TEST DRIVE | 2015 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG
I’ve extensively driven the new S-Class on several occasions since its release and have been very impressed and confident that Mercedes-Benz are still holding the crown when it comes to the best business saloon, so the newest AMG variant has to set an even higher standard to compete with the other big hitters from Germany.This latest S63 AMG has a 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 rather than the previous 6.2-litre V8. Not that it would matter to an owner, but fuel economy is improved from the previous model and emissions are reduced. OK, I won’t mention fuel economy or emissions again in this review, I promise!
Headline figures are as follows: The new highly-tuned engine produces 585bhp and a simply wunderbar 900Nm of torque which propels this business class limo to 60mph in 4.3 seconds, thats Aston Martin and Ferrari territory but the S63’s closest competitor is probably a big Bentley which gives the same endless and effortless aristocratic torque. That or a new Sunseeker yacht perhaps. If you want a full acceleration start then you need to wait less than a second after you’ve floored it for the turbos to spool up but then it’s like riding a nuclear bomb. It feels like much less than 4 seconds and some reviewers have actually achieved less when testing. The North American spec ‘4Matic’ (all-wheel drive) S63 AMG is even quicker.
This particular test car was finished in ‘Diamond White’, a £760 option but the most beautiful white I’ve ever seen, with a pearly, almost purple shine in direct sunlight. The only other colour I would choose for this car is a sinister black. The [also] optional 20″ 10-spoke AMG wheels are a little more pricey at £1,740 but I would say essential on a white car this handsome. In terms of looks, I’m torn between this S-Class and the Jaguar XJ Supersport, the latter looking best in black. This car didn’t have them fitted, but you can also spec a set of enormous and very naughty looking 420mm ceramic brakes for a shade under £7,100, in fact they are the largest ever fitted to a production car. The two large air dams each side of the front bumper help cool the discs.
When it comes to interiors, the Jag set the benchmark with its unique plush quality but this new S-Class blows the new XJ away. The S63 AMG has lashings of carbon fibre (should you spec it), a bit of Alcantara here and there, and more leather than a Soho fetish shop. Oh, and all contact surfaces such as doors, armrests and steering wheel are automatically heated on cold mornings. The dynamic seats are AMG-specific and are very plush indeed, like big thick armchairs with almost infinite adjustments as well as the heating, ventilating and massage functions which we’ve come to expect in an S-Class. Passengers in the rear thrones get the same treatment. Hot stone massage on the M25 anyone?
If the hot stone massage gets too intense then you can actually combine it with the seat ventilation to cancel out the sizzling stones – yes you can run hot and cold at the same time, like a mixer tap. It’s amazing to think that I was travelling at [insert speed here] while having my derrière massaged like I was in a Caribbean spa resort and there was as much drama as sitting on a beach eating ice cream.
One thing I didn’t like however, was the steering wheel. You’d think for a base price of £120,150 that Mercedes would engineer a sportier version instead of sticking with the same steering wheel from the base S350 which costs half as much, just adding an AMG badge at the bottom. The cheap and nasty plastic gear select stalk to the right of the steering wheel is also getting a little tiresome now, it’s been around for 20 years. I’d instead like to see it incorporated into the centre console somehow and not just lifted from lesser Merc models.
Under brisk acceleration the quad-exit active exhausts produce a satisfying and purposeful deep grumble which sometimes sounds restrained and muted. I want to hear all of that V8 like in the last S63 which sounded like a real muscle car! But to be fair, in some cases an owner will be driven in this car rather than be behind the wheel themselves. This is a car the chauffeur can take for a thrash if he’s early picking up a client – and he will be early be because the S63 is limited (by tyres and what not) to 186mph and will beat everything you will come up against. Should you wish to settle down however, ‘Comfort’ mode can be selected and the car will set off in second gear and quieten down a little. Thanks to some EU nonsense the S63 also has start/stop when in Comfort mode. Utterly pointless and unnecessary but that’s a discussion for another time.
With the ever increasing demand for smaller but more powerful engines, Audi and BMW went to great lengths to retain the exhaust note of their engines in the S8 and M5 while still reducing the engine capacity from previous models but increasing power output. I’m pleased to report that the new S63, with its decreased engine displacement still bangs, cracks and pops like a gooden when in Sport and Manual mode! When you floor it, the sound is a little bit muted from within the cabin (as it should be with the car’s twin-pane laminated glass) but AMGs and turbos are certainly a match made in heaven.
Other optional extras include a sharp head-up display and a chavtastic Burmester surround sound system with speakers everywhere for £6,430 but the standard set up is more than adequate. I glanced over the mood lighting options during my S350 test but I had a good play with selecting the perfect ambient interior lighting in the S63. The blue was too £14.99 Halfords neon kit for me, while pink was too Essex strip club. ‘Tangerine’ was pleasant and it matched the cabin perfume which is nicely pumped around the interior.
In case you didn’t know, the new S-Class can drive itself, but due to insurance reasons this is only limited to 15 seconds before the driver has to regain control. I’d say that’s plenty enough time to take your coat off or send a couple of emails. Not that I found this out of course but above 125mph the ‘DTR+ Steering’ stops working. DTR+ Steering is Mercedes’ semi-autonomous driving tech that uses more cameras than the BBC to keep the car centered in a lane. When you [effortlessly] surge past 125mph, you and only you are in control rather than any of the assistance systems – they all disable. Speaking of all the self-steering and braking stuff, I do wonder how much it all affects the feel of the S-Class’ true steering – it does feel a bit digital and unnatural.
I didn’t find the S63 AMG particularly ‘fun’ to drive in the traditional sense of the word like I would a fast lightweight coupe, but there is something fascinating and humorous about knowing you can reach a triple figure speed in a few seconds while cocooned in perfect luxury. While driving it, every other car moved over into the left lane to let me past. It’s a very menacing-looking vehicle when you see it approaching.
As an Audi fanboy from a young age, it pains me to say that I would choose the S63 AMG over the new Audi S8 – a car which I adore and that should still be greatly respected for many reasons. It really is staggering how something so large and luxurious can be so blisteringly fast and agile when required. Audi, BMW and Jaguar are now definitely playing catch-up.
Some say the S63 AMG is “just a faster S-Class”… well that’s absolutely fine by me.