This is the new Mercedes S63 AMG, a 577bhp version of the new S-class. Can a combination of Merc’s self-proclaimed ‘best automobile in the world’ and AMG’s typical over-the-top exuberance produce a sports saloon to best the Jaguar XJR, Porsche Panamera Turbo and Audi S8? Read on for CAR’s first drive review of the new Mercedes S63 AMG.
Which engine is in the Mercedes S63 AMG to produce 577bhp?
It’s the same twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 that was in the previous Mercedes S63 AMG, but here there’s another 41bhp and 74lb ft, taking the total outputs to 577bhp and 664lb ft. That peak power figure might not sound too impressive when the smaller E63 S AMG also produces 577bhp, and the M5 Competition boasts 567bhp, but the S63 has 84lb ft more than its Merc sibling and 162lb ft above and beyond BMW’s baddest saloon.
But if you’re worried about fuel consumed rather than power produced, then the S63 AMG is slightly less impressive. There’s no stop/start system because that would require new cylinder heads for the bi-turbo V8, and this monstrous engine does without the cylinder deactivation tech of the SLK55 because AMG bosses reckon a 4% improvement in fuel consumption over the last S63 is good enough.
So the S63 AMG is essentially just an S-class with more power?
Not quite. It’s 100kg lighter than the last S63, with half of those weight savings coming from the aluminium-intensive shell of the new S-class, and the other 50% from some AMG-specific tuning. Those 50kg cut by AMG include…
Lithium-ion battery (-20kg)
Forged wheels (-8kg)
Lighter tyres (-4kg)
Carbonfibre spare-wheel well (-4kg)
Weight reductions to the engine (-2kg)
There are also lighter composite brakes (with ceramic-composite brakes an optional extra), AMG’s Ride Control two-mode adaptive dampers, AMG-tuned speed-sensitive steering, and a new S63-specific front axle.
How does the new S63 AMG drive?
With the AMG Ride Control dampers set to Comfort, and the Magic Body Control system scanning the road ahead and preemptively adjusting the suspension (it’s a surreal system, which is standard on all S63s coming to the UK) the ride is eerily smooth. Plus the big V8 is actually pretty mute on part-throttle, and the S-class is so quiet, that it’s a hugely relaxing place from which to eat up the miles. Even in AMG guise, the S-class is a better luxury limo than any Audi A8, BMW 7-series or Jaguar XJ.
Put the transmission into Sport or Manual, the dampers into Sport, and… it’s still not an out-and-out sports saloon. The ride remains composed, and the hydraulic Active Body Control keeps roll in check, but even with the Sport and Manual settings for the seven-speed auto opening valves in the exhausts and allowing some extra V8 burble, the quad pipes still don’t bark and bellow like other AMGs. And although the Sport and Manual modes also add some extra weighting to the steering, the wheel doesn’t offer the same level of communication as the C, E or CLS63s. Whereas a C63 is night-and-day different to a normal C-class, the S63 feels more like a fast S-class than a true AMG. It’s more fun to hustle than the sterile S8, but it’s not as agile or involving as a Jaguar XJR.
What’s the interior of the S63 like?
Pretty special. There are S63-specific touches (including carbonfibre trim, the AMG logo embossed on the central armrest, an analogue clock from IWC, and sports seats with side bolsters that inflate during cornering) but it’s actually the un-Mercedes-like extravagance of the regular S-class’s interior that stands out. From the two enormous ‘floating’ digital screens to the swooping dashboard that’s trimmed in perforated cream leather, from sumptuous rear seats to the Burmester speakers that look like ‘magic eye’ puzzles, it’s a huge departure from Mercedes’ reserved norm, but all the better for it.
It’s not faultless though. Some of the silver switches that you expect to be made of metal are actually plastic, and the column-mounted gear selector looks slightly incongruous as it’s pinched straight out of Mercedes’ cheapest car, the A-class.
A four-wheel drive version of the S63 AMG is available, but as the 4Matic system isn’t currently compatible with the right-hand drive models, it’s not available in the UK. It’s an AMG-tuned, rear-biased version of Mercedes’ 4Matic system, and although it adds 70kg to the kerbweight, it cuts four-tenths from the 0-62mph time. And although the two-wheel drive S63 has far more traction than you’d ever expect when each rear tyre is dealing with as much torque as an A45 AMG can produce, the 4Matic system lets you get on the power sooner.
There’s also no gruntier Performance Pack option this time, no uprated ‘S’ model planned, so if you must have more power, then a V12-engined S65 AMG is on the way later this year. With 737lb ft…
The S63 feels more like an S-class than an AMG, but although it might not be a great sports saloon like the Jag XJR, the Merc’s breadth of abilities is much broader.