by Karl Furlong
Within every family, there's at least one rebellious child or cousin. The person with a little glint of madness in their eyes, the risk-taker, the one whose more conservative siblings look down upon them with disdain (or is that jealousy?). The AMG S63 neatly fits that description within the S-Class family. While every other model in the range is obsessed with following all the rules in the luxury sedan playbook and cocooning the driver and passengers in one of the most luxurious, quietest cabins in the world, the S63 wants to have a bit more fun than that. Under the hood is a handcrafted 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 with 603 horsepower, hurtling this cruise ship down the road to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds - no other S-Class is faster. The AMG 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system does a remarkable job of transferring all that grunt to the road and endows the S63 with more agility than other models in the range. And yet, the V8's fury and the AMG styling touches have done nothing to erode those typical S-Class qualities of insulation and a sublime ride, along with every available comfort and safety feature there is. The mischievous kids always stay out a bit later, and the S63 is the S-Class that'll ensure you always take the long way home.
With an all-new S-Class on the horizon, the current S63 goes into 2020 with no major changes.
By subtly refining the sixth-generation S-Class design through the years, Mercedes-Benz has managed to keep the shape modern and appealing, even deep into its life cycle. No element of the exterior appears overdone - it's all restrained, classy, and timeless. The S63 is the boldest in the range, though, with its 20-inch AMG alloy wheels, AMG body styling (larger mesh air intakes and gloss black trim), and four trapezoidal exhaust tips at the back. All-LED exterior lighting is used and a powered panorama roof provides sky views for both front and rear passengers.
Long and wide, the S-Class takes up plenty of space on the road, but its size only adds to its regal nature. The length works out to 208.5 inches, the wheelbase stretches to 124.6 inches, width is 83.9 inches including the side mirrors, and height is 59 inches. The S63's turn of speed is especially impressive when you take into account a considerable curb weight of 4,819 pounds.
You can get your AMG S63 in a choice of 13 colors. The only non-metallic shade is black, while the metallics consist of Magnetite Black, Diamond Silver, Emerald Green, Obsidian Black, Selenite Grey, Dune Silver, Anthracite Blue, Iridium Silver, Lunar Blue, and Ruby Black. Two shades will cost you extra: designo Diamond White metallic at $795 and designo Cashmere White in a matte finish for a whopping $3,950. The Cashmere White does look fantastic, though, but so does an S63 in plain black.
It's easy to remain blasé about a modern car being able to accelerate to 60 mph in only 3.5 seconds. With the horsepower war surely approaching its apex, we've seen many performance cars achieve similarly blinding speed off the line. But does it ever get old when you can do it in absolute comfort in a near 5,000-pound luxury sedan? Absolutely not. That 4.0-liter bi-turbo's thrust is as astonishing as ever, but that's what 603 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque will do. As we hinted at, the S63 isn't alone in this performance league. The mighty BMW M760i xDrive also features all-wheel-drive and takes just a tenth of a second longer to complete the benchmark sprint, while the Porsche Panamera Turbo will do the same in 3.4 seconds when equipped with the Sport Chrono Package. For what it's worth, the AMG S63 will top out at 186 mph before an electronic limiter politely intervenes.
The AMG S63 enjoys one of the marque's truly great engines. The 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8's peak outputs are 603 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque and, with that torque figure peaking at below 3,000 rpm, it doesn't take much effort at all for the scenery to start whizzing by at a rapid rate. The engine is paired with an AMG Speedshift nine-speed multi-clutch transmission with shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel.
It doesn't matter if you're pulling away from a traffic light in town, passing on the highway, or at a high-speed cruise, the S63 always has more power in reserve for the task at hand. The V8's baritone soundtrack is just loud enough to appreciate, but settles down when you want it to. It's not a hooligan in the way that the C63 is, because the S-Class' inherent refinement prevents that from being the case, but the S63 is still fast enough to leave passengers stunned when you really floor it. The transmission is much more assured than the seven-speed 'box used in the S63 a couple of years ago.
Despite the S63's viciously powerful engine and the clever 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system, this is still first and foremost an unflappable luxury sedan. In Comfort mode, one feels that you can cross hundreds of miles in a day without feeling taxed at all, such is the suspension's uncanny ability to treat bumps and road scars as if they weren't there. The electromechanical steering is also light for easy maneuverability, and the lack of feedback doesn't feel out of place as it might in a smaller car. Opening any of the windows can sometimes come as a shock because only then do you realize how much of the world the S63 shuts out.
