Mercedes S63 AMG review
Mercedes S63 AMG is performance flagship of all-new S-Class range. The V8-powered S63 is powerful but has a high price
The Mercedes S-Class sits at the pinnacle of the brand's incredibly expansive range, and the hardcore AMG versions are designed to add an extra dose of dynamic ability and searing performance into what is already the most complete executive saloon on sale. In the UK the S63 will make up a very small fraction of total sales, which is why it's only available in rear-wheel drive form, with the extended wheelbase for maximum possible legroom. European buyers have the option of a new 4MATIC four-wheel drive version but this gets a different suspension system to cope with the added bulk and weight of the system. This version of the S-Class also gets bespoke styling tweaks and lightweight upgrades that make it 100kgs lighter than the previous version. A twin-turbo V12 S-Class with even more power and torque was revealed at the Los Angeles and Tokyo Motor shows, and will sit at the very top of the Mercedes range when it goes on sale in 2014, badged as the S65 AMG. A coupe version of the S-Class is also in the works, with an S63 model likely to follow, which should be significantly lighter and more agile than the stretched two-tonne saloon.
Our choice: Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG long wheelbase
For some buyers the new S63 will look too subtle, especially considering that it costs more than £100,000. However to our eyes it looks just right, and the softly flowing creases of the design do an excellent job of concealing its considerable bulk. Full LED head and tail lights make it look even more dramatic at night, and the 19-inch forged alloy wheels, quad exhausts and wider front air-intakes all help it stand out from the rest of the range. Inside, the futuristic cabin feels incredibly hi-tech and is dominated by two huge digital screens in the centre console. The AMG model gets bespoke TFT dials, a striking IWC analogue clock and more AMG logos on the incredibly supportive sports seats and central armrest. The cabin is also bathed in ambient lights, and standard equipment levels are extremely high, as any buyer asked to part with more than six figures would expect.
Like most AMG cars the new S63 is dominated by its engine. The 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 produces 576bhp and a staggering 900Nm of torque. That makes it significantly more powerful than its predecessor but also gives it a performance advantage over its closest rivals like the Audi S8 and new Maserati Quattroporte. All that power is sent to the rear wheels via a tougher MCT seven-speed automatic transmission - designed to give faster shift times than the torque-converter automatics fitted to the rest of the range. Claimed figures of 4.4 seconds from 0-62mph and a derestricted top speed of 186mph also give the S63 bragging rights over rivals like the BMW M6 Gran Coupe, but the rear-drive AMG is not as wayward as you might expect. On dry roads there is so much grip that you need to be driving extremely fast to provoke the rear-axle to move around, and this neutral balance means it feels more grown-up than previous AMG models. Mercedes fits the special 'Magic Body Control' system as standard too - it scans the road ahead for bumps and prepares the suspension for a pillowy smooth ride. In the S63 it's modified and doesn't work when the car is in Sport mode, but for a super saloon the S63 is far more comfortable than the likes of the Jaguar XJR and Audi S8. Refinement is superb as well with barely a whisper of wind or road noise even at very high cruising speeds.
Like any high-end luxury saloon, replacement parts are very expensive, so reliability is a crucial factor in any purchase. Fortunately for Mercedes the previous S63 AMG built a strong reputation for mechanical reliability, and while the new model features some truly complex electronic features and a vast array of gadgets that have never before been seen it is unlikely to leave you stuck by the side of the road. Build quality is excellent and the engine and major mechanical parts have already been used on a variety of AMG models. The S-Class is also probably the safest car Mercedes has ever built, with innovations like airbags built into the seat belts and a wide range of active and passive systems to enhance occupant protection in the front and the rear of the car.
Thanks to its stretched wheelbase, the S63 AMG is almost 5.3 metres in length, which is about the same as the new Range Rover. Inside that means a fantastic amount of space for all passengers with electric leather seats that adjust to suit virtually every body shape. However that size does also make it feel a bit unwieldy around town - the sheer size making some narrow side streets and parking spots a real squeeze. The boot is not as big as you might expect but there is still easily enough room for two or three large suitcases. Clever 360-degree cameras and sensors help deal with the size though, and labour saving features like the DISTRONIC PLUS adaptive cruise control and night-vision camera all make the S63 a relaxing car to drive over very long distances. Rear passenger comfort is pretty much unparralled, but be warned, as the reclining 'Executive' seat package that contributes to this high level of comfort is an expensive cost option, even on the flagship AMG.
Apart from the eye-watering asking price, the S63 will also be a seriously expensive proposition as an everyday driver. It does get start/stop as standard and the gearbox has a setting called 'controlled efficiency' which selects the gears with economy in mind, starting the car in second gear to save fuel. Yet despite these features, and several lightweight add ons the S-Class still only manages 27mpg combined and emits 237g/km of CO2. That may not seem too bad considering the level of performance on offer, but a costly and extensive options list, combined with steep depreciation and high insurance costs ensure that the AMG is by far the most expensive S-Class to run. It also does without the clever cylinder shut-off system employed in the twin-turbo V8 Audi S8 - which is more efficient despite being four-wheel drive, although it is worth noting that it also produces 250Nm less torque.