2018 Mercedes-AMG S63L review

$375,000 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    9L
  • Engine Power
    450kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    204g
  • ANCAP Rating
    N/A

With a confident swagger, subtle muscularity, and a thumping twin-turbo V8 under the bonnet, the Mercedes-AMG S63L makes for a surprisingly fitting flagship for the brand, encompassing the best of luxury and performance in one formidable package.

Although there’s no shortage of long wheelbase, incredibly luxurious limousines on the market, Mercedes-Benz has somehow managed to remain synonymous with high-level prestige motoring, with its S-Class line held as the standard by which others are often compared.

Similarly, Benz’s own performance arm, Mercedes-AMG, is every bit as well known for turning polite run-of-the-mill sedans into giant killers. Put those two seemingly polar opposites together and the result is the imposing S63L.

Part ferocious sprinter, part lounge room on wheels, the S63 occupies a somewhat rare market niche that puts opulent excess at the head of a list that covers stats, performance, technology, luxury and more.

For 2018, the S63 headlines a new twin-turbo V8 engine. Gone is the previous 5.5-litre twin-huffer, though you’d be hard-pressed to tell with the new engine – a relative of the V8 found in the C63, E63 and AMG GT cars – pushing the same 900Nm of torque as the previous engine.

Power gets a small bump up from 435kW to 450kW, while official fuel consumption (the major reason behind the change) drops from 10.2L/100km to a barely believable 9.0L/100km. The new engine also brings a new transmission, with nine forward ratios in place of seven.

From the outside, changes to the 2018 S-Class range aren’t as immediately obvious, although there are new bumpers for trainspotters to obsess over, including AMG’s new A-frame signature bumper design up front.

New headlight and tail-light internals also feature the latest in adaptive LED technology (featuring impressive wow-factor animations by way of greeting when the car is unlocked and engine started) to keep the S-Class contemporary.

If AMG’s 63 range is all about entertaining the driver, the decision to shove the bad-boy engine into the long-wheelbase S-Class means passengers can also indulge in a different kind of entertainment.

From multi-hued animated LED ambient lighting to heated, cooled, reclining and massaging seats, passengers can relax in tailor-made environments ranging from soothing to energising with enough space to kick back and stretch out.

Perhaps the S-Class’s most peculiar inclusion, buried within the infotainment system, is Energising Comfort Control. This combines inbuilt musical compositions with specific ambient lighting displays and featured massage, all delivered with spoken instructions aimed at improving the self-awareness of occupants.

Having your car tell you to focus on your breathing, shift your pelvis about, and take snapshots of your mental wellbeing is a truly odd experience the first time around. But in an era when you can talk to a range of inanimate objects in your daily life via ‘personal assistants’, it seems less alien to have one that can talk back to you.

Working your way around the in-depth menus has also been improved, with a new steering wheel that can operate infotainment, digital instrument cluster, and cruise-control functions much more simply than before, alongside a simplified centre console controller.

As impressive as that fluffy stuff might be the one or two times you use it in your first week of ownership (before probably forgetting all about it), it’s the powerhouse under the bonnet that really steals the show.

In S63 guise, AMG’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 boasts the biggest outputs of them all. Even the true AMG flagship, the GT R, gets by with 20kW and 200Nm less.

The result is, as you’d expect, monstrous. With all that grunt straining at the leash to be turned loose, there’s almost no way to apply a small enough dose of throttle to bring the S63 up to speed calmly.

That’s not to say it can’t be done, but it’s just as easy to find yourself running up against the legal highway limit in very short order. A claimed 4.3 seconds from 0–100km/h in fact, for a car north of two tonnes.

It’s not just standing-start acceleration that’s brutal either. Jump on the long pedal at any speed and the big AMG piles on speed as if it’s trying to bend time and space, which presents two problems – both of which are very specific to Australia.

