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Mercedes AMG S 63 review: Naughty by nature
Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany
LOVE it or hate it, there's nothing like a Mercedes-Benz, especially when you're talking about the flagship Sonderklasse (or Special Class) limousine - or as it's more commonly known, the S-Class.
A mid-life makeover has given the venerable limo a freshened-up design, and has given engineers a chance to slip new features into the car. That's important to any fan of the brand, since technology in the S-Class tends to trickle down to the other models.
Some of the new tech is meant to make driving less of a chore. The new S-Class features the latest evolution of the brand's autonomous driving systems, with electronic systems to aid lane-change/evasive steering and even stop the car automatically to avoid an accident.
Like the other facelifted S-Class models, the S 63 tested here features a subtly updated front-end, albeit with more sporty overtones. It boasts a new apron design, with motorsports-inspired air-intakes and a lower splitter in the AMG GT R sportscar's distinctive "Jetwing" design. Designers have also given it a more prominent grille and fresh LED headlights that Mercedes dubs "Multibeam". The car's rear, which will be a familiar sight to slower road denizens, features a new apron design that frames the quadruple tailpipes.
There are new diesel, petrol and hybrid engines for the S-Class, but our focus here is what powers the S 63. Out goes the mammoth 5.5-litre, twin-turbo V8 and seven-speed gearbox, and in its place is a 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 with a nine-speed auto. It's the same potent combination that you'll find under the bonnet of the latest E 63 S.
Downsizing the engine might seem like a downgrade, but the new 4.0 punches above its weight to deliver a storming 612 horsepower (hp). The engine's peak pulling power is a monumental 900 Newton-metres (Nm).
Our S 63 test car came with the impressive 4Matic+ drivetrain, a fully-variable all-wheel-drive system that delivers optimum grip and stability in adverse driving conditions, yet can become fully rear-drive when you're in the mood to dance through corners.
Unfortunately, for technical reasons, right-hand-drive S 63s will only be available in rear-drive, which is a pity, because the combination of a two-tonne kerb weight, big torque and 4Matic+ makes for a potent blend in both wet and dry conditions.
Weight being the enemy of agility, the S 63 benefits from some lightweight measures that save up to 50kg. For starters, a lithium-ion battery is available (much lighter than the lead-acid norm), and so are forged alloy rims and carbon-ceramic brakes, as well as a spare wheel recess made of carbon.
Predictably, the smaller V8 is more efficient than its predecessor too, thanks in part to a cylinder-deactivation feature. Drive gently, and the engine shuts half itself down, saving fuel.
As with key rivals such as the Alpina B7 and BMW's M760Li xDrive, the occupants are cocooned in a calm, restful and luxurious environment that is as opulent as it is functional, even as the S 63 blitzes towards its top speed on the autobahn.
This sportscar-like performance makes it less of a stigma to be seen driving yourself in a large limo these days. Ultra limos like these are apparently attracting more customers under the age of 45 than ever. The S 63 proves to be remarkably young-at-heart itself when the going gets winding, and it's blissfully easy to drive it like you stole it, even if you only filched it from your chauffeur for the day.
The faster you go, the sooner you'll discover that a delightfully naughty soul lurks beneath the S-Class' luxurious civility. It does play nice too, of course, with a selector switch that allows you to engage different driving modes, the most comfy of which turns the S 63 into a pussycat by virtue of softening its suspension and calming its uproarious engine.
That allows you to tread back and forth across the line between naughty and nice, but owning an S 63 is probably such a thrill that the experience will feel like Christmas every day. Just be prepared to occupy a permanent spot on Santa's naughty list.
Mercedes-AMG S 63 4MATIC+
Engine 3,982cc, 32V, V8 bi-turbo
Power 612hp at 5,500-6,000rpm
Torque 900Nm at 2,750-4,500rpm
Gearbox 9-speed AMG SpeedShift MCT automatic
Top speed 250km/h (electronically limited)
0-100km/h 3.5 seconds
Fuel efficiency 8.9L/100km
Price On Application
Agent: Cycle & Carriage Industries