by Adam Lynton
Welcome to the land of no compromises. Whatever question you can reasonably ask of a full-size four-door luxury sedan, the Mercedes-AMG S63 delivers - and then some. Using the class-leading S-Class as a foundation, the wizards at AMG then saw fit to shove a 603 horsepower twin-turbo beast into the engine bay, enough for a 3.4-second blast to 60 mph. While the magnificent 4.0-liter V8 may be the star of the S63 show, it's got some phenomenal back-up dancers as well: there's the S-Class' sublime ride, towering levels of refinement, simply gorgeous interior, and virtually every comfort and safety feature available in a modern-day sedan. Surprisingly, the clever electronics and standard all-wheel-drive system even allow the huge S63 to go around corners at far higher velocities than it should. At around the $150,000 mark, the BMW M760i xDrive offers a similarly staggering mix of luxury and performance, but it can't quite match the effortless style with which the AMG pulls off its epic engineering feats.
The S63 continues into 2019 with only minimal changes over last year's model. Two new AMG-specific steering wheels are now available: an AMG wood/leather performance steering wheel, and a Dinamica/carbon fiber option. The only other change is the availability of Dune Silver as an additional exterior color.
Despite having been introduced five years ago, the S-Class retains a sleek design with loads of presence. In AMG form, there's even more to take in thanks to 20-inch AMG five-spoke wheels, quad trapezoidal exhaust outlets, and all-LED exterior lighting. Bigger mesh air intakes and gloss black trim add a touch of aggression to the frontal design, a reminder that this is no ordinary S-Class. However, despite all these modifications, the S63 stops short of appearing garish.
Part of the appeal of the S-Class' design is its sheer size. Key dimensions for the S63 are 208.5/75/59 inches in length/width/height, respectively. The wheelbase measures 124.6 inches. These numbers make the S63 very similar in size to the BMW M760i while being a touch longer than the equally imposing BMW. Curb weight is 4,564 lbs, significantly less than the 5,159 lbs of the portly M760i. Still, the S63 is every bit the solid hulk of a machine you'd expect.
With Dune Silver Metallic, a new addition for 2019, the S63 is now available in a choice of 13 shades. Standard colors besides the new Dune Silver are Black and ten metallic options: Magnetite, Obsidian Black, Iridium Silver, Lunar Blue, Ruby Black, Diamond Silver, Emerald Green, Selenite Grey, and Anthracite Blue. Optional colors are designo Diamond White Metallic for $795 and designo Cashmere White Magno at an eye-watering $3,950. You can't really go wrong with your color choice, although it must be said that an S63 in a darker shade is a particularly menacing sight.
Providing more performance than is practically usable on a public road, the AMG S63 delivers spectacular acceleration off the line. The twin-turbo V8's 603 hp is enough to complete the benchmark 0-60 mph sprint in only 3.4 seconds - there is essentially no way to go faster while also sitting in the lap of luxury. Of course, all-wheel-drive helps to ensure that these acceleration runs are completed with minimal fuss. Top speed is electronically limited to 186 mph, by which point the driver and four passengers will likely be stunned into silence. The AMG 63's performance is superlative and all the more impressive in such a big, heavy sedan.
It all starts with that magnificent, handcrafted V8. With twin turbochargers and a 4.0-liter capacity, the engine has peak outputs of 603 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. With torque peaking at just 2,750 rpm, you've got to be gentle with the throttle, or this Mercedes will soon be doing unruly speeds. Mated to this wonderful engine is an AMG Speedshift nine-speed multi-clutch transmission. The result is quicker shift times and, with a wet start-up clutch, the torque converter is eliminated to enhance performance.
The net result is explosive performance in any gear, at any speed. While slightly muffled thanks to the S-Class' exceedingly high levels of refinement, there's still enough of a V8 roar to accompany the planting of the throttle. The transmission is smooth in both stop-go traffic, and at higher speeds, allowing the driver to take full advantage of the engine's power. Passing slower traffic doesn't compute as even a slight issue in the S63, while taking this beast to its redline demands lots of space, as you will be covering ground at a remarkable rate. Even in its smart S-Class attire, the S63's performance proves that this is a true AMG.
This is a car that makes the driver feel immensely powerful. There's the reassurance that not only is there more power underfoot than the majority of other cars on the road, but that the S63's all-wheel-drive system and an array of electronics have your back when pushing on.
