2018 Mercedes-AMG S 63 Coupe review, test drive
29th Sep 2018 9:00 am
The updated S 63 Coupe gets a downsized engine but retains its iron-fist-in-velvet-glove character.
If the Rs 2.32 crore Mercedes-AMG GT R is a shot of tequila downed to pounding club music, this Rs 2.55 crore S 63 Coupe is a single malt that’s best enjoyed to smooth jazz. It’s a car that offers a very different AMG experience compared to our new Track Day star (read about it in our 19th anniversary issue) but it’s an AMG experience nonetheless.
This revised-for-2018 S 63 Coupe is the recipient of a slew of updates, most notably its new engine. The older S 63’s 5.5-litre, twin-turbo V8 engine has made way for AMG’s 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8 that also powers the C 63 S, E 63 S and GTs in differing states of tune. On the S 63, the 4.0 engine puts out a mighty 621hp, which is actually 36hp up on the larger engine, though the torque figure stands unchanged at a colossal 900Nm. All that power goes solely to the rear wheels via a new nine-speed automatic gearbox that comes in place of the older seven-speed torque converter unit. An interesting fact is that right-hand-drive S 63s, like the one sold in India, didn’t make the transition to all-wheel drive like their left-hand-drive siblings have. That should explain why the Indian S 63’s launch-control-enabled 0-100kph time of 4.2sec is a substantial 0.7sec off, say, the German S 63’s time.
S 63’s 612hp engine is most powerful iteration of AMG’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8.
But away from the drag strip, the performance numbers are merely academic. Because the way the S 63 pulls is nothing short of mind-boggling for what is a two-tonne-plus luxury liner. And it’s not just initial acceleration. No matter what speed you may be at, the engine always has more to give. Performance is so accessible that you are almost always going faster than you think you are. It really does make sense to tick that option for head-up display to better keep an eye on speed. Another reason the S 63 feels so deceivingly quick is the brilliant sound insulation. There’s that bit of tyre rumble that seeps into the cabin at ton-up speeds but wind noise remains superbly contained. And while the engine does make the right noises when prodded, it’s not typical AMG-loud or brash, which, if you think about it is actually in keeping with this car’s persona. What you do get is a full-bodied exhaust note that can be dialled up in volume. Driving modes help dictate how AMG you want your S 63 to feel, and there’s also an Individual setting to mix and match engine, gearbox, steering and suspension settings to your liking. Oh, and when the going is easy, the engine will run on four cylinders to keep efficiency up. Clever. Negatives? There aren’t many. However, the gearbox can feel a bit jerky in engagement in low-speed settings, and also in the higher gears on all-out acceleration runs.
Going the distance
Our very first experience of the S 63 was in the confines of the MMRT racetrack near Chennai, and the big Merc did feel out of place. Sure, there’s a beautiful smoothness to the steering and the car is actually quite agile for its size but a track tool it is not. Long, winding corners are more its thing than quick tight ones. The thing is, at its very core, the S 63 is a grand tourer that’s designed to gobble up speed de-restricted sections of the Autobahn. And it’s on sparsely trafficked expressways that you can really experience the car in its element. The S 63 is incredibly well tied down at all times and straightline stability is freight-train good. What also ups long-distance comfort is that the air suspension’s setup is more S-class than AMG. High-speed ride remains flat in all modes, though the degree of ‘give’ is a function of the mode you are in.
To advance the driving experience further, Mercedes has also equipped the updated S 63 for India with camera- and radar-based driver aids. There’s adaptive cruise control that will automatically maintain a set distance to a vehicle up front at speeds of up to 210kph, and there’s also Active Steering Assist that will steer the car for you on gentle bends so long as you have your hands on the wheel. The systems work just fine on well-marked roads but the truth is, in the chaos of Indian highways, there was only so long we could bring ourselves to rely on the electronics. What is a handy option, however, is Night View Assist that uses infrared and thermal imaging to highlight dangers such as pedestrians and animals hidden in the dark of the night, by means of an image on the instrument binnacle.
There’s an undeniable elegance about the S 63 Coupe’s form – the long bonnet and stretched back tail are classic luxury coupé – and the small revisions on the updated model make it even more of a looker. You can tell this S 63 apart from the old one by AMG’s new vertically slatted ‘Panamericana’ grille, the restyled front bumper with larger vents, as well as by the bright OLEDs (organic light emitting diode) on the tail-lights. The way the 33 OLEDs on each side light up in sequence on locking/unlocking the car is a sight in its own right. As ever, the exterior is customisable, with everything from the carbon-fibre trim to LED headlights encrusted with Swarovski crystals! Even the 20-inch rims are offered in a range of designs.
Tail-lights now feature OLEDs that illuminate in sequence on locking/unlocking.
There’s a lot you can do to the S 63’s cabin as well. There’s a choice of colours for the nappa leather upholstery, carbon-fibre detailing is available for a racier look, and should the 13-speaker standard Burmester sound system seem inadequate, you can opt for a 25-speaker unit. The options card also includes a panoramic glass roof that can go from opaque to transparent at the touch of a button. Just superb.
As is, the S 63’s interior offers a brilliant starting point for any customisation. The entire cabin is finished in the finest of materials, and thanks to its dual screens, the dash remains contemporary in look. Updates to the screen interface (it’s still not a touchscreen) have made it that little bit crisper, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are welcome additions and there’s also the option of three themes for the instruments display. Slightly gimmicky is the Energizing Comfort Control – a ‘mood enhancer’ with tailor-made seat massage, climate control, fragrance, ambient lighting and audio programmes to uplift the occupants’ state of mind. To be honest, it didn’t make us enjoy our drives any more, or maybe we just weren’t receptive enough. In any case, the S 63’s hushed cabin is so calming, you won’t feel the need for any additional intervention to begin with.
You can adjust the glass roof’s transparency. Brilliant!
Of the other things, front seat comfort is brilliant, with all manner of adjustments, ventilation and massage functions, while the ones at the back offer adequate space and comfort for adults, if only for short distances. Still, this is not the S-class to consider if rear seat comfort is a priority.
Luxurious when you want it to be, and quick when you need it to be, the updated S 63 Coupe manages to improve on the former version by being just as quick, yet better equipped. The stratospheric asking price means it remains out of the reach of mere mortals, but those with adequate funds may just see some value in the proposition too, given that its closest alternative, the Bentley Continental GT, starts at Rs 3.6 crore (ex-showroom). Cars of this sort are indulgences, and the S 63 Coupe is one of the best you can have. Just remember, it’s enjoyed best with some jazz.