An executive missile that combines the grace of a Rolls-Royce with the pace of a Ferrari, the S63 AMG 4MATIC is a high-performance version of Mercedes' sophisticated and sumptuous S-Class full-size luxury sedan. In addition to some of the most advanced safety and comfort technologies ever deployed in an automobile, it boasts the mighty punch of a 577-horsepower twin-turbocharged V8.
As potent as the S63 is, Mercedes offers an even more outrageous S-Class for truly insatiable (and particularly well-heeled) power junkies: the S65 AMG, a 621-horsepower, V12 monster that's described in detail here.
The S63 has been completely redesigned for the latest model year. Built from the sleeker, lighter new-generation S-Class, it gains more underhood muscle and, even more importantly, a 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system to better put its prodigious power to the pavement.
As with every model that leaves the workshop of Mercedes' AMG performance division, the centerpiece of the S63 is its engine - a hand-built, twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8. Codenamed M157, this mighty motor produces 557 horsepower and an incredible 664 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes claims a zero-to-60 mph time of just 3.9 seconds, while top speed is electronically limited to 186 mph - taken of its leash, the sedan could likely approach 200 mph.
A big part of the S63's accelerative heroics is its 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, which helps make the most of the blown V8's thrust and also provides improved foul-weather traction. Similar to the 4MATIC used on the latest E63 AMG, the system send 33 percent of the engine's power to the front wheels and 67 percent to the back wheels under normal driving conditions, ensuring the S63 retains its rear-wheel-drive bias.
Despite the addition of all-wheel drive - along with the new S-Class' latest luxury and safety tech - the S63 is actually 220 pounds lighter that its predecessor thanks to weight saving measures like a more aluminum intensive body and structure, a lithium-ion battery and a spare wheel recess made of carbon fiber. The lower mass pays dividends in the form of improved handling as well as increased fuel economy, with the latter rated at 15 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.
Handling shifting duties is a seven-speed automatic transmission, dubbed the SPEEDSHIFT MCT, that utilizes a wet clutch pack in place of a traditional torque converter. The result is gear changes that can occur in just .1 second in the transmission's sportiest shift mode, yet the transmission can still provide the gentle shifts expected of a full-size luxury yacht when put in its Comfort setting.
The transmission also benefits from a smooth rev-matching during downshifts and has a launch mode for stoplight racing; if drivers want to take control into their own hands, aluminum paddle shifters situated behind the wheel allow them to do just that.
In order to keep the big four-door in check in the turns, the S63 features an AMG-tuned full-air suspension with adaptive dampers that are designed to provide an ideal balance of agility and ride comfort. Drivers can tailor the suspension - as well as the steering settings - to suit their mood by choosing between "Sport" and "Comfort" modes.
Looking the Part
The S63 stands apart from standard S-Class models thanks to a revised front fascia that features a more aggressive lower bumper with three large air inlets. A front splitter, finished in silver shadow, helps to reduce lift.
Side sill panels run the length of the S63, giving the car a more hunkered-down look. The car is kept planted by AMG-specific wheels -- 19-inchers are standard, but buyers can upgrade to a set of 20-inch hoops. Also available are enormous carbon-ceramic brakes that reduce unsprung weight and all but eliminate brake fade.
Out back, the S63 AMG is recognizable by its rear diffuser - once again with silver shadow accents - and chromed quad tailpipes.
Inside, the S63 retains most of the S-Class' cabin, which means that supple leather, exquisite wood garnishments and genuine metal trim covers nearly every inch of the interior. Model-specific touches include an AMG steering wheel, sports seats and an AMG-calibrated infotainment screen.
That display is one of two mammoth 12.3-inch TFT screens that sit in front of the driver and atop the center stack. The left-hand unit replaces a conventional analog instrument cluster, while the right-hand screen displays climate, entertainment and Google maps-integrated navigation info.
A touch-sensitive telephone keypad with 12 customizable memory settings lets users access more complex functions without having to move their hands around the dashboard. In addition, Mercedes' Linguatronic speech recognition system allows "one shot input" commands to be spoken, and text message and email reading are part of the package.
The standard mbrace system includes a host of cloud-based goodies, including a concierge service, location-based traffic and weather updates, stolen vehicle location assistance, automatic collision notification and more. Available apps add internet browsing, Google local search with street view, Yelp reviews, Facebook access and news reports. Owners can even use an mbrance smartphone app to remotely lock, unlock or locate their S63.
The S63 can be outfitted with the buyer's choice of a rear bench seat or executive-style reclining rear seats that, like the front thrones, can be outfitted with heating, ventilating and "hot stone" massaging systems. Further coddling rear seat occupants are available features such as individual TFT screens with wireless AKG headsets, pillow head rests, cooling/heating cup holders and fold-out trey tables. Topping it all off are industry-first heated center and door panel-mounted armrests.
Two different high-end Burmester Surround Sound systems are on offer for the ultimate in concert-quality audio, but the S63 doesn't stop at providing a feast for the ears: it also seeks to create an optimal olfactory experience with an active perfuming system that discreetly emits a choice of four different scents to cover up any undesirable odors from the outside world.
Mercedes has also made the sedan available with the closest thing yet to an autonomous driving system. Known as Distronic Plus with Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilot, what the setup lacks in terms of catchy branding it more than makes up for with convenience: using the aforementioned cameras and multistage radar sensors, it can read the lines in the road and actually steer and brake the car by itself at lower speeds on relatively straight stretches of road. It's just the thing for getting through long traffic jams with one's sanity intact.
In addition to ABS and ESP stability control, the S-Class boasts nine supplemental restraints including two-stage front air bags, a knee air bag for the driver and pelvic air bags which work together with curtain and side air bags to provide extra protection for front occupants in dangerous side-impact collisions. Rear seatbelt airbags are optional.
A standard "ATTENTION ASSIST" system can alert the driver to the first signs of drowsiness, a factor that causes more than 100,000 accidents a year in the U.S.A steering sensor is coupled to smart software that uses 70 parameters to establish a unique driver profile during the first 20 minutes of driving. Between 50 and 112 mph, the system identifies the erratic steering corrections drivers make as they begin to get drowsy and triggers an audible warning and a "Time for a Rest?" message with a coffee cup icon in the instrument cluster.
Collision Prevention Assist uses radar to determine whether the S-Class is in danger of colliding with a vehicle or object up ahead. Active at speeds above 20 mph, it automatically prepares the brakes to apply the ideal leveling of stopping power once the driver hits the pedal.
Optional safety gear includes Active Lane Keeping Assist, a new technology that warns the driver if it detects that the S-Class is drifting into an adjacent lane and can apply steering inputs to remain on the proper course. Also available is Active Blind Spot Assist, which uses radar to detect if a vehicle is in the blind-spot area. It provides driver alerts and can also steer the car out of harm's way if the driver accidentally starts to merge into a vehicle.
Pre-Safe Brake detects impending collisions with vehicles or pedestrians and can automatically apply 100 percent of the S-Class' braking force to avoid or mitigate the severity of the crash. It also includes Cross-Traffic Assist, which can detect potential collisions with vehicles approaching from either side of an intersection. Both are part of the Distronic Plus with Steering assist system, an active cruise control setup that can maintain a set distance from the car ahead and also keep the vehicle centered on straight roads or in gentle curves.
In terms of sheer firepower, the only luxury sedans that can give the S63 a run for its money are the Porsche Panamera Turbo S and the Audi S8. The Panamera is fighter-jet fast and far more nimble than its dimensions suggest, while the S8 is similarly fleet and impeccably appointed inside.
Buyers willing to sacrifice power for Italian mystique can also consider the Maserati Quattroporte.