by Gabe Beita Kiser
The S-Class Mercedes-Benz is more than a status symbol; it is a showcase of what the human mind can achieve, and just like Mozart or Einstein, the S-Class towers above its peers in shameless glory. As if the standard car wasn't enough, the Mercedes-AMG S65 takes things to a whole other level, most notably by utilizing the earth-moving force of a hand-built 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V12 engine producing 621 horsepower. The swooping exterior belies the fact that this car can accelerate to sixty faster than most vehicles on the road, all while cradling its passengers in supreme comfort and luxury. Rivals such as the BMW M760i xDrive offer more practicality for much less, but can't match the S65's presence and personality. Starting at over $230,000, it makes the Mercedes a tough sell, but if money isn't an issue, it's one of the best things on four wheels.
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG S65 Sedan forms part of the sixth generation and enters the new year without any major changes. Mercedes-AMG has fiddled with the voice command system, which can now control more in-car systems, and they have two new optional steering wheel finishes, one in wood and leather and the other in Dinamica and carbon fiber.
The big Merc tries and fails to hide its performance DNA under vast swooping body panels, but those massive gaping air intakes in the front, and quad-exit exhaust pipes in the rear are dead giveaways that the S65 is more than just your ordinary CEO Uber carriage. In the front, the S65 sports a set of LED headlights with Mercedes-Benz's Intelligent Light System, which follows curves in the road for ultimate visibility and safety when driving at night. In the rear, you also get a set of LED lights. The S65 also gets a power sunroof, heated and powered side mirrors with auto-dimming on the driver's side as well as rain-sensing window wipers and Merc's Magic Vision Control, which consists of a heated wiper and washer system for colder climates. It's clear just by looking at the exterior that the S65 is something special, but those who want an extra edge should look at the AMG appearance package, which adds a carbon fiber front apron, side mirrors, side sills, and rear apron inserts.
There's no other way of putting it: the Mercedes-AMG S65 Sedan is a huge car, which would make sense considering the fact that it's classified as a full-size luxury sedan, but still, seeing one in person just puts its overall length of 208.5 inches into perspective, which is 1.9 inches longer than the BMW M760i xDrive. The S65 stands 59 inches tall, and including the mirrors, is 83.9 inches wide. With a wheelbase of 124.6 inches, you can see where all that interior space originates from. The S65 might look awesome, and takes up more than its fair share of the road, but a hefty curb weight of 4,960 pounds comes with the territory, which is still over 150 pounds lighter than the 7 Series.
Unlike the new wave of American muscle sedans such as the Dodge Charger Hellcat and Cadillac CTS-V, the Mercedes-AMG S65 comes from a more worldly background, having served as the carrier for countless presidents, royalty, and celebrities, and is loved for its (relatively) understated looks, comfort, and performance. The 2019 color palette for the S65 Sedan reflects this proud heritage of classy understatement: you get to choose from 13 different shades of money, all curated to show off the S65's lines in a tasteful manner that doesn't shout or scream. The ever-popular Black and Iridium Silver Metallic are first in line, but there are some interesting alternatives to the norm, including Ruby Black Metallic, Anthracite Blue Metallic, and Designo Cashmere White Magno. We'd have our S65 in any shade of silver; it reminds us of the great German Zeppelins of yesteryear, without the spontaneous combustion and mass civilian casualties.
The S65 Sedan defies the rules of physics. A circa 5,000-pound car shouldn't be able to move with such force, yet it does. How has Mercedes-AMG accomplished this? It's straightforward really; all they did was drop a hand-built V12 engine into the massive cavity that lies beneath the hood. With enough power, you can achieve anything. Set up the S65 for maximum attack, and it will deliver a zero to sixty time of only 4.1 seconds; that's as fast as a Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale, in a car that can host a small party, DJ included. In-town driving is a pleasure, as the S65 seems to deliver power anywhere in the rev range, and in any gear, and once on the highway, there's very little in its class that can match its in-gear acceleration. Put simply, the S65 is obviously a fast car, but it's in the way it delivers its power with such grace and tactfulness that truly astounds.
Mercedes-AMG doesn't cut corners, especially when it comes to the heart of their German muscle cars: The 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 engine that lurks beneath the hood of every S65 Sedan is assembled by hand by an individual technician, who takes the utmost care in ensuring that the tightest tolerances are achieved. A total horsepower output of 621 hp might not sound that impressive considering the fact that $60,000 Hellcats make much more than that, but the secret to the S65's towering performance is the fact that it has 738 lb-ft of torque available from only 2,300 rpm. Power is channeled to the rear wheels exclusively (an all-wheel-drive system wouldn't be able to handle all the torque) via an AMG Speedshift seven-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The older generation seven-speed transmission was chosen for its ability to manage the mountains of torque on offer reliably and it does a convincing job. Power is seamlessly transferred from the engine to the wheels in one continuous rush of power, perfect for a luxury car whose main job is to keep any jarring sounds and movements out of the picture.
Gone are the days when full-sized luxury sedans could get away with a squelchy and unresponsive driving experience, which sacrificed driver engagement for a plush ride. The 2019 Mercedes-AMG S65 Sedan does a good job of hiding its weight through the corners, which is mainly due to its active sport suspension, developed by AMG, which makes use of Mercedes-Benz's Magic Body Control system with curve control. In comfort mode, the S65's steering feels overly light, which is perfect for in-town driving, but you'll need to select one of the more aggressive driving modes if you want it to weigh up. As with so many performance luxury sedans, placing the nose is easy enough, but there's minimal road feedback, which puts the S65 out of contention for being a true sports car, but it stays flat in the corners and has a surprisingly good amount of mid-corner grip. When not driving like a hooligan, the S65 is one of the most comfortable cruisers out there and soaks up road imperfections without raising a sweat.
What do you get when you drop a twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 into a 5,000-pound road yacht? Expensive bills. The 2019 Mercedes-AMG S65 Sedan doesn't have to pretend to be economical, and with a figure of 13/22/16 mpg city/highway/combined, you're sure to make good friends with your local gas station employees. BMW's V12 powered 760i xDrive with an even larger, but less powerful 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V12 will suck down a matching 13/20/16 mpg, while the lighter and less powerful Mercedes-AMG E 63 S Sedan will get 15/23/18 mpg. With a 24.3-gallon gas tank accepting only premium unleaded, you can expect a mixed driving range of 388.8 miles.
Owners and enthusiasts of S-Class cars have come to know and love them for their interiors, which are better appointed than most five star hotels. The 2019 S65 carries on this legacy of opulency and takes it a few steps further with features that sound like they shouldn't belong in a car, such as hot stone massage seats and cabin air purification and fragrance systems. As you step inside the cabin, you'll immediately be struck by the sheer grandness of it all. The sculpted seats, flowing dashboard, and beautifully crafted steering wheel all come together to offer something that goes beyond mere motoring; it's a true occasion. Standard interior features include heated and ventilated power-adjustable leather bucket seats with massage and memory function, four-zone automatic climate control with air purification, power-rear window shades as well as 64-color ambient LED lighting, illuminated door sills and much, much more.
The front seats in the S65 Sedan aren't your typical sporty bucket seats like something you'd find in a Honda Civic Type-R, but they do offer more bolstering than your standard luxury sedan seat, and on top of that, they are so comfortable that Mercedes-AMG should warn the driver and front passenger of possibly falling into a sleep coma while driving, especially when the massage function is doing its thing. With passenger comfort top of mind, the Mercedes-AMG S65 offers 41.4 inches of legroom and 39.7 inches of headroom in the front, more than enough for even the tallest bodyguards, while VIPs in the back get 34.1 inches of legroom and 37.4 inches of headroom. The BMW 7 Series offers slightly more legroom, and despite its lower roofline, tall passengers should fit just fine.
You won't find any faux-leather and cheap plastics here. Mercedes-AMG has gone all-out to make sure that every tangible surface on the S65 looks and feels better than anything you'll ever see on a first-class flight. Starting with the seats, new owners can choose between two types of leather and 12 combinations of upholstery color. Exclusive Nappa leather is standard issue on the S65 with optional designo Exclusive semi-aniline leather available. Once you've selected your choice of leather, you can move on to color combinations: other than black, you get exotic two tones such as Silk Beige and Deep Sea Blue or Magma Grey and Espresso Brown. Trim materials vary between old-school wood grain and carbon fiber. Our favorite has to be the Burl Walnut or designo Natural Grain Brown Ash Wood, which oozes old-world charm, but carbon-fiber trim inserts exist to cater to the new money in the market.
Large luxury sedans such as the S65 usually spend most of their time carting the rich and famous between pilates appointments and stockholder meetings, so the focus is placed squarely on interior space and comfort, which in turn hurts the overall cargo capacity. The 2019 S65 Sedan is no different; pop the trunk lid, and you'll be greeted by a paltry 12.3 cubic feet of space, which should be enough to fit enough luggage for a weekend away to the Cayman Islands from your own private airstrip or any other tax haven of your liking. The 7 Series, on the other hand, offers a generous 18.2 cubic feet of space, making it the more practical four-door limousine. Small items can be stowed away behind numerous wood-covered storage nooks. The center armrest and glovebox also offer good storage space.
Any time you spend over $200k on a car, you're either going to expect supercar performance or feature-packed luxury. The S65 might not be supercar quick, but it comes with more standard features than most people would know what to do with, and that's excluding the optional extras. Standard exterior features on the 2019 Mercedes-AMG S65 include LED lighting with Mercedes' intelligent light beam tech, including daytime, running lights and auto on/off headlights, rain-sensing window wipers illuminated door sills and more. On the inside, passengers are treated to ventilated and heated power bucket seats with massage and memory function, as well as four-zone automatic climate control, 64-color LED ambient lighting, a power sunroof, leather-covered steering wheel, and heated armrests as well as an integrated garage door opener and power rear sunshades. The list goes even further, but we think we've made our point.
CEO's like to party too! The 2019 S65 Sedan doesn't hold back when it comes to infotainment; the 12.3-inch high-resolution display shows off menus, navigation maps, and more in stunningly crisp color and is easy to navigate thanks to a choice of a touchpad, rotary controller, steering wheel inputs and voice command. The COMAND navigation system is backed up by three years of no-charge map updates, and you also get a three-year live traffic update subscription from TomTom. Important driver information is displayed through another 12.3-inch display or a head-up display unit. Audio is channeled through a high-end 26-speaker Burmester 3D surround sound system with enhanced front bass and sounds glorious. Standard issue features such as dual USB ports, Bluetooth streaming, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are all present, as is a wireless phone charging pad. Overall, the infotainment system on the S65 Sedan is accessible enough for most drivers and looks great on that 12.3-inch screen.
Mercedes-Benz's most powerful S-Class model is a reliable beast according to the NHTSA, which claims that over the past two years, the S65 range of cars has only been recalled twice, once due to an issue with the lane keep/lane-departure system and the other for active brake assist potentially not engaging. A J.D. Power score of 87 out of 100 backs up the sentiment of reliability. Mercedes-Benz backs the S65 Sedan with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which includes corrosion, drivetrain, and roadside assistance for the same time/distance. BMW offers a better warranty by backing the 7 Series with a 12-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty, as well as a three-year/36,000-mile maintenance plan.
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG S65 Sedan has not been tested by the NHTSA or IIHS. As a low-volume car costing well over $200k, safety rating agencies tend to avoid smashing them up. What we can say is that with the massive amount of safety tech on board, the S65 should prove to be a seriously safe car to drive, and its smaller sibling, the E-Class, recently scored a Top Safety Pick Plus award from the IIHS, so there's that too.
Being the top of the range model in the S-Class range, the S65 comes with more active and passive safety features than anyone would care to know about. The list that Mercedes-AMG provides is a long one, starting with active brake assist, driver attention assists, and electronic stability control with crosswind assist. Predictive braking with brake priming ensures that the S-Class is prepared for impact before the driver even has a chance to react. Nine airbags keep the occupants relatively comfy during a serious crash. Active driver assistance tech includes lane keep assist, semi-autonomous parking assist with cross-traffic alert, as well as dynamic steering and distance control, evasive steering assist, and rear collision detection and prevention. Route-based speed adaptation and a surround-view camera are a few others mentionable. The headlight system on the S65 Sedan is a whole story in itself: The LED headlights feature ultra-wide beams with adaptive beam assist and include LED daytime running lamps and auto on/off functionality.
What makes the 2019 Mercedes-AMG S65 Sedan a good car? The S65 is a big car that does a lot of things really well, and others relatively well; for its size, it performs like a much smaller car, accelerating to sixty in the low four-second range, handling sharp turns with surprising athleticism and providing one of the most comfortable cruising experiences out there. Inside, there's very little that can touch the S65 in terms of refinement, build quality and sheer luxury. Premium Nappa leather seats with massage function, four-zone climate control, and a massive 12.3-inch infotainment system connected to a sublime Burmester 3D surround sound system adds to the sense of occasion. The S65 does have its drawbacks; that twin-turbocharged V12 engine is one of the heaviest drinkers around, trunk space is cramped compared to its rivals, and the warranty, which doesn't provide a maintenance plan, isn't up to standard. The final hurdle to cross is the exorbitant asking price, which is difficult to justify when so many of its competitors do it as good for much, much less money. As a standalone car, it's awesomely excessive and luxurious, but out in the real world, it might struggle to justify itself.
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG S65 Sedan is the ultimate representation of what the German automaker is capable of, and as such, it requires one to fork over a stunning amount of money. The 2019 model starts off with an MSRP of $232,500, excluding a $1,700 gas guzzler tax, which is well over $75,000 more than the BMW M760i xDrive Sedan, and over $120,000 more than its smaller sibling the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S. If you think that the base price is slightly exorbitant, ticking off the options will see the price of the S65 Sedan rise to over $270,000. The high asking price of the S65 might put some buyers off: why should they spend well over $50k more for a car that offers only slight improvements over its competitors in terms of luxury, but isn't as practical?