By using the AMG Dynamic Select system, switching into Sport+ mode elicits an angrier bark from the twin-turbo V8, transmission shift times are reduced, and the adaptive suspension provides sharper responses. The handling is remarkable for such a large machine and grip is excellent, although the driver can sometimes feel more like a spectator than truly part of the action. A standard Race Start function is unlikely to be as important to the typical S63 driver as the 12-way power front seats, but it's there to achieve the fastest and most efficient takeoffs. The sportiest S-Class still doesn't quite feel quite as athletic as the BMW 7 Series, but the blend of comfort and composure is truly something to experience.
While you'll still be spending a fair amount on fuel, the S63 isn't the gas-guzzler you might expect, considering its weight and the power on tap. EPA-rated estimates work out to 17/26/20 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles and, when the 21.1-gallon gas tank is full, a range of 422 miles will be possible. The comparably powerful BMW M760i is quite a bit thirstier with figures of 13/20/16 mpg, although it does have a much bigger 6.6-liter V12 lump under the hood.
Does Mercedes ever tire of creating dazzling interiors? Apparently not, because the S63's expansive cabin is meticulously crafted and effortlessly blends high-tech digital screens with classic leather and wood trim. It doesn't matter where you're seated, you'll be impressed with the thoughtful touches that have gone into making your journey as comfortable as possible. The features count is high and includes amenities like active multi-contour front seats with massaging function, sumptuous Nappa leather upholstery, four-zone automatic climate control, and dual 12.3-inch digital displays. From the soft-close doors to the stitching on the dashboard, it's all just so tastefully executed and, overall, the interior remains one of the S-Class's crowning achievements.
Seating five in the lap of luxury, the S63 has some of the most luxurious seats in any sedan. Optionally, an executive rear-seat package turns the Mercedes into a four-seater, with two lavish rear seats replacing the standard bench. Whether you tick this box or not, the S-Class has plenty of legroom and headroom for all; rear legroom is especially excellent. It's easy to get into the S63 thanks to large doors that swing open wide, and the driver will also be thankful for door pillars that are narrow enough to ensure a clear view out.
Fine Nappa leather is standard on the S63. Together with the horizontally-stitched fluting of the seat's center section, these seats not only feel sumptuous to the touch, but they look good, too. The standard upholstery colors are black, Silk Beige/Espresso Brown, Nut Brown/Black, Porcelain/Black, and Magma Grey/Espresso Brown. An upgrade to exclusive Nappa leather costs $4,450 and can be had in colors like Silk Beige/Espresso Brown and Nut Brown/Black. The final - and most luxurious - upholstery option is semi-aniline leather at $6,550.
The trim options are just as appealing, from the standard Burr Walnut and Black Poplar wood to options like designo Natural Grain Brown Ash wood. Wherever you look, the material quality is exemplary and Mercedes should be rightfully proud of what they've achieved with the S-Class cabin.
The S63 has a commodious trunk with 18 cubic feet of space - that's enough to accommodate two smaller suitcases, one large one, a small box, and a couple of soft bags. The trunk opening could be a bit broader, but most items are comfortably loaded. Hands-free access and an electronic trunk closer are part of the S63's standard specification.
In the cabin, small-item storage is generous and includes compartments in all the doors, extra space beneath the rear center armrest, and a large center console.
If it's not already standard equipment, chances are you'll be able to get it as an option. Before ticking any boxes, you get dual-zone automatic climate control, 12-way power front seats with heating and massaging functions, 64-color LED ambient lighting, keyless start and go, soft-close doors, an electronic trunk closer, a power rear-window sunshade, a garage door opener, and Mercedes' energizing comfort system - this system coordinates climate control, audio, and even the cabin fragrance based on programs like Refresh and Vitality. The extensive options list requires deep pockets, but encompasses appealing features like heated armrests, executive rear seating, ventilated front seats, and folding tables for the rear seats.
The driver faces two large 12.3-inch displays - one for key driving information, and the central screen for infotainment functions. Mercedes' familiar COMAND interface features a touchpad controller, a rotary knob, and several one-touch keys. Once you get used to it, the system works well and allows you to control a full range of connectivity and entertainment functions. These include dual USB ports, HD radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM with a six-month all-access trial, a hands-free Bluetooth interface, navigation with free map updates for three years and an SD card reader. The sound system is an excellent 13-speaker Burmester surround-sound unit with 590 watts of power, but you can double this speaker count by going for the optional Burmester high-end 3D sound system. Inductive wireless charging is standard, while rear-cabin wireless charging - along with a rear infotainment system - is optional.