Worth noting is that the S63 hasn't sacrificed the S-Class' excellent ride quality. It still soaks up bumps better than most, while remaining utterly composed and planted. The steering is light enough to make you believe the S63 is smaller than its dimensions suggest, making it easy to place this ultra-luxury sedan. The different driving modes also provide a markedly different experience from behind the wheel, with Comfort offering the sort of isolating luxury you'd get in the placid S 450. Find your way into Sport + mode using the AMG Dynamic Select system, however, and the S63 morphs into something more intense, with sharper responses and an angrier bellow from the AMG performance exhaust system. 4Matic all-wheel-drive helps to keep everything in check, the S63 remaining firmly planted even at higher speeds. Stopping power is provided by the AMG high-performance composite braking system, with perforated discs at every wheel - they do a great job of bringing the big Mercedes to a controlled stop.
While a BMW M760i is the marginally more athletic-feeling offering, the S63 has just about every base covered. It's comfortable and quiet when you want it to be, yet rapid and responsive when you're in the mood.
EPA-rated economy figures for the S63 are 17/26/20 mpg on the city/highway-combined cycles, enough for a mixed cruising range of 422 miles from the 21.1-gallon gas tank. These are actually good numbers relative to the comparably powerful BMW M760i - the Bimmer can only manage 16 mpg in a combination of city and highway driving. The S63 requires premium unleaded gasoline.
While the S63's list price is enough to make many people gasp, they'll also be gasping when they get into the cabin for the first time. Mercedes has clearly taken a considerable amount of time and effort to construct the S-Class interior with the finest materials, and offers a dramatic design that creates a true sense of occasion. Nappa leather upholstery, dual 12.3-inch screens, heated and ventilated front seats, and fine wood envelope driver and passengers. You can choose between great space up front or stretch-out space in the rear, but wherever you're sitting, the interior exudes quality and style. There's even a system called Energizing Comfort that coordinates the climate control, fragrances, lighting, and audio system into five 10-minute programs allowing you to either unwind or recharge. Yes, this interior has it all.
While the S63 seats five passengers in standard form, an optional and ultra-luxurious rear seat for two can be specified - this lavish option adds a wood-trimmed rear center console and twin folding tables, among other upgrades.
Even without any upgrades, the S-Class has plenty of space for all passengers. Ingress and egress are effortless thanks to large doors, although caution will need to be exercised when opening those rear doors in confined spaces. The endlessly adjustable driver's seat makes a suitable position easy to find, while appreciably narrow pillars improve outward visibility. The rear seat offers an incredible amount of legroom, with the only black mark against the big Benz being that the middle rear-seat passenger has a smaller and less comfortable seat.
It would take some time to sift through every available color and trim option for the S-Class, simply because there are so many of them. To start off, Nappa leather is standard and available in five colors/color combinations: Black, Silk Beige/Espresso Brown, Nut Brown/Black, Porcelain/Black, and Magma Gray/Espresso Brown. For an extra $4,450, Exclusive Nappa leather upholstery can be added in Black, Mahogany/Silk Beige, Silk Beige/Espresso Brown, Nut Brown/Black or Magma Gray/Espresso Brown.
For the most discerning buyer, exclusive semi-aniline leather is a $6,550 option but automatically adds three rear-seat packages. Here, there is a choice of designo Silk Beige/Satin Red or designo Silk Beige/Titanium Grey Pearl.
Seven different interior trim choices can be specified to dress up the S63's cabin, with classy Black Poplar wood and Burl Walnut wood being standard. Among the options is AMG carbon fiber trim for an extra $3,700. Ultimately, if money is no object, speccing your AMG S63 up to your exacting standards and tastes is entirely possible.
The S-Class has one of the largest trunk capacities of any competitor in this class, with 18 cubic feet of space available. However, the opening isn't the broadest, with bulkier items being easier to load into the BMW 7 Series. Fully loaded, there's enough space for one large suitcase, two smaller ones, a few soft bags, and a small box. An electronic trunk closer and hands-free access make loading heavier items less of a chore.
There's lots of space for small items in the interior, and being a luxury barge, most personal belongings can be stored out of sight. There are storage compartments in all four doors, more space beneath the rear center armrest, and storage spaces for the front passengers between the seats and ahead of the infotainment controller.
