Associate Web Editor Donny Nordlicht was flying out of the Detroit airport the day before I was to return from the Los Angeles Auto Show, and he texted me a photo of the S63, which was waiting for me in the parking lot that we always use near the Detroit airport. After ten days away from home, I was happy to find this top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz S-class waiting for me after Delta Flight 6 touched down, especially since the first part of my time away was to visit family in Texas Hill Country, where I spent four days and 500 miles behind the wheel of a beater Toyota Corolla rental car.
Despite the S63's formidable performance profile, especially with the AMG performance package and its ability to raise the top speed to the magical 300-kph (186 mph) mark, this car drives as easily and as serenely as any other S-class. Whether it's worth an additional $30K over the Jaguar XJL Supersport sedan that we tested recently is, I suppose, down to personal preference and whether you like to think that you might actually have occasion to take advantage of the twin-turbo V-8's 563 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque.
For my part, the most entertaining thing about my brief time with the S63 was when I read off the performance specs and then the options list, with prices, to Val, the young stonemason who's been working on a project at my house and who is a serious car nut. Naturally, he thought the S63 was pretty darn sweet and took cell phone pictures of it from every angle. He, like me, is on the fence about the matte-finish paint. Sometimes you want a car to sparkle.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Because the standard S-class is such an outstanding car, it provides an excellent jumping off point for AMG engineers to boost performance and create the S63 AMG. Although it's insanely quick and competent for such a big, heavy car, as Joe pointed out, it remains as effortless and easy to drive as the "base" car. Was the standard S-class crying out for more power or performance? Not really. But the AMG performance add-ons also don't undermine the S-class's luxury-car objective.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
Spending 50 percent more to turn your S-Class into an S63 AMG strikes me as dubious value, although I suppose that for buyers looking to create the most bad-ass big Benz, value doesn't really factor into the consideration. The AMG twin-turbo V-8 does sound absolutely menacing at start-up -- not at all what you expect from a regal S-class sedan. Unfortunately, the transmission defaults to the C (for Controlled Efficiency) mode at each start-up. That enables the auto stop/start system, which presumably helps the S63 achieve its still-pretty-gluttonous 15-mpg city rating. But it also neuters the throttle response of this ungodly powerful engine, which means you will instead want to drive in S (Sport) mode. In so doing, you'll get an experience more in keeping with this car's 664-pound feet of torque, but you lose the auto stop/start function. Oh well, buyers who really care about fuel economy can always get the diesel S-class instead.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
I might as well have won the lottery the day before Thanksgiving when I convinced senior web editor Phil Floraday to give up his assigned $162,675 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG for my $21,815 Nissan Juke. I was facing a six-hour drive to Wisconsin and the biggest Benz's best-in-the-business backseat was something I could give thanks for. Other S-class luxuries I'm grateful for include massaging seats, heated seats, cooled seats, infinitely adjustable seats, satellite radio, and matte magno grey paint. Where many matte paints have the all of the sophistication of a Krylon rattle-can job, this $3950 finish has remarkable depth when you study it up close. I love it.
While I enjoyed plenty of time loafing with an iPad in the back, I also had plenty of time to pilot this large, luxury missile over Illinois' lovely interstates. The interesting thing about the hotted-up S-class is that it's so much more benign than any other AMG car. Its yacht-like proportions and weight take the edge off the twin-turbo 5.5-liter that makes lesser AMGs skittish under power. The S-class is insanely fast with a deep, serious burble, and yet it never feels sporty. The S63 is just as compliant as any other S-class, wafting with perfect manners. Never floaty, or sloppy, or imprecise, it is sublime how perfectly tuned the suspension is.
Eric Tingwall, Assosciate Editor
This is truly the Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde of ultra-premium luxobarges. As Joe Lorio mentions, the S63 can behave in a surprisingly sedate fashion when not pushed hard. It's almost easy enough to forget there's a whopping 553 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque at your beck and call, thanks to the optional AMG development pack. But good Lord, is it there. It rears its head when you ask for it, pushing you firmly back into the super-plush front buckets. It's easy to ask for too much power: push the right pedal a touch too hard, and several telltale lamps within the instrument cluster flash manically, signaling a half-dozen computers are having trouble getting the rear wheels to hook up. I've been lucky enough to drive several S63 AMGs. I can't praise these cars enough, yet somehow I've almost run out of new ways to describe them. Engines and minor details may have changed over that time span, but the S-Class -- and AMG's tweaks -- have remained largely the same. Every piece exudes a solid, hefty, and substantial feel that's unrivaled in this class, and perhaps this industry. AMG models further spoil passengers with rich, sumptuous leather trim on virtually every surface imaginable; it looks great, but feels (and smells) even better. The entire package - the power, the performance, the prestige - is nothing short of magical, and I'm not sure any of AMG's rivals come close to matching it.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
A new S-class should arrive by the end of 2013, but I have a hard time imagining what Mercedes can improve. It's not so much that it's a perfect car - I personally prefer both the Audi A8 and the Jaguar XJ in this segment - but it is the perfect Mercedes. It captures the essence of what the brand should be: solid, well constructed, lavishly appointed, and capable. And despite the fact that it brims with new technology and, in this case, excessive power, it has the feeling of old-world luxury that's not trying to pretend to be a sports car or even a sports sedan. That's a good thing, but it does beg the question of whether it's worth spending extra for the AMG treatment.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor