After three-plus decades reviewing automobiles, I’m still not jaded. I always look forward to the next test drive. That said, I’m not easily wowed, either. Most cars I review I enjoy in some way or another, largely because most modern automobiles are extremely competent—a far cry from the many disasters I tested in the 1980s. (I’m looking at you, Yugo.) Still, it’s hard to get me really revved up unless a car transports me not just to a different location, but to another state of mind.
The Mercedes-AMG S63 rocketed my brain straight to nirvana.
It’s Incredibly Great
Let me not mince words here: This $180,000 beauty with the handcrafted, 603-hp twin-turbo V-8 blows away every other four-door sedan on the market. The S63 excels at everything. Speed? We’re talking about a 4,500-pound, sumptuously loaded, and blissfully spacious four-door that can scorch to 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds and on to a top speed of nearly 190 mph. Luxury? Go on, look inside at that gorgeous cockpit, made even more mouth-watering thanks to optional Porcelain/Black Nappa leather ($4,450) and Designo black-lacquer trim ($1,300). Safety? Standard is just about every anti-accident feature you could imagine; with the optional driver-assistance package ($2,250) the car is even safer and, in certain conditions such as stop-and-go highway traffic, it can drive itself.
To top it off, the S63 is even quicker than its more expensive and more powerful V-12 sibling. How, you ask? Well, the S63 has 4Matic all-wheel drive as standard, aiding off-the-line traction, and the system isn’t available on the rear-drive-only S65 AMG, whose V-12 is simply too torquey for the hardware. The S65 also uses an older seven-speed automatic against the S63’s newer nine-speed unit. Unless you just have to have all those cylinders, save yourself roughly $80K in base price and get the V-8 version. (Heck, Mercedes is making the choice for you, as the S65 is on its way out the door.)
Back to that speed. It’s really something. Click into Sport+ mode and the S63 goes full evil, the exhaust note spitting and barking, the manual shifts (actuated via paddles) slamming home like fastballs into a catcher’s mitt, the car shrugging off its two-plus tons and blazing into the distance with a shriek that electrifies your spine. It’s phenomenal. The handling is impressive, too, and while the S63 is big it feels light in your hands, and the chassis bites harder than you might expect. All while delivering a cosseting ride that’s never harsh.
Multiple Personalities, and Every One’s a Winner
A completely different driving experience exists just a drive-mode selection away. In Comfort, the S63 is as chill as a sunbather at the beach. Driving home from a romp through the twisting two-lanes in Malibu, I ran into heavy traffic on Pacific Coast Highway. Did I or my wife riding in the passenger seat care? Not a bit. The S63 is so quiet; so possessed of such amazing cabin isolation; so pleasant to sit in, our ears bathed in the sonic splendor of standard Burmester surround-sound audio; and so smooth over the pavement that we were happy to creep along in the stop-and-go.
It’s easy to be wowed by the S63’s swiftness and beauty but you’ll also be enchanted by the details. Such features may sound over the top, but that’s only until you’ve experienced them while piloting this extraordinary automobile. For instance, a standard Air Balance system ionizes and purifies the cockpit environment and, if you wish, even adds a spritz of fragrance (it’s subtle but several passengers immediately said, “It smells so good in here!” upon climbing in). On tap are 64 different ambient lighting colors to suit your every mood or match almost any attire. “Energizing Comfort” offers five different 10-minute programs that—by coordinating amenities such as the climate control, Air Balance, ambient lighting, massaging seats, and music—can take you away like a relaxing soak in Calgon. Laugh or roll your eyes if you want, but it’s pretty wonderful to motor along in your own spa.
There isn’t anything about this automobile I didn’t love. The Obsidian Black bodywork is lean and muscular—enhanced by dark, 20-inch AMG forged wheels ($2,200) and the racy glint of the gold calipers denoting AMG’s carbon-ceramic brakes ($8,950).
The standard COMAND infotainment system is effortless to use, aided by an array of quick-access menu buttons array around the central control, and the two 12.3-inch widescreen displays are sharp, clear, and responsive. Two capacitive thumb-tabs on the steering wheel make it easy to scroll through such displays as trip-computer data. A host of console switches allow you to tailor the S63 to almost any taste, individually altering chassis stiffness, automatic or manual shifting modes, exhaust baffling, and more. The trunk is huge, the rear-seat room cavernous. Optional Night View Assist Plus ($2,260) uses two infrared LED spotlights and a thermal-imaging camera to display objects such as pedestrians and animals you might not see in the dark onto the instrument cluster. It even highlights the objects for quicker recognition, allowing the driver more time to react.
I’d like to personally thank Dieter Morgel, the AMG craftsman who hand-built and then signed the twin-turbo V-8 that powered a week behind the wheel I won’t soon forget. There are other great luxury-performance sedans on the market, but the Mercedes-AMG S63 stands alone at the top. There’s nothing else so fast, so refined, so advanced in its luxury and safety, and so thoroughly and completely well-sorted. Drive it once and you’ll think, “$180,000? Totally reasonable.”
2019 Mercedes-AMG S63 Specifications
|ENGINE||4.0L twin-turbocharged DOHC 32-valve V-8; 603 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 664 lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan|
||17/26 mpg city/highway|
|L x W x H||208.5 x 75.0 x 59.0 in|
|0–60 MPH||3.4 sec (mfr)|
|TOP SPEED||186 mph (mfr)|