Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Review

Model tested:Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 5.5-litre V8 biturbo with AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 7-speed sports transmission: $392,900
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On the Fujita Scale, which measures the force of tornadoes, an F5 means ‘total destruction’ with wind speeds up to 400 km/h; beyond that, is an F6, which is dubbed ‘The Finger of God’ where cars become missiles. That’s what happens when you open up the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG on a clean stretch of open road; the car is blisteringly quick and the full roar of the 5.5-litre V8 biturbo at 5500rpm is channeled directly into the cabin for your aural pleasure.

As a bonafide luxury car, its performance criteria is astounding. It weighs 2120 kilograms, yet will accelerate from 0-100km/h in a blistering 4.5 seconds; and yes, it feels every bit that quick when you dial up all 400kW and 800Nm of torque. The S 63 AMG is one seriously fast limo.

Think about it for a second: in this car you can have a luxury express that’s capable of blasting down the main straight at Phillip Island at 250 km/h plus (it’s speed limited), yet the S63 AMG is equally at home crawling along Collins Street at 10km/h in Melbourne’s peak hour quagmire. But that’s what AMG is all about, having your cake and eating it too.

For the uninitiated, AMG (Aufrecht Melcher Großaspach) has been successfully tuning Mercedes-Benz cars since 1967 when Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher formed a tuning company after pressure from well-to-do customers who had an insatiable appetite for more powerful Mercedes-Benz cars than the factory could deliver.

AMG is now a fully owned subsidiary of Daimler AG, and apart from a different location and another 700 employees, nothing has changed. They are still building extra fast Mercedes-Benz cars, only things are a lot more sophisticated these days.

Take the hand-made 5.5-litre biturbo V8 engine under the bonnet of the S63 AMG. Its displacement is significantly less than the naturally aspirated AMG 6.3-litre V8 that is replaces, and yet despite a massive increase in torque output, as well as an additional 14kW of power, fuel consumption and emissions have been categorically slashed. Remarkably, this 2000 plus kilogram Benz consumes just 10.6-litres per 100 kilometres. That’s a figure I can barely get my head around, especially when you factor in the full subset of numbers: 400kW, 800Nm, 4.5 seconds and 2100kg.

To achieve such mind-blowing efficiency AMG engineers have employed a cocktail of latest technology when it comes to ICE (internal combustion engines) including for the first time, spray-guided direct petrol injection with biturbocharging (lifting maximum charge pressure from 1.0 to 1.3 bar) and stop/start.

Add to that the fast shifting AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 7-speed sports transmission, and you end up with what is a quantum leap in engine performance and efficiency.

Have I mentioned emissions? That number’s also been slashed to a paltry 247 grams of CO2 per kilometre, which is only slightly more than your average six-cylinder Holden Commodore.

It comes down to the 'one man, one engine' philosophy, where each individual AMG engine is effectively a bespoke technological masterpiece by a single craftsman, who signs off his work on the exclusive AMG engine plate.

I’m sure the stop/start technology works as it should, but for that system to activate, you need to select the least aggressive drive mode. But with less than an hour behind the wheel of this ludicrously quick AMG S-Class that was never going to happen. Knowing you have your own private reactor under the bonnet is surely mandate enough for you to give the S63 AMG a proper boot full from the very the moment you happen upon a stretch of clear open road in the rural back lots.

It’s not just the orchestral boom of the twin-turbo V8 spinning manically towards those magic 400 kilowatts that brings out the petrol-head in you, it’s as much about the seemingly unstoppable acceleration of this car as it approaches the more serious side of 800 Newton-metres that amazes; it just doesn’t let up, and then, you run out of road.

The throttle response is astonishing – turbo lag, even in the minutest measure, is non-existent on the S63 AMG. Gone is the usual blow-off valve, which has meant that the compressor housing is ultra compact, while all air ducts in the intake track are as short as possible for instant throttle reaction.

The brain that controls all the engine functions is the Bosch MED 17.3.3 control unit. It’s a state-of-the-art engine computer that controls everything from the direct petrol injection to the variable oil supply. The microprocessor alone can perform up to 260 million operations per second and plays a major role in this car’s astonishingly low fuel consumption.

The AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 7-speed sports gearbox is reason alone to choose the S63 over its competitors. "Seven gears, three drive modes and a double de-clutch function" is what the blurb says; it’s a pure work of art that can transform this car into an oversize hotrod from the moment you tap the paddle shifters a couple of times, and be treated to that aural-gasmic double de-clutch action in full surround sound. One more time, please.

It doesn’t matter what gear ratio you’re in, stomp on the throttle and kick-downs from seventh to third, are spontaneous in the 'S' (Sport) mode. Engage the 'M' for manual mode, and you control the precise time you want to shift, but there is no automatic shift, even when you redline, and really, that’s the way it should be. For stop/start traffic conditions, you’re better off choosing the 'Controlled Efficiency Mode' (‘C’) as that will automatically switch the engine off at the traffic lights for improved fuel consumption, although the stop/start function can be manually deactivated if it drives you mad.

