We've finally calmed down from thrashing the all-new, front-wheel-drive-biased, 4Matic A45 and CLA45 from Mercedes-Benz's AMG performance division. Our driving experiences were good and, above all, more responsive than any mainline AMG model in memory – both cars took a little getting used to dynamically, but getting comfortable didn't take long.
Now we've thrust ourselves into the driver's seat of AMG's offering at the other end of the spectrum – the new S63 AMG with its decidedly rear-biased 4Matic all-wheel drive and extended wheelbase. You can't fit two A45 AMGs bumper-to-bumper within the footprint of this 17.4-foot long, 5.1-inch-stretched S-Class, but it sure seems possible when you first stare at it. This marks the first time the long-legged power player has been equipped with 4Matic. It's also the only S63 that will make it to the US in this generation – rear-wheel-drive iterations of this extended wheelbase trim are destined only for Right-Hand-Drive markets. If you can justify that logic, give us a call – Mercedes has stated for years that it has been frequently unable to package 4Matic after things have been reoriented for RHD motoring. That this still remains a challenge for the company's engineers seems weird, no?
If you're thinking that we could just say that this thing is a monster and then lights out, end of story, you wouldn't be quite right. The S-Class is, after all, among the most successful model families from any car company on Earth, creating huge profits for Mercedes per unit sold. It is the standard to which all others aspire in the segment, at the very least when it comes to business cases. Speaking of the S63 in particular, it therefore still needs to be able to embrace its passengers in masses of comfort even while strapping on AMG power.
It is for this reason that we are now more eager than ever to have a go in the next S65 AMG twin-turbo V12, a car that will certainly be fairly hair-brained. Driving an S-Class AMG always makes us look for a healthy helping of rawness mixed in with all of the refinement which we take for granted in an upper-echelon Mercedes. We can't help but expect some Red Pig racing spirit – even at this exorbitant dimension. But the S63 AMG 4Matic is more velvety in character than that, and it retains that central trait to all large AMG models where you're forever driving at higher speeds than you intend because the whole experience is so stealthily effortless.
Driving an S-Class AMG always makes us look for a healthy helping of rawness mixed in with all of the refinement.
The stellar M157 biturbo 5.5-liter V8 makes a pretty and low burble from its quad-tip exhaust system at idle in either Sport or Manual mode of the AMG Speedshift 7-MCT transmission. Sadly, with its equally stellar noise-vibration-and-harshness materials hidden within its all-aluminum bodywork, very little of the engine's sonic drama actually penetrates the cabin. To get more muffled noise inside the S63, we had to cross over into Germany from Austria just to floor it some on the Autobahn. It's so worth it, too, because the rumble is simply big. It doesn't holler at the surrounding forests, but it does rumble with awesome authority.
With this executive train incorporating all manner of aluminum and carbon composites wherever thought fit, the 2014 S63 weighs some 220 pounds less than its predecessor, while gaining torsional rigidity and sleeker aerodynamics. Meat-hammer the throttle in Sport mode, and even though the official AMG estimate is 3.9 seconds (0.4 of a second quicker than the rear-drive version), we're certain that this biggie will nail the dash to 60 miles per hour in more like 3.5 seconds. 664 pound-feet of torque channeled through a 33/67 rear-drive bias will do that sort of thing. The S63 works to pound home the message that there is still no performance rival in any lineup anywhere that can compete with what it offers. This car's closest competitor is the Audi S8, but it's not quite on the same playing field in terms of power and available luxuries, even if it can belt out a similar 0-60 time.
Increased camber to the lightweight, 20-inch, forged wheels and the ESP-based Curve Dynamic Assist acting upon the inside rear wheel ensure greater tractability in hot corners, minimizing understeer as much as can be expected. With all of these super-sized gymnastics, one can't help but appreciate the new optional front ceramic composite brake discs – at an authoritative 16.5-inches in diameter. These latter bits will become available in the spring of 2014 at an as yet undecided – though doubtlessly eye-popping – price.
We're certain that this biggie will nail the dash to 60 mph in more like 3.5 seconds.
We understand that Mercedes-Benz still believes in keeping the interior's center console clear of all messy duties like hosting a gear lever. But using the same plasticky stalk on the right side of the steering column is getting a bit tired. What's more, on the AMG versions of the S-Class, Mercedes should have authorized a true sport steering wheel instead of staying with the super casual though comfy two-spoke design of the series car. Something like the unit created for the Alpina B7 would be a nice reference, for starters.
Overall, though, this new S-Class interior is pretty special work. The expansive electrically adjustable AMG sport seats are also much more serious about providing lateral support, and the rearward adjustability of these thrones is just vast, as though engineered to fit the Guinness Book of World Records' tallest living humans.
Equally vast is the onboard TFT display screen and the entirely new sheaf of selectable menu items primarily present to tune your drive experience to the utmost. Our tester had the optional seat comfort package with "energizing" massage function, and we partook of this rather frequently. Setting your preferred ambient lighting hue is a new trend in the car biz at this level, and we find it cute if a bit overdone here – some select indirect light accents can be soothing, but Mercedes has used it everywhere.
Adjustability of these thrones is just vast, as though engineered to fit the Guinness Book of World Records' tallest living humans.
With 4Matic, Benz's new Magic Body Control suspension that proactively detects the road surface using a stereo camera is not yet available, and there is no word as to when it might be. What is available is the existing sport calibration of Airmatic adaptive air suspension, and the feel of the S63's ride is therefore pretty familiar and likeable.
In the end, the amount by which this new S63 distinguishes itself from the last S63 is to be commended. We clocked around 250 miles of driving in all manner of conditions and circumstances, and this is an inspiring vehicle. At nearly 140 mph on the no-limit Autobahn, its sheer stability and isolation from the Level 4 hurricane passing outside are astonishing. And when in less of a hurry, using the Controlled Efficiency "C" setting and the Eco function with Start-Stop, the S63 starts out in second gear as any potentially chauffeured luxury chariot should.
The amount by which this new S63 distinguishes itself from the last S63 is to be commended.
Upon its arrival Stateside in November, the S63 is under the onus to simply improve upon itself since the company still thinks it has no direct competition. Mercedes could have gotten by with the minimal amount of work, but it has gone long and sought to put this model entirely out of reach of contenders like the S8. Speaking of which, Audi has just issued a refresh for its big-dollar bruiser, but it clearly has its work cut out for it – this big Merc is one special sedan.