A week or so ago, my colleague Amy Skogstrom wrote about the Mercedes S63 AMG. She couldn't quite see the point of the car compared to the 'basic'S550. I couldn't agree more. Then I saw the keys to an S65 AMG sitting on my desk on Friday. I forgot about this mega sedan.
$140,000 is a lot of money for an S-Class (the S63) but $210,000 grand is crazy talk (S65). Sure, you get an extra 100 hp or so but do you need to go that fast in a huge sedan? The bigger difference between the two is that the S65 has a twin-turbo V-12 that makes an extra 273 lb-ft of torque. Yes, that's right, the mega Benz has 738 lb-ft of torque from 2000-4000 RPM. I remember someone telling me that the engine could make more power but it's limited due to the transmission. Ah yes, the transmission.
The Mercedes seven-speed auto that lives in the S63 can't handle all the twist so the S65 soldiers on with a 5-speed automatic. It's not that you really need any gears with all that torque but the personality of the tranny leaves a lot to be desired. As you drive the S65, you feel the transmission and the engine are constantly making sure they don't blow each other up. Shifts are somewhat slow and the engine ECU will not give you power until it makes sure the transmission has finished each shift. The in-gear acceleration is amazing but the S65 doesn't have polished powertrain feel of the S63. Clunks and shudders from the tranny remind you that it's a delicate balance to put all the torque to the ground.
All the power needs fuel and it looks like the S65 is quite picky about what you feed it. On the fuel door, it says the car needs 93 octane where most cars that want premium fuel have 91 octane as a minimum. Delivery of the car to our office was delayed as a previous loan put in 'bad fuel'. I'm not sure if this meant bad quality or low octane but all was sorted and it showed up at our office. During the first 200 miles or so, the S65 didn't feel as crazy fast or powerful as I remembered. Sure, it is blistering on the highway but it didn't feel much faster than the S63. I ran the car until the reserve light came on and then filled it up at a Sunoco station with 94 octane. Wow, did it make a difference. The freight train pull was back and I felt the full power of that
mega V-12. It looks like the S65 wants to drink the good stuff. And does it drink. On a lengthy highway journey running just over 80 mph, it averaged 17 mpg. I guess that's better than many full size SUVs.
In the end, I'm still not sold on these 'sporty' S-Class models but they are fast. They're quite pointless and I can't understand why Mercedes insists on tuning in so much weight into the steering. Plus, the ride can get a little rough on broken pavement. I'd save the cash and get an S550.
One last thing, both the S63 and S65 sound great when you start them up from cold. Both raise up the revs at idle when cold and sound fantastic. OK, maybe that's where the extra money goes.