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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - S-Class - S63 AMG coupe

Our Opinion

We like
Silky engine delivery, stunning attention to detail, huge safety artillery, almost silent at speed, wondrous dashboard and theatre-sized LCD displays
Room for improvement
Mind-boggling option list, too big for many city roads, complex and extensive vehicle functions, expensive entry price

Mercedes-Benz logo9 Feb 2015

By NEIL DOWLING

THE numbers on the specification sheet show a big, solid car. A car that is too long, wide and heavy for the role of an AMG. The numbers lie.

On the road the S63 AMG Coupe shrugs off its 2.0-tonne statistic, ignores its five metre-plus length and its 1.9-metre width and becomes athletic beyond the capabilities of rivals that are less physically imposing.

It is a trick Mercedes-Benz’s performance arm, AMG, learnt a long time ago and in the new S-Class Coupe, has mastered.

It’s also clear that the S-Class range – including the Coupe – are designed not just for a blistering acceleration time and rapid point-to-point transfers.

Much of that comes from its audience who are aged around 60 years, according to Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific. So there is a tendency for the company’s top-shelf range to focus on refinement, features and a lot of the ooh-aah technology. In the Coupe’s case, this technology is sufficiently impressive to abruptly end dinner-table conversation about car comparisons.

Importantly, that argument would be won over the offerings of its competitors.

The Bentley Continental GT, for example, is a clever piece of engineering but doesn’t even have a reversing camera as standard.

The $409,000 S63 AMG has a surround-view camera and a host of cross-traffic alerts, pedestrian alters and sensors, cameras and monitors to identify potential collisions.

The Coupe will lean into corners and use cameras to gauge the road surface ahead and ring ahead to the suspension to allow it to compensate for forthcoming road-surface imperfections.

There’s a lot going on and, by comparison, the Bentley is a less taxing car to own.

But the road is the jury. It may be big and rather heavy – despite serious work by Mercedes to pare it back – but it is remarkably agile and easy to place.

Traffic can be un-nerving, particularly narrow highway lanes as experienced during the car’s Sydney test route, but it’s a relatively easy car to judge and has location sensors as a back-up if neighbouring obstacles move too close.

In this tight and frenetic environment, the coupe offers a peaceful cabin.

Mercedes claim it’s the world’s quietest car and I don’t argue. There’s no ambient noise and even the rush of air over its extended bonnet or coarse bitumen on its Continental tyres makes no intrusion to the clarity of the audio.

It’s also remarkably comfortable, not just the ride (expected in most heavy prestige cars) but the way the perforated Nappa leather seats wrap and secure their occupants.

The coupe gets a new interior, sharing little with its S-Class saloon siblings.

It is highlighted by a flowing, leather-faced dashline beneath the stretch of the dual TFT screens. One screen for cabin functions, including communications, climate control and satellite navigation, and the other for vehicle functions from the engine operation to speed.

It’s an impressive cabin and one that can even seat four people. At a pinch.

All this is wrapped in a new shell that borrows styling from other Mercedes coupes, including the tail of the AMG GT, the silhouette from the outgoing model and the face from the SLS that, aside from the giant lower-valance openings, has been deliberately softened to suit its executive clientele.

Then there’s 430kW/900Nm of slingshot under the elegant aluminium nose.

With two turbochargers, the 5.5-litre V8 is down for a 0-100km/h time of 4.2 seconds.

But it’s less about the time and more about how effortlessly the S63 AMG – the only model available until it’s joined by two other versions in June – gets off the mark.

It’s just a seamless charge without any abruptness of gear changes. The only give away to the performance is the exhaust bypass valve that flings open when the revs increase. Select the Sport mode on the console and the exhaust barks earlier than when the switch is turned to Economy.

So good is the sound deadening that under duress the exhaust note is a muted roar. Wind down the windows and it’s an exhilarating crescendo.

The seven gears can be worked manually by steering wheel paddles but only after a short drive, it’s obvious the transmission is sufficiently adept at maximising performance.

What’s not as obvious, or expected, is the curve-tilt function of the suspension. Turned off, the coupe holds a positive line through a quick corner and has all the hallmarks of a finely-tuned sports car.

Switch on the active body control’s curve-tilt and its AMG-specific Road Surface Scan and the coupe noticeably leans into the corner. The amount of steering needed for the corner feels less and there’s a sensation similar to the balance of a rear-steer car.

Suddenly the enormity of the latest S-Class Coupe is of no consequence. It becomes remarkably benign as a driver’s car yet to onlookers, it retains the Mercedes qualities of presence, obvious prestige and even a sense of awe.

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