-price fast wagon. No, despite its vintage and 23k mileage, the car on sale for £129,000. Which is pricey. But think of it this way; that’s not much more than a high-spec RS6 Avant - and it buys something decidedly more epic.
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