At the same time, pulling away from a standing start in 'C' mode will engage second gear, and cruising at 60km/h will most likely mean you’re sixth. It’s all about quieter noise levels inside the cabin, and the pursuit of fuel conservation goals, at least when battling big city gridlock.

At least sitting in the salubrious S63 AMG, slow moving traffic isn’t really much of a problem while you’re cosseted in some of the world’s finest sports pews and experience an acute case of sensory overload, as your favourite track is piped through fifteen of Bang & Olufsen’s finest loudspeakers.

Luxury and flat out speed aside, there’s another thing that this car does with exceptional ability, despite its grand proportions. At just over five metres long, an S-Class Merc is not the kind of car you would normally select as your weapon of choice to attack your favourite mountain road; too big, too heavy and too much hard work. But AMG doesn't subscribe to that way of thinking. It does driving dynamics differently, and the S63 AMG is proof of that.

Light up the 'Sport’ button next to the AMG instrument cluster, and there’s no need to slow the pace through the bends. In fact, you’ll want give it some more throttle, as the big Benz threads together multiple corners as easily a high-end GT car.

Not only is the S63 equipped with Active Body Control, but also AMG adds its own sports suspension to the package and you can forget about body roll – there just isn’t any. The system uses various acceleration sensors to work out the driving characteristics at any one time, and then compares those with pressure sensors in the dampers and the level sensors on the control arms. Messages are then sent to the servo-hydraulic valves at the front and rear axle, which metre precise flows of oil for a constant horizontal attitude no matter what the cornering loads are.

It’s a remarkably effective system that allows the S63 AMG to carry ludicrously high speeds through corners with the agility and response of a much smaller car.

All other S-Class models use the air-suspension, but AMG employs shock absorbers and springs on the S63 for more precise firmness and even less roll angle. Dreaded understeer when pushing hard is kept in check too courtesy of Torque Vectoring Brake, which effectively brakes the inside rear wheel and all but eliminates that tendency under high load.

You’ll love the perfectly weighted and precise steering that’s an inherent feature of the mechanical Direct Steer System on board this car. It’s a key reason that the S63 feels so composed at speed. AMG has clearly developed one of the best steering set-ups in the business, even better than the Jaguar XJ Supersport, which is still too light at high speed.

The brakes on board this car deserve special mention given their huge stopping power. One look through the spokes of the front 20-inch alloys and there can be no misunderstanding. The discs alone are only 17 millimetres shy of those on the Bugatti Veyron, and the double floating brake calliper covers at least a third of that disc, for utterly fade free braking.

I could go on-and-on about the extensive inventory of luxury kit in the S63 AMG, but all that takes second fiddle to the sheer excitement you get behind the wheel of an AMG-tuned Mercedes-Benz in this class. This is truly a magnificent vehicle with a huge breadth of capability.

Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG specifications


Number of cylinders/arrangement8/V, 4 valves per cylinder
Bore x strokemm98.0 x 90.5
Rated outputkW400 at 5500 rpm
Rated torqueNm800 at 2000 - 4500 rpm
Compression ratio10.0:1
Mixture formationMicroprocessor-controlled direct petrol injection, biturbocharging

Power transmission

Drive systemStandard drive system
TransmissionAMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 7-speed sports transmission
RatiosFinal drive1st gear2nd gear3rd gear4th gear5th gear6th gear7th gearReverse2.654.38a2.861.921.371.000.820.73-3.42

Chassis and suspension

Front axleFour-link suspension, Active Body Control (active suspension system)
Rear axleMulti-link independent suspension, Active Body Control (active suspension system)
Braking systemHydraulic dual-circuit brakes ADAPTIVE BRAKE with brake booster and Brake Assist, internally ventilated and perforated composite disc brakes all-round, electric parking brake, ABS, ESP®
SteeringRack-and-pinion with speed-sensitive power assistance, steering damper
WheelsFront: 8.5 J x 20; rear: 9.5 J x 20
TyresFront: 255/35 R 20; rear: 275/35 R 20

Dimensions and weights

Short wheelbase
Track, front/rearmm1600/1606
Overall lengthmm5122
Overall widthmm1871
Overall heightmm1488
Turning circlem11.8
Boot capacity*l560
Kerb weight (EC)**kg2120
Payload (basis: ready-to-drive state as defined by EC)kg555
Perm. GVWkg2670
Tank capacity/incl. reservel90/14

Performance and fuel consumption

Acceleration 0 - 100 km/hs4.5
Top speedkm/h250***
Fuel consumption, combined.l/100 km10.6
CO2 emissionsg/km247

* acc. to VDA measuring method; ** incl. 75 kg for driver and luggage; *** electronically limited