2018 Mercedes-AMG S63 Review: Big Bang Baby
– Zurich, Switzerland
I’m grinning like a fool as I alert my co-driver of our autobahn velocity, the equivalent of 164 miles per hour. Yet as I triumphantly embrace the incredible speed of this 2018 Mercedes-AMG S63, I can’t help but notice that he’s more focused on a menu within the COMAND infotainment system. “I can’t believe I’ve been riding in the car this whole time without a massage,” he says. “You want me to turn yours on, too?”
Duh. It’s an AMG S-Class. If you’re not at the peak of relaxation while ‘bahn-burning at warp speed, you’re a goddamn amateur.
Heart of gold. Say goodbye to the 5.5-liter V8. For 2018, the S63 uses Mercedes-AMG’s biturbocharged 4.0-liter V8 – you know, the one from the AMG GT – tuned to 603 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. And before you go all “there’s no replacement for displacement” on me, know that this smaller engine has 26 more horsepower and doesn’t lose a smidge of torque. Hammer down, the big S63 roars to life with a proper AMG growl, and this engine pulls and pulls and pulls, delivering a wave of power with immediate response in every gear. I won’t miss that 5.5-liter V8, not one bit.
She can cook. Make no mistake, a nearly 5,000-pound S-Class doesn’t handle with the same tactility as the aforementioned AMG GT, but wow, is this thing impressive. I don’t remember any version of the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, or Jaguar XJ feeling this nimble and energetic on winding mountain roads. The big Merc does a great Panamera Turbo impression here, with a nicely balanced chassis, a firm handshake from the steering wheel, and an all-wheel-drive system that doesn’t slap you on the wrist for trying to have a little fun. This new S63 is far more raucous in execution than any of its predecessors. What a doll.
Civilized as an S-Class should be. Only in the AMG S63 is a 164-mph freeway run a total non-event. I’m having a leisurely conversation with my passenger. The cabin is quiet and comfortable. The ride is stable, and so smooth. Should I have more passengers onboard, they’d be happy as clams in the spacious and luxurious rear seats. And when the speed-restricted section of German road returns again, adaptive cruise control and steering assist will do almost all of the driving work for me. This car is first and foremost a flagship, and the AMG S-Class doesn’t let its newfound aggression upset its key mission of being one of the best luxury cars in the world.
Thoughtful updates. Beyond the new 4.0-liter engine and retuned dynamics, the AMG S63 gets a handful of upgrades in noticeable areas. That redesigned steering wheel isn’t just for show, it houses two thumb-controlled touchpads to control the latest version of COMAND infotainment (just like the E-Class). Plus, a number of minor material and design tweaks firmly solidify the S-Class’ interior as the most premium fullsize space this side of a Rolls-Royce.
Too much tech? Consider this: Mercedes went through the trouble of creating new “Energizing Comfort” modes that change the ambient lighting colors, seat massage functions, air purification scent, and even the music, to sort of set a scene and help the driver feel rejuvenated, focused, or invigorated. Yes, they’ve truly thought of everything, and while this level of onboard tech is impressive, I often find it overwhelming. There are menus within menus and screens that control screens within menus and options for the menus in their screens and oh god why won’t it just let me play the music on my phone? If you’re the kind of technophobe who finds this all a bit daunting, prepare to have your mind blown.
I can’t decide if it looks better. All S-Class models get a redesigned nose for 2018, with three-bar LED lighting in the headlamps, and more definition around the lower air intakes. The updates are minor, but to my eyes, they don’t seem to improve upon the handsomely understated shape of the outgoing S63. Styling is, of course, subjective, so if you disagree with my placement of this opinion in the Cons section, feel free to let me have it in the Comments.