Offering its occupants a near perfect balance between sporting fun and isolated luxury, electronic gizmos and classy materials, and room for five with a driver-oriented demeanor, it is hard to find fault in the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG. It excels in almost all aspects, offering a well-appointed and comfortable cabin with sufficient electronic gadgetry to hold the attention of a tween, and enough sporty nature in its DNA to keep the enthusiast in all of us amused.
The new twin-turbo V-8 that replaces the 6.3-liter naturally aspirated V-8 in the old S63 erupts with a V-8 growl that lets all the passengers known that this is not a normal S-Class (in a weird twist, we agreed that the sound from inside the cabin sounded better than outside). The new engine not only creates more power—536 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque versus 518 hp and 465 lb-ft in the old car—but improves on the car’s fuel economy by 25 percent. Our test car was equipped with an AMG Performance Package, which increases output by another 27 hp and 74 lb-ft of torque for $7,300 and even out-powers the more expensive S600. So despite 4,916 pounds of metal and electronics to move, the S63 AMG easily scoots off the line and holds bountiful reserves of passing power. Its acceleration is not going to leave you with your mouth agape but it certainly has enough oomph to shove you back in your seat and hold you there at nearly any speed. Part of the car’s allure is its easily accessible always-there power, which comes in part thanks to a faster-shifting seven-speed multi-clutch automatic transmission for 2011.
The 2011 S63 AMG’s Active Body Control (ABC) suspension pins down body movements while cornering, accelerating, and braking but also completely isolates outside, otherwise jarring, road imperfections. It’s not vault-like quiet like the Lexus LS but it insulates drivers at a near perfect level from the outside world. Mid-corner, the front seats’ side bolsters automatically inflate to hold you in place. Although it does not improve the car’s connection to the road in any way, it provides a mental boost of confidence that may cause you to push the car further in corners. We found that a torque vectoring feature, which briefly pulses the brakes of the inside rear wheel to help pivot the vehicle, tightens the line in corners when you are on the accelerator. It is an overused cliché, but the S63 does not feel like the barge that it is.
For 2011, the engine in the S63 now features start-stop technology, which was instantly noticeable at the car’s first full stop. The car was re-started with a noticeable jolt that made us think we were nipping the accelerator while depressing the brake, when we really were not.
The system is part of an ECO mode that kicks on when the transmission is in its default efficiency setting. Switching to Sport will turn off this feature, but it must be performed at every startup.
Inside you will find a nearly endless sea of Alcantara complemented by real wood trim, comfortable leather, and some amazing headrests that could easily fill in for our pillows at home. The car’s abundance of features can be custom tailored in the car’s comand system. You could spend an hour alone tweaking the amount of inflation on the two captain chairs’ lumbar, side bolster, and leg support air bladders. Like a day at the spa, the driver can also enjoy heated and cooled seats and a massage function with various levels of intensity.
The comand system is mostly intuitive and once you have acquired the rhythm of the OS’s operations, it is easy to quickly change many of the car’s functions. However, we still found ourselves in moments, almost as if we were thinking too much about it, of pure frustration over the car’s many menu layers. Like a pair of training wheels, buttons discreetly located around the dash and center console area access some of the more commonly used elements. With enough time you can learn to enjoy the S-Class’s Comand system with the exception of the navigation system, which felt almost archaic compared to the rest of the car’s menus. Luckily, most people that people that can afford this car can also afford a smart phone with built-in navigation.
The passengers in the rear seats never have to be envious thanks to an optional Rear Seat Entertainment Package, which puts two eight-inch LCD screen in the back of the front headrests, and a Rear Seat Package, which adds heated and cooled eight-way adjustable chairs and climate control function to the rear seats. If it were not for the driving dynamics of the S63 AMG, we may chose being chauffeured over driving.
Every passing year more and more safety-oriented features are being stuffed into the German flagship sedans. These features never intruded with our driving during our time with the S63 but having the car suddenly react in a way we were not expecting still worries us. New safety options for the 2011 S-Class line include Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist, which joins the Attention Assist, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Night View Assist, Pre-Safe Brake, Distronic adaptive cruise control, Parktronic, and crosswind stabilization systems.
Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Spec :
Base Price $138,000
Engine 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-8
Horsepower 536 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 563 hp with AMG Performance Package
Torque 590 lb-ft @ 2,00 rpm, 664 lb-ft with AMG Performance Package
Transmission 7-speed MCT
0–60 mph 4.4 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph (limited), 186 mph with AMG Performance Package (limited)
Weight 4,916 lb Length 206.5 inches
Tires Front: 255/40R-18, Rear: 285/35R-18