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£126,385 when new
Which fast Mercedes saloon is this? It’s the new S63 AMG. Though not entirely new; it’s a facelift of a car that’s been with us around four years. Its styling is very marginally different – fancier lights is about the measure of it – but it’s a new engine with more power that’s most interesting. The S63 AMG uses the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 you’ll find in the hottest version of the Mercedes E63 AMG, producing 604bhp and 664lb ft. But without the E-Class’s clever four-wheel-drive system (and with more heft to shift) it’s nearly a second slower to 62mph, taking 4.3secs if you’ve got a long wheelbase version like the car here. That’s still fairly swift for a two-tonne, 5.3m-long limo, of course. As is its 186mph top speed if you specify the £2,755 AMG Driver’s Package. The autobahn needs to be your daily commute if you’re to justify ticking that options box beyond mere bragging rights. The price before options? A princely £125,690. Does it feel like a monster on the road?
Actually, no. So cossetting is the S-Class as a base car, even the mighty power of AMG’s bombastic new 4.0-litre V8 can’t disrupt the calm inside. Even with everything ratcheted into sport – burly sports exhaust included – it takes a prolonged shoeing of the throttle for the car to bellow down the road. That doesn’t mean it’s not fast; this is simply an AMG that seems to check you’re really sure you want to go doolally, rather than presuming that’s the reason you’ve bought one. The smooth slurring of its nine-speed automatic gearbox only heightens that feeling. Does that mean it’s, um, boring? Don’t worry. Being rear-driven, it’ll still keep you on your toes, especially on cold or damp roads. Outside of the UK, the S63 comes with four-wheel drive. Yet the country with infamously wet weather does without, and this is a car that will smear its rear tyres in third gear in a straight line. With all of the electronics still turned on. There’s a hint of madness buried between all that luxury. It’s not an unfathomably agile limo like a Jaguar XJR, though. Rather than exploit its rear-driven chassis, you feel like you’re managing its traction a bit. It’s too bulky to ever shrink around you and make a British back road something to salivate over. Far better to settle down, make your steering inputs calm, and use the car’s mighty mid-range torque rather than chase its top-end power. ‘Settle down’? Isn’t this an AMG? Yep, but it’s not a hooligan like a C63, E63 or one of AMG’s two-seaters. Even with everything in its sportiest setting, surprisingly little engine sound makes its way into the cabin. You have a sense of how much racket it’s making, but the S-Class’s thick glazing and scarcely visible panel gaps ensure most of it is for bystanders. Mentioning the autobahn in a review like this is a bit of a cliché (I’ve done it twice now, sorry) but a high-speed commute really feels like it’ll be the natural home for this car. And its buyer might well be sat in the back; add the £5,000 Individual Rear Seats package to this S63 L and its twin chairs recline by 37 degrees while being dissected by ventilated cupholders. Each headrest boasts a cushion plusher than anything I’ve ever had in my house. Cocooned back there, you’ll want the dampers in the softest and the gearbox at its smoothest. At which point the S63 AMG’s purpose becomes more clear; it doesn’t have its own clear identity over its base car, like that wondrous E63 or stupendously fast A45 do. It’s simply all the luxurious goodness of an S-Class, propelled by an engine far more bewitching than the default diesel. Is that a missed opportunity? Perhaps it is. The super limo scale goes from that XJR, which sounds like thunder and handles like a car half its size, to the likes of the Porsche Panamera and BMW M760Li, which you can drive uncommonly quick without much effort. This S63 falls in the middle: it’s not as fun as the Jag, nor as easy-going as its German foes. Though if you want an especially posh S-Class but (understandably) don’t want diesel, it hits the spot in a reasonably charismatic manner. And if it’s not quite mad enough for you, there’s always Brabus; give them a call and they’ll happily supply you an S-Class with enough torque to reverse time.
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