AMG-spec S-classes have always been a curious mix: a Jekyll/Hyde combination of the world's benchmark luxury saloon, and a liberal dollop of hooliganism from the AMG engineers in Affalterbach, Germany.
The next-gen car won't stray far from that recipe, but will make use of more advanced technology and materials when it arrives to fight its plethora of rivals late next year.
What gives this car away as an AMG S-class?
The large-diameter, multi-spoke wheels are a common AMG trait, as are the meaty cross-drilled disc brakes lurking within. Hiding in the rear bumper are two rectangular exhaust outlets, pointing to this car being a V8 '63' variant: the current S63 gets a quad rectangular pipe arrangement. Ultimate S65 V12 S-classes get four oval tailpipes as a subtle differentiator.
Other clues are the camouflage around the front bumper and side skirts, covering a more sculpted bodykit and larger cooling apertures, in line with Merc's corporate AMG look.
Engines will be broadly recognisable from today's all-turbo line-up. The S63 switched from a normally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 to the direct-injected 5.5-litre bi-turbo in 2010, though power in the new car will rise from the current 537bhp total. S65s were twin-turbocharged throughout the outgoing car's life, though CO2 and economy figures were improved at the time of the mid-cycle facelift. Expect further nods to the environmental lobby with the new model.
Are there more radical changes under the skin?
In the skin itself, to be precise. To offset the groaning weight of countless comfort, entertainment and safety gadgets, the next S63 will feature a carbonfibre bonnet and bootlid. The black weave will also be used for the roof panel to bring the centre of gravity down.
One of the highlights on the aforementioned tech front is the introduction of Mercedes' long-touted 'Magic Ride Control'. This system scans the road ahead and adjusts the car's damping and ride characteristics depending on the surface. We expect the AMG S-classes to get separate Sport, Sport Plus and AMG modes, as per the E63, CLS63 and SLS AMG supercar. That should keep the chauffeur amused once his clients have vacated the rear seats...
What are the key rivals for the go-fast S-class?
Thanks to the death of Maybach and the resultant expansion of the S-class family tree, the new AMG cars will have to fight a war on several different fronts. At the lower end of the scale the S63 will take on regular sporty limousines like the Audi S8, BMW 760Li and Jaguar XJ Supersport. But with stretched and even convertible variants in the pipeline, the new AMG will also battle high-end motors like the Bentley Continental GTC, Aston Martin Rapide, and the Ferrari FF. Even the new Range Rover, boasting its improved limo credentials, is a threat to the S-class's dominance of the luxury car sector; to find out how the new Rangie fares against Aston, Ferrari and Bentley opposition, look out for the December issue of CAR magazine, on sale now.
Expect an 'entry-level' standard wheelbase S63 AMG to be priced from £120,000 when it arrives late in 2013. For CAR's scoop of the new S-class interior, click here.