The new S 63 has lost virtually none of its aural charm
We’ll wait until the production version arrives before providing a definitive assessment
The S-class only had a mid-life refresh last year
Its new turbocharged engine delivers the goods in spectacular fashion
What is it?
A heavily upgraded Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG packing more power and a good deal more torque but boasting reduced combined cycle consumption and CO2 emissions.
It eschews the naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 engine of the existing model for a brand new twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 with the latest in spray guided direct injection.
Also on board is AMG’s seven speed MCT (multi clutch transmission) gearbox. A development of Mercedes-Benz’s standard seven-speed automatic, it replaces the traditional torque converter with a self acting wet clutch in a bid to provide faster manual shifts via steering wheel mounted paddles while continuing to offer a full automatic mode – something AMG says is crucial at this end of its line-up.
Underneath, there are some detailed changes to the suspension. But as the new engine weighs just 1kg more than the old unit at 205kg, AMG says there was no need to bring any major changes to the S63’s underpinnings. The ESP (electric stability program) and ETC (electric traction control) have, however, been reworked to suit the altered characteristics of the engine.
The changes to the exterior are equally as subtle. Having already undergone a facelift this time last year, the only real hint of the new driveline come by way of twinned trapezoidal tail pipes.
What’s it like?
The S 63 we drove was a final production prototype, albeit one that was representative of the upcoming production version in all its various calibrations. So, not quite showroom ready but close in the way it drives.
When Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division announced it was set to slot a new twin turbocharged engine under the bonnet of the S63 we doubted it would be capable of delivering the same alluring aural qualities as its naturally aspirated predecessor used since 2005.
But as you stoke it up, the new V8 becomes every bit as appealing as the old engine to the ear, a throbbing exhaust note at middling revs transforming into a furious full blown wail on a heavily loaded throttle.
In standard guise, the new AMG powerplant delivers 536bhp and 590lb ft– and increase of 11bhp and a 126lb ft. Crucially, peak power and torque are delivered 1300rpm and 3200rpm earlier in the rev range than with the naturally aspirated engine at 5500rpm and on a band of revs between 2000 and 45000rpm respectively.
As a result, the new V8 feels every bit as responsive as the outgoing unit, both at step off and through the gears – something that’s reflected in its straight line performance which matches today’s S 63: 0-62mph in 4.5sec and a limited 155mph top speed.
Where it really impresses is through the mid-range. From 2500rpm through to 5000rpm, it is exceptionally flexible and eager with serious performance just a slight nudge of your right foot away.
The new gearbox is not quite as smooth in automatic mode as the old torque converter equipped unit but manual shifts are fired off with much greater authority than before. It combines with the added efficiency of the new engine to provide the latest iteration of the S63 with combined cycle fuel consumption of 26.9mpg and a CO2 rating of 246g/km – improvements of 7.4mpg and 101g/km respectively.
Dynamically, there’s little to separate new from old. Tidy seems to best define the handling remembering that the S 63 tips the scales on the wrong side of two tonnes in long wheelbase guise – as sold in the UK; it’s capable of carrying a good turn of speed through corners but the ESP (electronic stability program) is quick to intervene when the nose runs wide.
And despite boasting a rather direct ratio, the steering is light and lifeless. The ride is also a bit on the floaty side even when you’re running in sport mode, although given the S 63’s luxury billing that’s no great surprise. It does, however, get its power to the road well with surprisingly little intervention from the traction control.
Should I buy one?
With a price tag that is set to mirror the outgoing model at around £105,000, the new S 63 AMG is no bargain. However, the broad reach of its abilities continue to make it a compelling option in the upper luxury saloon car ranks.
Its new turbocharged engine delivers the goods in spectacular fashion, endowing the big four door with improved flexibility and the same straight line performance as its predecessor but with dramatically reduced consumption and emissions.
Best of all, though, is the fact that it has lost virtually none of its aural charm. We’ll wait until the production version arrives before providing a definitive assessment, but for now it looks to be an improvement.