The S65 Sedan is a single-trim model, so what you see is what you get, excluding optional extras, of course. Starting with the drivetrain, Mercedes-AMG continues to buck the trend of downsizing its premier performance engine in the S-Class by fitting a more than generous twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 under the hood. This engine is handcrafted by an individual master mechanic and produces 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, enough to haul its circa 5,000-pound body to sixty in the low four-second range. The exterior features ultra-wide beam LED headlights, a surround-view camera system, a powered panoramic sunroof as well as heated power mirrors with auto-dimming on the driver's side, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Inside, the S65 is crammed with the latest tech and safety features, including heated front seats with hot stone massage function wrapped in exclusive Nappa leather, four-zone automatic climate control, and a 12.3-inch infotainment system with navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Google Android integration as well as wireless phone charging. Safety features include auto-forward braking, lane keep assist, parking assist, and driver attention assist. Starting at $232,500, most won't need to check any options boxes, as the S65 is already jam-packed.
6.0-liter Twin-Turbo V12 Gas
For those whose bank accounts won't even be scratched by the S65's asking price, the options list offers a few interesting deals, ranging from exclusive exterior paint options and interior trim pieces to true performance upgrades. Starting with the exterior, new owners can splurge on a $3,950 designo Cashmere Magno paint job, or throw some AMG carbon fiber bits at the body, which includes front air dam inserts, side mirror covers and side sill inserts for only $5,300. Inside, you can get semi-aniline two-tone leather upholstery for $1,000 or an executive rear seat package, which adds four-place dual-power rear seats with folding tables and heated and cooled cupholders, all for just $1,950. The $4,950 Magic Sky Control panoramic roof uses electric current to change the transparency of the glass from dark to light in mere seconds and gives the S65 a true sci-fi feel. For the professional getaway driver, the $8,950 AMG ceramic composite brakes cut down unsprung weight and offer better braking performance for longer and harder driving sessions.
There's only one model and one trim level available, which means that the options list will become your best friend. The standard S65 offers more space and power than its smaller sibling the AMG E 63 S sedan, thanks to a considerably longer wheelbase and total length, matched up with a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V12 engine. The exterior of the big Merc features adaptive LED headlights as well as a surround camera system and a panoramic roof. The AMG carbon fiber package, which adds carbon fiber side mirror covers, air dam inserts, and side sill inserts, looks great on white and silver cars and is the perfect addition for those looking for a sportier look. On the inside, semi-aniline seats can be had for $1,000, and passengers in the rear can enjoy a set of fold-out tables, perfect for doing licit and illicit activities. Tech features such as a rear wireless phone charging dock and the futuristic auto-dimming Magic Sky Control panoramic roof all contribute towards future-proofing the S65 for years to come. If we were buying, we'd include the Magic Sky Control roof, carbon-fiber exterior bits, and call it a day.
This is the story of a full-size versus a mid-size luxury performance sedan from the same brand. The E63 S is powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine producing 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque from 2,500 rpm. That's not too far off the S65's numbers, and considering the fact that the E63 is a lighter vehicle helps it score a better fuel consumption figure of 15/23/18 mpg city/highway/combined, and its AWD system gives it a supercar-like zero to sixty time of 3.3 seconds. So it's more economical and faster, but it sits below the S65 for a reason: the S65 offers vastly superior interior space and is visually and tangibly more luxurious. Whereas the E 63 S gets dual-zone climate control and premium leather sport seats, the S65 covers four zones and gets exclusive Nappa leather seats with hot stone massage functionality. The differences in size and luxury are apparent, but there's more to the E 63; it is the better driver's car, and can actually be taken around a track if you ever have the need.
This comparison should be called the Battle of the Bulge, and by the bulge, we're talking about those V12 engines hiding beneath the hoods of both cars, or the bulging wallet required to purchase either of these German behemoths. BMW has gone all out on their range-topping Seven; power comes in the form of a massive 6.6-liter twin-turbo V12 producing 601 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, which is considerably less powerful than the S65 but returns a matching 13/20/16 mpg city/highway/combined. Size-wise, the M760i and S65 share similar dimensions, but the BMW somehow manages to offer both superior passenger and trunk space, making it the more practical car to live with if that's all you care about. Unless you are really knowledgeable about cars and can appreciate the subtle differences in ride comfort, the BMW feels just as refined and comfortable out on the road but feels cold and clinical on the inside, which counts in the S65's favor. Both offer more safety and tech features than most would know what to do with. As with most things in life, good things come at a cost, but to go beyond good, costs even more, and that's the case with the BMW M760i xDrive and Mercedes-AMG S65; the BMW is great, but the Merc is better, and for that, you'll have to pay.