The new S-Class gets a dose of lunacy from AMG to create the S63 AMG. But how do you balance AMG performance with super-techy luxury?
A couple of months ago, Bassam hopped into the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class and confirmed what we all expected – it’s really good, and a technological marvel. But he used words like “impressed” and “clever”. There was no mention of excitement, or involvement. The Mercedes S-Class appears to be a car that wows the brain, but doesn’t really stir the soul.
But perhaps the boys from Affalterbach can change that? AMG is so often a byword for excitement; three letters renowned for injecting adrenalin directly into the heart of an otherwise mild-mannered Mercedes and jolting it to life. If anyone can make the S-Class appeal to the emotions, it’s AMG.
And so, just two days after the S63 AMG made its global debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show, I find myself in Salzburg, Austria, where after a lengthy bit of travelling and very little sleep, I have the chance to drive the new S63 AMG on some incredible roads through non-stop torrential rain.
On the face of it, this might seem a touch daunting. The S63 AMG has, after all, the now-infamous 5.5-litre biturbo V8 with 577bhp. And it’s the size of a barge. On twisting, slippery Tyrolean roads, isn’t that a recipe for trouble?
Well, maybe. But let’s not forget, this is no ordinary barge. This is a super-fast version of a car that tends to set the benchmark for the automotive landscape. If you want to see what features cars will have in 10 years, look at the Mercedes S-Class today. Consequently, the S63 has virtually every bit of safety technology you can think of, and a few that you probably can’t.
Interestingly, it also has all-wheel drive for the first time. Although rear-wheel drive models will also be available in various markets, it’ll be only the long wheelbase 4Matic models that come to the Middle East. On these roads, in these conditions, the presence of two more wheels-worth of traction is reassuring.
In the metal, the S63 isn’t immediately distinguishable from the regular S-Class. Take a close look and you’ll see the AMG badge on the boot lid, and a squint at the body design will reveal a special radiator grille and a front bumper with enlarged air intakes. Side skirts also tighten up the look, as do the large light-alloy wheels. At the back, chromed twin tailpipes lurk.
The interior is much more impressive to those that haven’t yet been in a new S-Class. The exterior is stylish and understated, but the interior raises eyebrows, for only good reasons. Our test car is outfitted with light grey leather and silver wood trim, and looks fantastic. The dominating feature is the twin widescreen dash that forms the instrument panel and infotainment display. It’s a separate unit sunk into the binnacle, and looks like some sort of iPad/television hybrid. Hidden LEDs emit a halo of blue light when I enter, but fiddling through the menus reveals that one can change the colour to personal tastes. The result is genuinely impressive, almost concept-car like. Full marks to the designers.
The driver’s seat is soft and enveloping, with large side bolsters. It adjusts nice and low, although I would have liked the wheel to extend more towards me.
A twist of the key fires up the V8 with a growl that almost immediately fades to near silence. This is a limousine, remember, so a race car like burble at idle would really not fit the bill. Getting out onto the road requires some tight negotiation of a narrow car park, and immediately the tech makes itself known. Cameras around the car combine to show not only rear and forward trajectories on the big screen, complete with markings that adjust depending on the steering input, but also give an overhead view. You’d have to be seriously cack-handed to accidentally hit a bollard on this thing.