Mercedes S63 AMG (2009) review

Published:09 July 2009

Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

Merc’s sportiest engine gets stuffed into more than two tonnes’ worth of Merc’s biggest, fattest, most luxurious saloon. Madness? Or pure indulgence? The facelifted version – which promises a 3% improvement in fuel consumption and emissions over the outgoing car – arrives here in November, but CAR scored an early drive in a German-plated left-hander.

A left-handed, 518bhp, two-tonne limo. Bet that Merc S63 AMG was a handful on British roads…

Yes… and no. Obviously, this is a monumental car – park it up next to mortal wheels and its gargantuan scale is immediately obvious – so there are some narrow lanes you just won’t feel confident to thread along. But this big, big Merc is by no means an unholy mess on a winding road.

Set the Active Body Control switch to Sport and it quells the slight heave and wallow you’ll experience if you press on in Comfort mode. The steering is keen, if light and numb, roll is limited and there’s great poise to enjoy. The S63L genuinely shrinks around you to a surprising extent.

Sport mode? I thought this was a limo?

Time to explore the S63’s character. Obviously, there’s a clue in the name. Merc labels it ‘Limousine’ because it’s the long-wheelbase S-class. Appropriately, it’s massive inside (you can stretch out on reclining rear seats) and it’s beautifully trimmed with leather on pretty much every surface. That big V8 only becomes strident when you want it to, otherwise you shift along almost in silence, with effortless shove and imperceptible gearchanges.

The ride is actually at its best in Sport mode: the air springs and low-profiles can never quite absorb the shock of smaller pock-marks even in Comfort mode, and Sport’s tauter damping keeps disquieting body movements well in check. In either mode, it’s never uncomfortable, bar the occasional check over a particularly brutal transverse ridge or expansion joint. So it’s best to think of this Merc as a cosseting luxury limo with a sporting edge that can be called upon when you need to hustle for an appointment. Or for the sake of it. It will genuinely satisfy driver or passenger: you just need to decide which you want to be.

>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Mercedes S63 AMG first drive

Hmm. £101k. I take it luxury comes as standard

We’ve already mentioned all that leather – it really is exquisite stuff – and those electric rear seats. There are powered sun-blinds, a rear parking camera, sat-nav, and heated/cooled/massage seats too. But probably the greatest sense of luxury comes from the Merc’s sheer mechanical refinement, gorgeous finish and apparent build quality. Potholes pass beneath without shudder or shake, switches snick and levers glide, the doors close with an old-fashioned clunk and everything you touch invites your fingers back for another prod just because it feels good.

AMG extras include sports seats and some carbonfibre trim on the centre console, but the demure black leather and piano gloss panelling elsewhere is subtle, understated and appropriate to a luxury limo. It’s not a visually exciting cabin but it is a great place to spend time and while away miles. Hundreds of them at a stretch.

Er, is it quick?

Short answer: yes, it’s quick. Despite the torque peaking at a high 5250rpm, there’s always plenty of go, whichever gear you’re in. Call it ample.

But when you want to try a little harder, the AMG side of this limo comes to the fore. Use the paddleshift to hold onto gears and you’ll see the curious little quartic rev counter snapping round to the red line and smacking you into the limiter just past 7000rpm. It’s a slightly detached feeling – you genuinely feel surprised at what speed you’ve suddenly achieved – but it’s great fun because it seems so unlikely. And the rising growl from under the bonnet sounds fantastic.

Verdict

Our test car sported matt silver paint and massive multi-spoke wheels yet still managed to look understated from a distance. The only element that jars in the S-class’s transition from luxo-barge to oxymoronic sports-limo is the pair of plastic sill extensions either side. A matter of taste, or lack of it.

Because, in every respect, this car works. I approached it with the feeling that AMG tweakery and fat S-class would sleep on opposite sides of the bed, perhaps occasionally poking each other with a cold toe. Fact is, they really fancy each other.

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Specs

Price when new: £101,000
On sale in the UK: November 2009
Engine: 6208cc 32v V8, 518bhp @ 6800rpm, 464lb ft @ 5200rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.6sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 20mpg, 347g/km CO2
Weight / material: 2115kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 5209/1872/1473

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