As our expert Oliver Stoner, owner of an independent Mercedes-Benz workshop, says, the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG and its more powerful brother, the S65, are bought only by lunatics or people like him with the skills to maintain the car. The second qualification rules out most of us, but the first? Right, let’s have a closer look, then.
Both versions were launched in 2006, the S65 ahead of the S63. The S65 has a 6.0-litre biturbo V12 producing 603bhp and 737lb ft, enough to hurl the 2300kg limo from zero to 62mph in 4.4sec. It was the world’s most powerful production saloon when new and was offered in long-wheelbase form only.
Of course, this being an S-Class, the occupants must be unaware of the car’s startling progress, which is why it was fitted with the latest version of Mercedes’ active body control suspension system. The three-stage dampers offer Comfort, Sport and Manual modes.
New, an S65 cost £145,000. Today, you can buy a 2006 example with a solid 200,000 miles under its 19in five-spoke alloy wheels for £17,000 before haggling. Just one owner, too. Keep a few bob back for fuel (expect around 10mpg) and spark plugs. There are 24 and they take four and a half hours to change.
This is a 365bhp, rear-drive sports saloon with something to prove. Let’s see...
The S65 is actually pretty rare. Not so, the S63. This time, it’s a naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 with 518bhp and 465lb ft under that long bonnet, sufficient for 0-62mph in 4.6sec.
The trouble is, it’s all a bit breathless where the V12 is full-fat torque.
No worries. Mercedes had a plan, which it hatched in 2010 with the arrival of a new S63 fitted with a twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 producing 536bhp but an even more impressive, and appropriate, 590lb ft.
Now that’s more like it and, if you can stretch to one, it’s the version to buy. Not only will it give the S65 a run for its money but it’s also 25% lighter on the juice than the old S63 and cheaper to tax; well, £15 cheaper. It came in long-wheelbase form only whereas the 6.2 was offered in that as well as standard length.
New, the 6.2-litre S63 cost £95,000 before options and today you’ll find used ones from around £15,000 all the way to £28,000 for a late, 2010-reg car with around 50,000 miles. However, if that’s your budget, we recommend you cast around for a 2011-reg 5.5-litre S63. Prices start at around £28,000 for one with reasonable mileage – a useful saving on the £109,000 price when new.
The other big event in the life of the high-performance S-Class came in 2009, when the range was facelifted. In came new driver assist systems, including Night View Assist Plus and Pre-Safe collection protection. Regardless of the car’s age, you can expect to find all manner of luxuries, including wood, full leather, and powered and heated seats. The great thing is that what a clutch of options would have cost you eight years ago could be sufficient to buy the entire car today.
HOW TO GET ONE IN YOUR GARAGE
An expert’s view: OLIVER STONER, PRESTIGE CAR SERVICES - “Who buys an S63 or S65? Lunatics or people with a specialist garage, like me. They’re used cars now but they’re £100,000 used cars with telephone-number running costs. Fortunately, there are lots of good Mercedes specialists around who can maintain the model for half the price a main dealer will charge.
When you’re looking at one on a dealer forecourt, here’s what to do: check the tyres are quality; check there are no lips on the brake discs and the pads have lots of life; check it feels nice and tight on the test drive; and check the service history is immaculate. All good? Get it inspected. For £75, we put it on a ramp, run a diagnostics check – the works. It could save you a bomb.”
Tough and oil tight but failure of the turbo actuators is not unknown. Both the V8 and V12 drink Mobil 10W-40 oil. Check the level and keep checking. Inspect the condition of the V8’s rear cylinder head bolts.
Check for a misfire because it could be the coils. There are two coil packs for the V12 but they’re around £1000 each. The V8 has one coil pack per cylinder and they’re £60 each.
You can save money by having the packs refurbished. Spark plugs need changing roughly every four years. The V8 has eight plugs, which take 1.5 hours to change. The V12 has 24, which take 4.5 hours to replace.
STEERING AND SUSPENSION
S63 and S65 have air suspension, which provides active body control (ABC). Check the car’s ride height at each corner. The air bellows can develop leaks, putting a strain on the suspension pump and causing the suspension to collapse.
Check for debris in the windscreen scuttle, redirecting water to the footwells. It can damage the air-con unit. Look for water ingress in the boot.
Control modules from locks to seats can be troublesome. Check the Comand system’s hard drive is in good health.
Also worth knowing:
The cost of a manufacturer’s 12-month extended warranty is a fair indication of the scale of the repair costs you can expect to face should your car break down. Mercedes wants £3165 with a £250 excess for Tier 2 cover on our ‘One we found’ example.
How much to spend:
£14,500-£16,995 - Mix of early (2006/2007-reg) S63s and S65s, including an S63 with 75k miles for £15,000 and a one-owner S65 with 200k miles for £16,995.
£17,000-£22,500 - Later 2009 and facelifted 2010-reg S63s with about 120k miles for £19,000 plus lower-mileage 2007-reg S63s.
£23,000-£27,000 - Low-mileage (around 60k) 08-reg 6.3s up to £27,000 for low-mile 10-reg cars.
£27,500-£33,000 - First 2011-reg 5.5-litre S63s with sensible mileages plus earlier, ultra- low-mileage S63 6.2s.
£40,000-PLUS - Late-plate S65s start here.
One we found:
MERCEDES S63 AMG L 5.5, 2011/11, 64K MILES, £28,200 In for a penny, in for a pound: there are plenty of lower-priced 6.2s but this early, fully loaded 5.5 long-wheelbase caught our eye with its low mileage and full M-B service history. Just had new front discs and pads (£1300). It has new wheels, too. It cost £124,000 new.