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Mercedes-Benz S-Class S65 AMG

Driven May 2006

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Standard 19in AMG alloys and beefy side skirts do far better justice to the new S-Class's oddly distended wheelarches, while a huge front apron with outsized air intakes and similarly chunky rear end, broken up by a pair of massive twin exhausts, complete the kind of repackaging that makes you think of borscht and punishment beatings.

But the S65's sales pitch gets skewed again by a £145,365 price tag. To put that into a Merc context, the 'L' version of the S320 CDI is £58,975, while the 500L is £73,770, and that'll still hit 62mph in 5.6 seconds.

What's going on in the S65, in terms of re-engineering and exclusivity, is undeniable, but whether it is really worth at least twice as much as a standard S-Class is wide open for debate.

Performance flagships have their place. It's a marketing tool as much as anything else, doing wonders for the model range and brand as a whole. But this sort of mind game works better with a more aspirational demographic. Think BMW 318i driver ordering 18in M-Sport alloys.

Who is going to be lured into a normal S-Class under a vicarious performance promise? S-Class buyers are about quality, refinement and class, unless something's changed fairly radically without any of us noticing. If there is a person for whom the S65 AMG doesn't immediately appear fairly redundant, it's not really the sort of person you want to acknowledge exists, is it?

Who, after all, feels a real compulsion to spend more than twice as much as they need to on their S-Class, just so they can get to 62mph 1.2 seconds faster, whilst dispensing with very close to twice as much fuel in the process? Who is barking enough to want the door handles driven off their limo, whether they're in the back or the front? And who, ultimately, values an AMG badge at, by our reckoning, £71,595?

Cynical attitude though that may be, and however much of AMG's sub-cutaneous techno-wizardry it disregards, it's hardly outrageous to suggest that the overwhelming majority of S65 buyers will be seduced by the flagship status of a bit of badge and spoiler, and are highly unlikely to make much use of those composite brakes or integrated lap timer.

But the buyers are there, and so, despite the cod philosophy, is the S65. It looks terrifying, goes likes Satan's mistress and is, despite its simple four-door origins, utterly unique. Just remember that you could buy two Audi S8s or have a Bentley Flying Spur and £30,000 in change for the price of an S65. Just because something exists doesn't mean it makes sense.

Matt Master

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