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10

Model

S63 AMG Coupe

Price

$420,000

The Numbers

5.5-litre V8, 430kW, 900Nm, 0-100km in 4.3secs (Australian spec)

The Topgear Verdict

Sportier than the sedan, with a unique interior treatment, this will tempt Bentley buyers.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S63 AMG Coupe

What is it?

It's the Mercedes S-Class Coupe 63 AMG. And as you can see from the pics, it's a two-door coupe based on the luxurious S-Class sedan.

But unlike the previous coupe version of the S-Class, the CL, Merc has tried a bit harder to distinguish between the two and four-door versions for this generation. As such, and in addition to the obvious external styling alterations, the coupe gets a unique interior treatment with a floating dash effect, different exhaust, shorter wheelbase and new suspension settings.

The engine: discuss.

It's the 5.5-litre bi-turbo V8 producing 430kW and 900Nm. And because we're in a 4MATIC four-wheel drive version (sadly only available in left-hand drive – the version coming to Australia is the slightly slower rear-wheel drive version), traction isn't an issue. 0-100km/h takes just 3.9 seconds. (The RWD takes 4.3 secs – still no slouch.) And like all AMGs, the acceleration never really tails off. Or certainly not at legal speeds. The strength and flexibility of the engine is. This is where the Coupe really scores - able to waft along, but also provide continent-crushing speeds.

But does it sound like an AMG?

Very much so, thanks to the unique exhaust we mentioned above. The V8 rumbles away in the distance - loud enough to be noticed, not so loud to be crude. Plus, it parps (in a nice way) on up and down shifts, so it's a much more emotional experience than the sedan. You feel like you're driving a more enthusiastic car.

Does it drive differently to the sedan?

Yes. The suspension has been lowered by 10mm and stiffened as well, but don't panic as it's still a comfortable thing on the whole. It's just that there's a fraction more rumble through the chassis than the sedan. But the trade off in handling is worth it. The Coupe corners with more poise and the body control is spot-on - the two-door isn't necessarily any quicker, but you don't have to hustle it as much. The car feels more effortless through the corners, and the clever suspension isn't working as hard to keep it on the straight and narrow.

It feels lighter - strange, because it actually weighs 15kg more than the sedan. And Merc has got yet another technical innovation that makes the Coupe handle even better: Active Body Control (standard on rear-wheel drive AMGs). This is a system that reacts to steering input and actively ‘tips' the Coupe into a corner, like a motorbike. It's a slight tip - you won't be getting your knee down anytime soon.

Gimmick?

Not at all. The car really carves through bends so you can carry much more speed than you'd think possible. Weirdly, we found we had to alter our driving style. Normally, you'd tip an S into a corner with a certain amount of steering angle to take account of the body rolling away from the bend. But with ABC, you don't need to use as much steering input, and can wind the lock off earlier - it makes you a smoother driver. Honestly, a revelation.

Are there any weaknesses?

Just one - the gearbox. It's still Merc's seven-speed automatic and it's starting to feel dated now. It clunks occasionally, and it's too easy to wrong-foot it. Merc must be aware it's an issue, as a nine-speed auto will be dropped into the S500 Coupe later on this year. For the time being, though, the AMG continues with the seven-speeder, which is a pity.

Admittedly, it doesn't hamper the car too much, and to a certain extent we're nit-picking, but when the rest of the Coupe is so excellent, it is a let down.

Anything else I should know?

This is just one small part of an ever-expanding S-Class family. We've already had the short and long wheelbase versions, and we know there's a dictator-friendly Pullman coming, complete with armour-plating. And it's clear there's also a convertible due sometime soon. Oligarchs have never had it so good.

So should I bother?

Definitely. If you're in the market for a Bentley Continental GT, then certainly take a look at this - unlike the CL, this is now a proper rival for the Conti, and a serious statement car. Plus, it also makes sense as an AMG. Don't get us wrong - the sedan S63 is a great car, but the whole AMG-power-mated-with-coupe-driving is a much happier fit. The package makes sense as a complete entity. Quite simply, it's a master-class.

Driven: July 17, 2014