► Merc’s V12 S-class Coupe flagship
► Monster V12 engine with 622bhp & 738lb ft
► And a monster price: £188,595
The S-class Coupe represents the pinnacle of Mercedes-AMG’s luxurious offerings. Where hardcore track capability and B-road conquest is the remit of the GT family, high-speed highway blasts and crossing whole continents in one schlep are this two-door’s bread and butter.
And following the announcement at the 2017 Frankfurt show in September that we’ll soon have a facelifted version to contend with, we thought this the perfect opportunity to stretch the outgoing models’ legs on a bit of a road trip.
But which version to choose? Not the common-or-garden S500 with its paltry mass-produced V8. Nor indeed the Affatlerbach-altered S63 with its hand-built version of the same motor. No. We went for the full caboodle. The all-singing, all-dancing S65 – because 12 cylinders is clearly better than eight.
The fact that the ’65 has a V12 punts it into rarefied territory, even for Mercedes’performance wing. One reason it’s a highly exclusive part of the market is the frankly eye-watering premium for this over the S63 Coupe, which isn’t exactly a slow, shrinking violet.
Hold on to your hats here: it costs a further £57,870.
The route we’d picked represented a challenge. We started in the German town of Bad Driburg near the Bilster Berg race resort, where we’d been testing some of AMG’s other metal on circuit. More on that soon…
Our first encounter with the S65 Coupe was in a concrete multi-storey car park. You know how they say first impressions count? This car didn’t fit into a parking space. It’s absolutely huge – especially given it only has two doors – and instantly thoughts of adversely modifying those massive alloys on Le Shuttle’s notoriously narrow train carriages shot to the forefront of my mind.
However, we had a way to go until then. Left foot on the brake pedal and engine start button poked, we were somewhat taken aback by the loud bark from the quad tailpipes. I say we, because every single person in the vicinity stopped what they were doing and gawped in our direction. Early-morning cold starts in the S65 aren’t going to make you popular with slumbering neighbours.
How on earth can a V12 engine account for that near-£60k price hike?
Believe me, it does. This twin-turbo motor is a thing of sheer beauty. Its flexibility on the road is instantly apparent; lightly tickle the accelerator pedal and it will purr softly as you crawl away, but this muffled moggy quickly turns into a pissed panther if you demand more with your right foot.
And it’s monstrously quick. We thought the S65 felt fast, but it was only on the autobahn, moving out of a 130kph zone into a derestricted section, did we really find what it was made of. The way this car accelerates from 81mph right the way around to its 155mph V-max feels akin to a Golf R going from 30-100mph – it’s pure, relentless shove in a manner more turbine than turbo.
Compared with the S63, the 65 is markedly faster at high speeds, despite similar on-paper figures. The extra shove of the extra quartet of cylinders adds up to very little over 0-62mph (putting 738lb ft through a pair of road tyres tends to preclude faster launches) but get it moving at 70mph and the 63 won’t see you for dust. And all this while sounding like a perturbed Chinook.
Will it handle a bend or two?
We were less taken with the handling. As a huge, four-seater GT the Coupe perhaps isn’t meant to corner like a Ferrari, but its sheer heft is impossible to mask. Merc’s Active Curve Control is standard-fit and does a decent job of allowing fairly flat directional changes – especially in Sport mode – but set to Curve it exhibits an incredibly odd opposite reaction to bodyroll, instead seeming to push back in the opposite direction.
Forget analogies with the Pendolino (British Rail Type 390 – but I’m no anorak) type of train, though. This might be similar in principle but in practice the motion of the Mercedes’ system feels unnaturally amplified and thus it doesn’t feel natural. It’s odd for the driver but potentially vomit-inducing for a passenger when you’re inevitably tempted to press on.
Leave your S-Class Coupe in its resting waftmobile mode. In this way you compliment the ride instead of suffering the handling, and easier embrace the pure delight of that V12.
Besides, the MCT gearbox can’t keep up with really fast driving, even if you’re able to make sense of the S65’s cornering characteristics. It’s fine 98% of the time, but won’t change down quick enough to serve up the ideal ratio on corner exit. Luckily the engine’s flexible enough that it isn’t the end of the world.
Squeezing onto the Channel Tunnel (the 20-inch alloys in grave danger…) gave us a chance to have a poke around the cabin.
So what about inside the S65?
The seats, with their overly powerful automated additional bolstering while cornering, are also a little disconcerting at first. With that system switched off they’re among the most comfortable and adjustable you’ll find, though.
The quilted diamond pattern of the nappa leather adds design flair too, matching the glitzy interior finished with only the highest-quality Merc parts bin detritus.
To pick holes, the multimedia and display tech’s beginning to feel its age - but that will be addressed in the facelift coming soon.
It’s a chic place to be, the S65, so we’re not sure about the sole optional extra installed on this particular car: the £3980 AMG carbonfibre trim doesn’t feel in keeping with its more luxury-focused ambiance.
In fact, you don’t need any options at all, because (as you’d expect from a car approaching £200k) there’s a massive array of toys on board as standard. Merc’s suite of driver-assistance tech joins night vision, the panoramic sunroof and a high-level hi-fi with the exquisitely integrated Burmester 3D speaker installation.
Should you buy the S65 Coupe? On paper it’s a resounding nope. In the metal it’s a different situation, though. It tugs at the heartstrings in a way the S63 can’t thanks to that astonishing powerplant.
Whether or not the three-pointed star has enough brand cache to rival the likes of Aston Martin, Bentley and Rolls-Royce in this sector is another question entirely, but the clever money would be on the S if you’re after relatively understated rarity – it’ll sell in far fewer numbers than the equivalent Vanquish, Continental GT or Wraith respectively and only those who know will understand or appreciate the extra investment you’ve chucked at this car.