Last year, J.D. Power rated the S63 at 80 out of 100, with only the model's resale score of 71 out of 100 dragging down the overall rating. In 2019, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class range was affected by five recalls, but not all of these pertained to the S63. Those that did included an impaired active brake assist system that may not automatically apply the brakes, which could lead to a crash. In another recall, 2018 models were recalled for an active driving system that may not detect when a driver's hands are off the steering wheel, also potentially increasing the risk of a crash. Another problem included seat belts which could be incorrectly detected as unfastened.
The S63 gets the brand's four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty that also includes coverage for the drivetrain.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class range, including the S63, has yet to be crash-tested by the IIHS or the NHTSA, but we're confident that the luxury sedan would score top marks if it were evaluated. Besides the many standard safety features, Mercedes' excellent reputation for top-notch safety is well-known - for instance, the 2019 E-Class received the IIHS' Top Safety Pick+ award.
When equipped with Mercedes' full range of available safety gear, the S63 is one of the most advanced cars on the road, offering a semi-autonomous driving experience that seems sent from the future. Thankfully, not everything costs extra. The S63 ships as standard with nine airbags, adaptive braking technology, a surround-view camera system, active parking assist (with automatic steering), blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic alert, crosswind assist, attention assist, Car-to-X communication, the pre-safe accident detection system, and active lane keeping assist. A hint of typical Mercedes-Benz overengineering is visible - literally - with the Magic Vision Control system; the wiper blades have laser-cut holes in them, which emit a spray of washer fluid in front of the wipers with each sweep. The result is that where 'normal' cars will obscure your vision for a second or two before the wipers clear the spray, there are no such issues in the S-Class.
The array of optional safety features is just as extensive. From active steering assist to radar-based cruise control, night vision, automatic speed takeover, congestion emergency braking, and active speed limit assist, the S-Class offers it all.
Even nearing the end of its life cycle, Mercedes got it so spot-on with the S-Class from the start, that it feels anything but old and outdated. In S63 guise, you also get to enjoy one of the quickest full-size luxury sedans in the world thanks to that glorious AMG V8 under the hood. Along with the engine's power, it makes a lovely growl and endows the S63 with a distinct character over lesser models in the range. But perhaps the S63's top achievement is how, despite its more aggressive style, grippy 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, and other AMG add-ons, it is still an S-Class in the way it glides down the road, pampers its occupants, and provides access to the most advanced technologies. The BMW M760i offers a similarly incredible breadth of ability; it, too, is a missile the one moment and a docile luxury sedan the next. Plus, the BMW has the novelty of that V12 engine. What it doesn't have is the effortless charm of the S63 that mere specification sheets fail to convey. The S-Class is still the benchmark - the S63 just adds another layer of performance to the mix.
With a price increase of $2,050 for 2020, the S63 now eclipses the $150k mark and tops out at $151,600. This price excludes all options, plus tax, licensing, registration, and a manufacturer destination charge. The BMW M760i xDrive is slightly more expensive at $157,700, but that does get you a 6.6-liter V12.
There's just one version of the S63, but it's just about as much luxury and performance as can be reasonably squeezed into a single sedan. Making use of a 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 engine with 603 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque, the S63 will blast to 60 mph in only 3.5 seconds. A nine-speed AMG automatic transmission, 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive, and an adaptive sport suspension are standard.
The smooth and flowing S-Class exterior gets some more attitude with the S63's 20-inch AMG alloy wheels, AMG body styling with gloss black trim, all-LED exterior lighting, a panorama roof, and four trapezoidal exhaust outlets. Inside, the spacious cabin is trimmed in Nappa leather and the luxurious front seats feature massaging, heating, and 12-way power adjustment. Dual 12.3-inch screens feature crisp graphics and display key driver and entertainment information. Passengers are kept comfortable thanks to dual-zone automatic climate control, while the specification also extends to an air balance fragrance system, remote start via the Mercedes Me mobile app, illuminated door sills, soft-close doors, an electronic trunk closer, a power rear-window sunshade, power rear-side window sunshades, and hands-free access. A 13-speaker Burmester surround-sound system is standard, as is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Along with nine airbags, blind-spot assist, and active parking assist, you can also get access to safety features like congestion emergency braking, active steering assist, and active lane change assist.
|AMG S63 4MATIC||
4.0-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
If you want, you can drive out of the Mercedes showroom with a standard S63 and still have a car that feels oh-so-special. But few buyers do that, and for them, there's the brand's many optional packages and features to choose from.