A full house of comfort and convenience items ensures that the S63's cabin is as comfortable as possible for the driver and passengers. Seating is elaborate, with 12-way power front seats featuring memory functions, heating, massaging, and ventilation. Dual-zone automatic climate control, power rear-side window sunshades and soft-close doors are all fitted. A car for all the senses, the interior also features 64-color/three-zone LED ambient lighting, illuminated door sills, and an Air Balance system, which releases your choice of aroma into the cabin. A similarly vast options list includes four-zone climate control, a power right rear footrest, and heated armrests.
With so many features and settings to adjust, plenty of real estate is needed to display this wealth of information. The S63 is up for the job with its dual 12.3-inch screens: one serving as the digital instrument cluster ahead of the driver, the other being the main central display.
The COMAND system features a touchpad controller and is generally an intuitive means of interacting with the car. The controller is well-positioned and can respond to swiping, pinching, and even handwriting. Processing speeds and the quality of graphics are both top-notch, making it easy to follow the standard navigation system's instructions. Other connectivity and infotainment features include both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, Bluetooth audio streaming, HD radio, SiriusXM radio with a six-month all-access trial, dual USB ports, an SD card reader, and wireless device charging. Not only are the Burmester surround sound system's 13 speakers elegantly incorporated into the interior's design, but they provide 590 watts of brilliant sound. A high-end, 3D version of this sound system features a frankly ridiculous 26 speakers and twin tweeters that rotate and are illuminated for the ultimate party piece.
With a J.D. Power score of 87/100, the AMG S63 promises to offer a rewarding and reliable ownership experience. However, the S63's reliability record isn't quite as flawless as its leather-lined cabin. The NHTSA has issued three recalls for the 2018 S63, with issues including an active steering assist system, which may remain engaged even if the driver's hands are off the wheel. A separate recall similarly involved the active driving system not detecting when a driver's hands are off the wheel. Finally, the active lane-keeping assist system was found not to intervene as expected at speeds of over 65 mph. In 2019, a recall for various S-Class models (including the AMG S63) was issued for seat belts being incorrectly detected as unfastened. This could potentially not activate seat belt tensioning if an accident should occur.
The S63 is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, while the drivetrain carries the same coverage.
While the lower-volume S-Class may not have been crash-tested by the NHTSA, one only needs to look at other Mercedes-Benz models to understand how much the marque prioritizes safety. The 2018 C-Class and E-Class ranges each achieved five-star ratings for overall safety. The 2019 E-Class was also named a Top Safety Pick + by the IIHS, one of the industry's top awards for vehicle safety. With the S-Class featuring the same - and in some cases, greater - levels of safety kit, it is without a doubt a safe car.
Mercedes-Benz's pioneering Pre-Safe system is standard equipment and highlights an extensive list of safety features fitted to the S63. The system can detect when a collision is imminent and prepares the car for such an eventuality. Nine airbags, rain-sensing windshield wipers, adaptive high beam assist, and a surround-view camera system are all included. Driver-assist tech is catered for by rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot assist, active brake assist, crosswind assist, lane-keeping assist and Attention Assist, the latter system constantly monitoring driver behavior to detect and warn of drowsiness.
The optional list of safety features reads like an encyclopedia and, if all these features are fitted, are demonstrative of how far semi-autonomous driving technologies have come. Distronic cruise control can speed up or slow down the car to maintain a safe following distance. Active steering assist works with this system and can follow a car ahead if road markings aren't visible. While some of the available driving aids seem superfluous, they nevertheless cement Mercedes' position as a tech-leader in the automotive world.
There are very few things that the AMG S63 doesn't do exceedingly well. The AMG treatment has been thoughtfully applied to the S-Class, imbuing the granddaddy of luxury sedans with just enough performance and aggression to distinguish it from the S 560, but without sacrificing the range's phenomenal ability to cosset. The interior is a triumph of style and quality, while space and comfort for all passengers are exceptional. The BMW M760i is the S63's chief competitor, and offers comparable quality, performance, and technology while being typically more dynamic. The 760i also has the novelty of a big V12 lump under the hood. However, it's the S63 that feels even more special, inside and out. Between its stately exterior, tech-laden cockpit with mega dual digital displays, and sublime ride comfort, the S63's mix of talents - both on-paper and perceived - helps it to maintain its position at the top of the class.
