Mercedes wields the big gun in the shape S65 AMG Coupe. Jonathan Crouch lets you know what to expect.
Ten Second Review
The Mercedes-AMG S65 Coupe is the vehicular embodiment of 'speak softly, and carry a big stick'. In this case your stick is good for 630PS and features twelve cylinders boosted by a pair of turbochargers. You'll pay over £185,000 for the privilege but once sampled, many will find it hard to settle for anything less.
When it comes to coupes, bigger isn't often synonymous with better. Bigger tends to mean bloated boulevardiers without the agility to get out of their own way. There are some exceptions of course and they tend to be German. The Porsche 928, the BMW 6 Series spring to mind as do the latter generation of big Mercedes-Benz two-doors. Who can forget the fantastic 500 SEC, or the blisteringly rapid CL65 AMG? To that canon comes the next generation of big Benz coupes, the S-Class Coupe. We've directed our aim at the biggest gun of the lot, the S65 AMG Coupe. There's nothing particularly politically correct about this one. It's a car that is all about power and poise, offering a concussive 630PS haymaker that puts the lights out on any putative rivals. It's something quite special.
AMG fans will know that the '65' badge on the back of a big Benz means it has some very serious firepower under the bonnet. More specifically, a six-litre twin-turbocharged V12 making somewhere north of 600PS. Well that hasn't changed in this latest car. While some may argue that the lighter eight-cylinder twin-turbo of the S63 makes for a more wieldy package, there will always be customers for whom anything less than 1,000Nm of torque is wholly inadequate and who prefer the creamy smoothness of a dozen cylinders Of course, this makes the S65 AMG just bruisingly rapid from seemingly any point in the rev range. It jets off the line and through 62mph in just 4.1 seconds on the way to a limited top speed of 155mph. Get the limiters removed and it would sail through 200mph without difficulty. The seven-speed AMG automatic gearbox directs drive to the rear wheels and features three modes,; efficiency, sport and manual. There's Mercedes' incredible 'magic body control' system which scans the road ahead and anticipates bumps by priming the suspension and sucking them up actively rather than trying to passively react. There's also 'curve tilting', which leans the car to promote flatter cornering.
Design and Build
You'd imagine an S-Class coupe to look like an S-Class saloon minus a couple of doors, else they would have probably called it an SEC or a CL or something along those lines but while Mercedes' logic might be hard to fathom, the end result brooks little in the way of argument. The S65 AMG is one sleek yet muscular thing. There's the requisite heft that all the best big Benzes have. It doesn't look lightweight. There's a bluffness to the front end and the wheel arches are swollen. The car just looks substantial as indeed it ought for the price you pay. Break out the tape and you'll discover the Coupe is 89mm shorter than it is as a saloon, and the roofline has been lowered by 85mm. There are huge brakes, twenty-inch forged alloy wheels and an awful lot of chromium slathered all over the exterior including the V12 BITURBO legend on the wings. Twin exhaust pipes and a custom rear diffuser also feature. The cabin has come in for an injection of extroversion, with a sportier three-spoke steering wheel, some beautiful diamond-quilted seats that are available in some quite shouty colours like Porcelain White and Bengal Red. I think I'd stick with black or tan. The lovely switchgear and huge screens are carried over from the saloon and the touch pad controller is purloined from the latest C-Class, allowing the driver to make smartphone-style gestures to control the key infotainment functions. There's also a head-up display, and a standard panoramic glass roof which can switch between opaque or transparent at the touch of a button.
Market and Model
Value is a bit of an opaque concept as far as the S65 AMG goes. It retails at around £185,000, which is clearly a hefty stack of bills, especially when the S63 is about sixty grand cheaper and the S500 retails at half its price. So what's the attraction? Would you really pay all that money just for a car that's marginally faster than the eight-cylinder AMG? In short, yes, some customers would. While there are clearly a class of customer who isn't happy with anything but the top of the range car, there's also another who clearly prefers the power delivery of the V12 to the V8. Mind you, given that these are now both twin-turbo models, the difference between the nature of the two engines isn't actually as great as it was when the 63 was powered by a high-revving normally-aspirated V8. Given that a Bentley Continental GT Speed is priced at around £152,000 and also features a power output comfortably in excess of 600PS, a dozen pistons and arguably an even more prestigious badge, isn't the big Merc a bit optimistically priced? Some may argue that case, but the S65 AMG is no ordinary Mercedes product. The engine is hand built by one man and you can pop the bonnet and see a plaque with his name on it. The standard equipment list borders on the ridiculous, with Active Parking Assist with a panoramic roof, a TFT 12.3" display, the clever Magic Vision Control system, COMAND Online and a choice of nine metallic paint options come as standard. There's also a thumping Burmester surround sound system with 13 speakers, a Head-up display, a TV Tuner, a 360 camera, and Night View Assist - capable of detecting hazards on the road ahead via an infrared camera.
Cost of Ownership
If you've ever seen the film Brewster's Millions, where Richard Pryor is forced to blow $30m in thirty days, you might have thought his best option would be the bulk buying and reselling of V12 Mercedes coupes. Traditionally they have depreciated as if the previous owners had suffered end stage Ebola Zaire in their cars. These days things may well be a little different. Not much, but a bit better than before. Still, there's a counter argument that says that if you can afford to spend an incremental £60k because you prefer the feel of an engine, then depreciation might not affect you too grievously. As you might well expect, Mercedes states the efficiency improvements of this car via weight-saving aluminium as if anybody really cares. For what it's worth, the S65 AMG emits 279g/km which means fuel economy in the region of 23.7mpg on the combined cycle.
Judging a car like the Mercedes-AMG S65 Coupe by standard criteria does seem to miss the point but can a car that's bought by such successful people be such an irrational decision? There are clear reasons why, should you be able to easily afford one, an S65 AMG Coupe makes a more appealing buy than, say, a Bentley Continental or for that matter, an S63 AMG. Its power delivery, its reserves of torque, its engine note, its dizzying standard equipment and its low-key but high-impact ethos are just some of them. The rather depressing fact remains that there are enough very high net worth individuals who want the most expensive Mercedes grand touring coupe who would countenance nothing else. They're accustomed to the best in everything they purchase and this car is no exception. The AMG factory at Affalterbach will continue building these very special cars for customers who may well take for granted their incredible capabilities. Whoever said life was fair?