Is the S63 AMG really worth all the fuss?
Er, yes, in a word
It drives like a muscle car while keeping you coccooned in luxury
That engine note will stay with you long after you’ve parked it
You’ll embarrass ‘regular’ sportscars at traffic-light drag races
Allow me to attempt to put things in perspective here. I drove the S63 AMG immediately after I drove the AMG GT S, a car that I believe is every bit as rewarding as the hitherto gold standard in sportscars, the Porsche 911. I had a go in the GT S on twisty little back roads in the California countryside and on the legendary Laguna Seca racetrack, home to the infamous ‘corkscrew’ bend. I hit high triple-digit speeds in the GT S, and had trouble wiping a grin off my face the entire time that I spent behind its wheel. I marvelled at the way AMG had created a new-age performance car, one that can count itself among the current top echelon. I bloody loved the GT S, not to put too fine a point on it — but maybe, just maybe, I loved the S63 more.
I’m aware that I’m rushing headlong into heretical territory, at this point. “How can a car enthusiast worth his salt have the stones to claim that a luxury barge is more enjoyable than one of the best sportscars on the planet?” I hear you ask, with possibly justified indignation. Well, strange things happen in the automotive world, and salt is bad for your blood pressure, anyway.
Outwardly, there’s not a whole lot distinguishing this car from a ‘regular’ S-Class, but the touches that do exist hint at darker things. AMG body kit and alloy wheels lend it a sinister appearance, especially in black or navy, and the twin exhaust pipes are more than just cosmetic accoutrements, let me assure you. The plain-vanilla S-Class is a striking vehicle, for lack of a better word (its design is a matter for debate), but the AMG treatment ratchets up its visual appeal several notches — it’s a luxury barge, but it’s a barge that is simultaneously taut and muscular, with none of the softness and rounded edges that you would normally associate with a car in its class. It’s a car that politely growls, “Get the fuck out of my way, please — I’m a capitalist pig.”
A glance at the S63’s spec sheet will tell you that it’s not interested in the Geneva Convention. Under its considerable hood lies a 5.5-litre V8 engine, with two turbochargers helping to light the fuse; power and torque outputs of 577 bhp and 664 pound foot place it squarely in supercar territory, and will assist in losing your license fairly quickly, should you choose to go down that road — which you most definitely will. To go with all the added muscle, AMG put the S-Class on a weight loss program — lighter seats, extensive use of aluminium, carbon fibre bits — resulting in a saving of 100 kg, despite the addition of a four-wheel drive system. More power, less weight — you get where all this is heading?
Inside, the S63 has the same stratospheric levels of luxury, features and build quality as the standard S-Class. It truly is a mystery as to how Mercedes has managed to pull off a cabin of a standard this improbably high — you’ll be hard pressed to find a more comfortable car anywhere, and the only thing missing is a go-go dancer with tassles on her chest (I hear that’s on the options list). You still get a very old-school two-spoke steering wheel (and a IWC Schaffhausen clock on the dash), and if you choose to relinquish the driver’s seat to your chauffeur, the rear seats, with their insanely good massage functions, will ensure that Sir arrives at his destination in top shape. Seriously, even if you don’t order everything on the options list, you will be buying into some serious luxury levels.
Enough about creature comforts, however — the meat of this story, and of this car, lies in its magnificent, hand-assembled engine. Blip the throttle a few times and you may feel a tumescence coming on — the throaty, bassy V8 rumble, with a sharp high note, is sensational. Even in Comfort driving mode, this behemoth will blast its way to from 0 to 100 kph in under four seconds, and if you’re lucky enough to be able to find a suitable stretch of road, keeping the throttle pinned will see you hit close to 300 kph. The massive power and torque at your disposal, quite low down in the rev range, mean that even if you hit the gas at close to 200 kph, you will pin yourself back in your seat, with a seemingly endless supply of rapid forward motion still to come. All of this happens with just the hint of a growl intruding into the cabin (it’s a little louder in Sport mode), mind you, so you can plan that hostile takeover undisturbed.
Just as remarkable as its performance is the S63’s handling. A car this big and this heavy, by rights, should move like a cruise ship around corners, but this thing clearly didn’t get that memo. Around bends, you will find yourself astonished at the manner in which it grips the road and powers through — the all-wheel drive system helps greatly, of course. AMG has worked on the car’s dynamics and put in a stiffer rear subframe and a larger anti-roll bar at the rear, among other tweaks, but it’s still remarkable what this car is capable of. An S-Class that you can take to a day at the racetrack? You’d better believe it (remember to carry lots of spare tyres, though). There may be those who think that an uber-luxurious limousine shouldn’t be this badass, but I say bollocks — drive the S63 and call me in the morning.