Being an AMG special, the S63 is only available in a single variant at an MSRP of $149,550. This price excludes destination charges, tax, licensing, and any options.
There's just a single variant of the mean Mercedes to choose from, that being the AMG S63 4Matic. The 603-hp twin-turbo V8 is mated exclusively with a nine-speed multi-clutch transmission and all-wheel-drive.
Outside, you can spot the S63 thanks to standard 20-inch wheels, all-LED exterior lighting, larger mesh air intakes, and quad exhaust outlets in a trapezoidal design. An expansive panorama roof is also standard.
The lush interior has a three-spoke AMG performance steering wheel, all-LED lighting, the familiar S-Class analog clock, and twin 12.3-inch digital screens. The brilliantly bolstered seats have 12-way power adjustment, heating, ventilation, and massaging in front. Dual-zone climate control and a 13-speaker Burmester surround sound system keep everyone comfortable and entertained. A variety of optional rear-seat packages can be specified for the true executive, with the option of reclining, powered, massaging seats. On the safety front, the S63 ships with nine airbags and several driver-assist features like rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assist.
|AMG S63 4MATIC||
4.0-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
The sky's the limit, so we'll start there. Mercedes' optional Magic Sky Control can change the transparency of the glass roof's panels, with the darkest setting allowing less thermal energy to enter the cabin than a regular light bulb. It's yours for an eye-opening $4,950.
For many S-Class buyers, the various rear-seat packages will be of particular interest. There are five available, and they range in price from $1,700 to $3,500, with the priciest Executive Rear Seat package boasting an executive right rear seat. With this option, you'll have a power reclining seat, the ability to move the front passenger seat forward at the touch of a button, and a power calf and footrest.
Of course, being an AMG model, there are also packages to make for an even racier S63, with the AMG Exterior Carbon Fiber package adding carbon fiber treatment to the side-sills and exterior mirrors, among other areas of the car's body. It's yours for a cool $6,500.
A myriad of standalone options includes power rear seats with memory ($1,515), an AMG head-up display ($990), a Burmester high-end 3D surround sound system ($6,400), and a rear-seat entertainment system ($2,620).
In standard form, the S63 wants for very little. But really, few buyers of this high-end luxury sedan will be able to resist delving into the options list, so what would we go for, and what would we avoid?
AMG's range of optional wheel designs is impressive, and this addition can really alter the appearance of the S63. Equipped with the four-seater rear seat package, the S63's second-row accommodations are elevated from business class to first class, with an unparalleled level of comfort (and an unparalleled price, too, with this ultimate option adding every other upgrade possible for a total in excess of $10k).
The $2,250 Driver Assistance Package packs in just about every available driver-assist technology there is, but not all of them work well, and the standard specification includes the essential items. We'd skip this package and instead spend the money on the S63's host of premium trim upgrades.
This is a proper close call. Discounting the Mercedes-AMG S 65, these two are the ultimate cream of the crop in the world of four-door sedans. The price difference between the two is negligible, as is the tremendous power output. Both use four-wheel-drive to dramatic effect, providing almost supercar performance in tandem with their vast cabins. Each has massive rear seats, which can be upgraded via a selection of tasty packages. While the BMW handles slightly better, the Mercedes is marginally more adept at isolating occupants from the external world. For us, AMG just edges M in this case. While the BMW barely puts a foot wrong, it's the Mercedes' showroom appeal that seals it. While the M760i can occasionally feel like a smarter 5 Series, the S63 always feels well-removed from lesser Mercedes models. It's this quality that matters when you are forking out $150k on a sedan, and it's why we love the S63.
While the Audi S8 will only be available at the tail-end of 2019, is it worth waiting for over the S63? Well, not if bragging rights matter, because the S8 will deliver "only" 563 hp from its twin-turbocharged engine, which has both the same capacity and the same number of cylinders as the Mercedes' lump. Still, Quattro all-wheel-drive ensures that the S8 won't be much slower. With pricing likely to eclipse the $100k-mark, the S8 will still be cheaper than the S63 while offering bags of standard equipment and a similarly large cabin. The S8's interior looks more modern, but it perhaps lacks the charm of the S63's design. Overall, the S8 is a more than a worthy competitor, and it will take a back to back test drive to make the final call on which is the superior luxury performance sedan.