The Mercedes-AMG S63 is still the go-to choice if you want a big saloon that doesn't hang around. Jonathan Crouch reports on the latest version.
Ten Second Review
The Mercedes-AMG S63 weighs 100kg less than it used to and packs 900Nm of torque with 585PS from its 5.5-litre turbocharged V8. It's glued to the road by Mercedes' Magic Body Control, will hit 62mph in 4.4 seconds and yet still conforms to stringent EU6 emissions regulations. What more could you ask for?
There's something deliciously wanton about a true hero-power limousine. Whether it's the image of stealthy speed or the notion of money being no object and time being a more precious commodity, cars like the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG play to an audience that most of us find utterly unknowable. Still, even if not all of us can afford the £120,000-odd admission fee to this decidedly exclusive club, sometimes it's just fun to press our noses to the glass. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this latest S63 AMG isn't the power, the quality or the luxury gadgetry. It's the almost obsessive quest to make a car of this type - which by its very nature is one of excess and extremes - as efficient as possible. Does that matter to the target audience? Insofar as it's an indicator that they're buying some of the world's best automotive engineering, it just might.
The utterly magnificent E63 AMG gave us a clue what to expect with the big brother and also what we're missing. Mercedes is bringing to the UK the long wheelbase S63 AMG with drive being directed to the rear wheels. It uses the same 585PS 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 found beneath the bonnet of the S Model version of the E63 AMG. More numbers? You get 900Nm of torque which is some 100Nm more than the E63. Hierarchies need to be observed, you see. This will catapult the 2,070kg S63 to 62mph from rest in a mere 4.4 seconds and it keeps going until 155mph appears on the speedometer not so very long later, at which point a soft electronic speed limiter intervenes. Other European markets get a standard wheelbase all-wheel drive version which sounds even more appealing but Mercedes has no plans to offer it to us. Fitted as standard to all versions is the AMG SPEEDSHIFT seven-speed automatic transmission, and all feature ESP with Curve Dynamic Assist, which nips the brakes at an inside rear wheel to help reduce understeer. Also fitted as standard is sports suspension with Mercedes' Magic Body Control. Although it sounds like those fat-squishing underpants beloved by ladies of a certain age, Magic Body Control actually uses the car's stereo camera to scan the road surface for lumps and bumps, pre-emptively adjusting the suspension to give the smoothest ride possible. In a rare technical glitch, however, it doesn't work at night. Or if there's a car close in front. Or if there are puddles or snow on the road. I think that accounts for about 90 per cent of UK driving conditions.
Design and Build
Mercedes has adopted quite a subtle approach to the styling of this latest S63 AMG. The standard S Class looks quite aggressive with its flared wheel arches and coupe-like roofline, so the company felt that this model didn't need to over-egg the pudding with styling excess. You'll notice a more purposeful front bumper with larger air intakes and tiny flics to produce downforce. There's also a rear bumper with a diffuser and twin chromed exhaust tailpipes, along with the usual AMG badging. Drop inside and you'll be embraced by AMG sports seats, while the dash features a slick IWC-branded analogue clock. There's also a sports steering wheel and a TFT screen featuring an AMG instrument cluster with a speedometer that only runs out of numbers at 205mph. That seems a bit arbitrary given that the car is limited to 155mph but be sure that there will be de-restriction options offered. Weight saving is a key theme that runs throughout this model's development and evidence of it is everywhere from the largely aluminium body, through to the carbon fibre spare wheel well to the lightweight lithium-ion starter and back-up batteries.
Market and Model
Rivals in the £120,000 environs are actually few and far between. BMW has long been curiously reticent to offer a seriously sporty 7 Series and the Audi S8 is around £40,000 cheaper. Go £30,000 the other way and you butt into the Bentley Flying Spur. Maserati's Quattroporte isn't really the same kettle of kippers and neither are Aston Martin's four-door Rapide or Porsche's might Panamera Turbo. It's hard to believe, but the Mercedes S63 AMG has managed to wriggle into a class of one. Equipment? It's hard to know where to start. Mercedes has made some big strides in terms of safety equipment which, bundled together, it refers to as Intelligent Drive. Using a stereo camera and multistage radar sensors, the S-Class marshals the adaptive cruise control, lane guidance and Brake Assist System BAS PLUS with Cross-Traffic Assist, which is able to detect crossing traffic and pedestrians, boosting the braking power applied by the driver accordingly. In the back, there are beltbags; inflatable seat-belt straps that are able to reduce the risk of injury to passengers in the rear in a head-on collision by lessening the strain placed on the ribcage. The reclining seat is equipped with a cushion bag under the seat cushion upholstery as standard. When the seat is reclined, it prevents the occupant from sliding beneath the seat belt (so-called submarining) in an accident.
Cost of Ownership
Cost of ownership is a tough one to pin down on this car until we get hold of some more concrete numbers, especially those concerning residual value which tends to be the big ticket item with a model of this type and the one bill that almost all prospective owners will sit up and pay attention to. There are counter arguments as to how this vehicle will hold up in that regard. The first is that it's a big petrol Mercedes and these tend to be hit hard, unless they're limited run coupe editions. Have a look at what you can buy earlier S55 AMGs for in the classifieds and ask yourself whether this car will really suffer a dramatically different fate. Of course, the flipside of this is that this is a new S Class platform and this is the most desirable of the current crop, which should plump up demand for the short term at least. Despite its enormous power output, the S63 AMG officially returns 27.9mpg and emits a competitive 237g/km of carbon dioxide.
The Mercedes-AMG S63 is a car with no significant Achilles heel. It's a vehicle that has become acutely attuned to the needs of its target market who want a rapid yet discreet car that can entertain when required and ride like a standard long-wheelbase limousine the rest of the time. This duality of personality is something that took AMG a long while to master, yet the fine tuning of this ride and handling compromise is something that the Affalterbach company has excelled at in recent years. Where this car differs from its key rivals is that it is a mature theme. It doesn't need to try too hard and that becomes enormously seductive. There's a confidence imbued throughout the S63 AMG that's notably absent from cars priced above and below it that can loosely be considered rivals. Never mind the big numbers. Mercedes has moved beyond that level and is working at a more rarefied level in the automotive hierarchy of needs.