The first is the ease with which the uber S-Class will nudge past posted speed limits unintentionally, which creates the potential for disaster in states that allow zero tolerance on speeding. You’ll come to love the speed-limiter function.

The second problem is putting that prodigious torque to the pavement. While overseas markets benefit from the added traction of all-wheel drive, Mercedes’s 4Matic system isn’t available for the current-generation S63 in right-hand drive.

Despite sticky 285mm-wide tyres at the rear (Continental ContiSportContact 5P if you were wondering), dry-weather traction is a fine line. Add cold, damp winter roads to the mix, and trying to whisk the S63 away cleanly becomes an exercise in futility set to strobing traction-control lights and a pair of scrabbling rear wheels.

There’s no question about the ability of AMG’s nine-speed MCT auto (for multi-clutch transmission). As with other similar transmission designs, there’s some patchy low-speed behaviour, like trying to creep gently at low speeds, but as a performance auto it’s a peach.

Once rolling, the nine-speed ’box can either glide through ratios quickly and seamlessly in Comfort mode, or turn up the heat and deliver crisp, clean shifts with no perceptible interruption to power delivery in Sport +. Although we didn’t hit the track in this car (does any S-Class owner?), it’s hard to see this auto falling down in performance driving.

Of course, an imposing limo like the S63 needs a soundtrack to match, and while it may not be as bonkers as the rockstar-on-a-bender howl of the smaller C63, the S63 will still announce its own arrival with a lush V8 burble from the bimodal exhaust.

No, it’s not as sinfully erotic as the sound of AMG’s old 6.2-litre atmo V8, but… Actually, no buts, this one just isn't as raw and pure to listen to.

Air suspension at each corner also comes in for AMG tweaking, though Benz’s impressive road-scanning Magic Body Control system isn’t available for the S63. Instead, the firmed-up air suspension keeps a tight rein on errant body movements and ensures unflapple wheel contact when punting hard.

The ride isn’t limo-plush – as a performance model, the comfort gets dialled back. However, with neck-straining performance only ever a heartbeat away, the suspension solution is a sensible one.

Thankfully, interior accommodation is limo-plush, and then some. While the S63 might be the most driver-centric S-Class, anyone positioned in the rear will fairly quickly forget the driver even exists thanks to the optional rear-seat comfort package, which includes heating and cooling, electric adjustment and massage.

As expected, rear-seat space is massive thanks to the S63L’s extended wheelbase (in fact, the short-wheelbase S63 has been withdrawn in Australia), although full recline with a self-folding front seat isn’t one of the S63’s drawcards.

Exclusivity, on the other hand, is. While the $375,000 S63L will never be as common as the more fleet-suitable S350d and S400dL, it’s still likely to outnumber rarities like the BMW M760iL and Jaguar XJR575, but your chances of owning the same car as your next-door neighbour are still fairly slim.

Potentially, a vehicle such as this could also carry the old ‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it’ mantra when it comes to after-sales care, but perhaps surprisingly, Mercedes-Benz Australia is open about its service program with capped-price maintenance available for the S63.

The first service asks $736 with the next two at $1472 each. Intervals are set every 12 months or 25,000km, and warranty coverage spans three years with no distance limit. Good to know, but servicing costs aren’t what the S-Class prides itself on, status is.

With next-level luxury from the even-longer Mercedes-Maybach models, and walloping performance from AMG, Mercedes-Benz has a multi-pronged assault poised to ensure it continues to dominate the top end of the prestige market.

Raucous V8 engines and fat-stance blackout wheels may not be traditional Mercedes-Benz touches, but in Australia, even the well-heeled have flocked to AMG’s more assertive style like ants to a picnic.

Though it may not be the brashest of AMG’s enhanced offerings, there’s no arguing with the absolute authority the Mercedes-AMG S63L conveys. Luscious luxury and autobahn-obliterating performance may not seem like compatible soulmates at first glance, but Benz’s cohesive union of the two is a match made in paradise.