2020 Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG
– Supremely stylish inside and out
– Great handling and comfort
– As fast as a business jet
– Business jets aren’t cheap
– Lack of feedback from controls
– Spare wheel loose in the boot
Mercedes-Benz has come a long way from when the brand was the gold standard for luxury cars. It held that distinction for decades, until about the turn of the millenium, when the German company decided to get into every niche possible to improve their bottom line. Things such as the A-Class and the GLA-Class have diluted the brand down to being dressed-up Hyundai rivals, while styling misfires such as the weird GLC Coupe and the latest E-Class have been polarising. But while everyone from Audi to Hyundai are building outstanding flagship sedans, none of them are experiencing the success of the S-Class. Mercedes-Benz has actually managed to step it up further with each generation of the S-Class, culminating in the amazing version that debuted in 2014. The range received a facelift for 2018, and we drove the sporty version — the Mercedes-AMG S 63 as it’s called after a naming reshuffle some years ago.
The facelift isn’t so apparent. We’re not even sure what’s been changed, but it still retains its stateliness without appearing to try too hard. The AMG gets more aggressive bumpers, wheels and exhaust tips, with bigger brakes peeking through the alloys, but other than that, the AMG version flies under the radar. Either way, it is design perfection for a large sedan, and far more elegant than the car that will replace it in 2021.
The interior remains an eye-popping array of curves, creases and premium materials. Dollops of perforated leather on several surfaces, multi-piece robotic seats that offers six types of massage and grab you tighter in turns, two huge 12.3-inch LCD screens with smooth animation, safety tech that practically can drive the car for you, abundant mood lighting all around, and details such as a big metal speaker grilles everywhere as well as little door-speakers that rotate and pop out when you turn on the stereo. The theatrics are worthy of the price tag, although you can spec up a non-AMG S-Class with these gimmicks as well. The only way to tell it’s an AMG are the embroidered or stamped “AMG” logos strewn about the upholstery.
Being the long-wheelbase model, there is no shortage of space, especially in the back since the extra length is all for the rear-passenger legroom. Back-seat dwellers can stretch out like its a private lounge, and enjoy reclining seats, massages, powered window-shades and head-rest pillows. Oddly enough, the massive S-Class is not very practical in terms of cargo capacity, as the boot space is taken up by a huge space-saver spare wheel that’s not tied down properly so it crushes your luggage. It’s a problem afflicting all new GCC-spec Mercedes sedans as they found a lazy solution to comply with local regulations.
While the screen tech looks great, it can get tedious going through the barrage of menus because there are settings for every little thing. The interface even starts lagging if you use the rotary-dial controller too quickly. To complicate things further, there are even thumbpads on the steering wheel to control even more onscreen functions. It is highly unlikely that the average well-heeled owner of one of these cars will bother with even a sliver of the customisation features.
Everything is power-operated, and all the expected tech is there, such as multi-beam LED headlights, adaptive cruise, 360-degree cameras, booming Burmester stereo, ventilated seats with selectable massage options, dual moonroofs, rear screens, great four-zone climate control, active safety/driving aids and all that, but there is also a perfume bottle in the glovebox which presumably lets out a sniff inside the cabin, although it’s overly subtle.
Powered by a 4.0-litre V8 making 612 hp at 5500 rpm and a massive 900 Nm of torque from just 2750 rpm, the S 63 absolutely flies with the help of a 9-speed automatic as well as standard “4Matic” all-wheel-drive to better handle all that kick. Click into Sport+ mode and all that juice is unleashed at full tilt, with the exhaust note spitting and barking like a muscle car on its way to a 0-100 kph run of 5.5 seconds in our afternoon testing.
When you stomp the throttle pedal, the S 63 AMG takes off smoothly to avoid shocking occupants with sudden acceleration, a feature carried over from the regular S-Class. The manual mode holds gears as per your inputs, but the paddle-shifters have a tiny delay in responding with a gear-change. And it burned petrol at a rate of 18.1 litres/100 km (5.5 km/litre) in our testing.
While its straight-line abilities remain tremendous, the humongous car (it barely fits in a standard parking space) can also corner like a sports sedan. There’s generous grip from the 255/40 front and 285/35 rear tyres and the car stays flat around speedy corners thanks to the adaptive suspension. But in its pursuit for comfort, the chassis can feel mildly floaty and the steering offers no real feedback, so you have to readjust your senses to drive this thing fast.
The brakes are really strong as well, as they should be, given that the golden calipers apparently signify our car came with the optional carbon-ceramic brakes that cost as much as a small Hyundai. While you may question the need for race-ready ceramics on a full-size limo, this is the kind of thing that differentiates real flagships from wannabe ones like those sold by upstart luxury brands — you can option up the big boys to ridiculous levels.
The ride is indeed very smooth and quiet, and the car can be driven over speedbumps without slowing down too much, yet it doesn’t bounce like a water bed. The S-Class range probably has the best comfort-focused suspension in the business.
After all is said and done, the S-Class remains the top dog in the full-size luxury sedan business, and the S 63 AMG is the more interesting choice in the range. However, it’s extremely pricey, and you can get about 90% of the same S-Class pleasure with a well-specced S 450. Also, we would’ve preferred the shorter standard-wheelbase version, because it doesn’t make much sense to let your chauffeur drive a sports sedan while you lounge in the back. Anyway, if you like the styling, this is the final year to get it — there’s a new model on the way for 2021 which takes on more generic styling cues, although it will surely raise the game yet again.
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