Starting with the exterior, the AMG Exterior Night Styling Package costs $750 and adds gloss black trim to the front air-dam splitter, mesh grilles, mirror covers, and more. The much pricier AMG Exterior Carbon Fiber Package goes for $6,500, but we're not sure an S-Class - even an AMG - needs to be adorned in materials you'd more commonly find on Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
Moving inside, there's even more customization potential. The Warmth and Comfort Package costs $2,600 and heats the rear seats, armrests and steering wheel. There are then multiple rear seat upgrades: the Rear Seat Package costs $1,700 and adds a power right rear footrest, four-zone climate control, and easy-adjust rear-seat head restraints. The $3,500 Executive Rear Seat Package adds multi-contour rear seats with massage and an executive right rear seat that reclines - this package does, however, first require adding the Warmth and Comfort Package, the Rear Seat Package, and the rear-seat entertainment system. For the ultimate in rear-seat opulence, the Executive Rear Seat Package Plus costs $1,950 and adds four-place seating, folding rear-seat tables, and heated/cooled rear cupholders. The Pre-Safe Rear Seat Package enhances safety with rear-seat belt bags and pre-safe rear seat belt buckles for $1,300. Individual interior options include an AMG/Dinamica performance steering wheel for $500, heated rear seats for $580, power rear outboard seats for $1,515, and a rear refrigerator box for $1,100.
A rear-seat entertainment system will set you back $2,650, while the amazing Burmester high-end 3D surround-sound system goes for an equally amazing $6,400. The AMG head-up display is a worthwhile addition for $1,100, and rear-cabin wireless charging costs $300. Mercedes has chosen to bundle all of its optional safety features into one package called the Driver Assistance Package - it costs $2,250.
You only have the choice of one S63 variant, but you can create a bespoke model by delving into Mercedes' options list. We'd specify our S63 with the beautiful black Piano Lacquer 'Flowing Lines' wood trim at $1,300 and the $1,100 head-up display. As this is the S-Class that you're most likely to drive yourself, we'd only upgrade to the cheaper $1,700 Rear Seat Package. The Driver Assistance Package, at $2,250, seems like decent value considering how much extra safety kit you get, so this would be our final addition for a final price of $157,950.
The fastest S-Class goes up against the fastest 7 Series (discounting the Alpina B7). Both of these German super sedans utilize twin-turbo power plants, but the AMG's 4.0-liter V8 is dwarfed (at least in terms of capacity) by the BMW's 6.6-liter V12. The Merc's engine is more exciting, but the BMW's V12 is silky smooth and suits the mega 7 Series. All-wheel-drive systems help each sedan complete the 0-60 mph run in comfortably under four seconds and each can carry absurd speeds through the corners despite their size. As is typical, the 7 Series is a sharper driving tool than the S-Class, and the Mercedes is a bit more comfortable - but neither is comprehensively outgunned by the other in these aspects. They also have supremely built cabins jam-packed with creature comforts, but the Mercedes wows you more upon first acquaintance. The AMG wins because it feels more special, but both are phenomenal luxury sedans at the very top of their game.
If Audi made an RS8, that car would be the perfect match for the AMG S63, but they don't so the S8 is the closest you can get. With a 563-hp bi-turbo V8 and a price tag of $129,500, the S8 is less powerful, but also cheaper, than the Mercedes. It's not much slower, though, and will complete the 0-60 mph sprint in 3.8 seconds (only three-tenths of a second off the pace of the AMG). With Quattro all-wheel-drive and dynamic all-wheel steering, the S8 can also perform tricks that defy its size and weight. Audi's superb virtual cockpit and the MMI touchscreen infotainment system impart a distinctly high-tech feel to the S8's brilliantly built cabin, but the S63 still feels warmer and more lush inside. Despite the S8 being cheaper, it has even more equipment: 22-way power front seats (the S63 only has 12-way power front seats), a 17-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system, and four-zone automatic climate control are all standard. The more understated Audi S8 will suit a more conservative buyer, and although the S63 wins the horsepower battle, it's hard to look past the newer and less expensive S8.