News Cars Update : Road Test | Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG Coupe Not Ready For Levis

Driving Mercedes-Benz's volcanic S 63 AMG coupe is one of those bucketlist automotive experiences well worth waiting for, but watch your dress code, advises DAVE MOORE.

Those used to the luxury things in life complain about the strangest things.

I was fortunate to be checking into one of Vienna's finest lodgings last year, to hear a fellow next to me at the concierge's lectern complaining about the upholstery in his apartment. It appeared that this long-term resident had noticed that his jeans were leaving noticeable indigo smudges on the pale cream leather of the furniture, and could the hotel change his room for the rest of his stay for something with charcoal or brown hide?
The hotel obliged of course, and our friend could continue to wearengine, neatly accommodated under the beast's long, lissom bonnet.

It develops 430 kilowatts of power and 900 Newton-Metres of torque from its blown 5.4-litre Quad-Cam unit, and it feels like it at every touch of the throttle. It can be made to produce volcanic performance from a mere squeeze on the pedal. The nice thing is that even the fastest doubletake doesn't associate my softly contoured coupe with the kind of guttural engine soundtrack it can deliver, which sounds like a weightlifter gargling fence staples when you push it hard.
It's not the most powerful of S 63 AMGs. My $350,000 V8 is upstaged - but only slightly - by the V12 version, which adds four cylinders, half a litre of capacity, 33 additional kilowatts and another 100 Newton-Metres, while asking owners for another $95,000 for the privilege. But I don't feel short-changed in "my" car, which is as easy to drive slowly as it is to shred your driving licence for you, and don't forget, when something on wheels is this good to look at, everyone notices - even if they cannot equate the under bonnet thunder with its over all beauty.
The S 63 AMG Coupe is just one of a plethora of Mercedes-Benz niche-fillers, and when you count-up the company's line-up in New Zealand, it's 76 models long, even before you start to multiply that number a thousandfold by ticking the personalisation boxes. Now, the giant Benz manufacturing machine can offer up everything from hatchbacks to SUVs, supercars to station wagons, and of course four-door sedans to coupes. A niche for everyone, from not much more than $40k to more than ten-times that number.

Lapping up such luxury is a delight, and not just from the attention to detail, the choice of materials and the sheer joy the designers had in terms of their brief, which must have been the nearest thing to an open-ended one as you'd find in the automotive business. It's also impressive in terms of its equipment. Already the devices that keep you away from other vehicles, help you stay in lane and guide you on unfamiliar bends when sensors think you might need a coffee or some help with the steering (without being totally autonomous) can be had in most Mercedes-Benz models, now having trickled down from the mighty S-class model over less than half a dozen years.
Then there are seats that inflate to compensate for cornering forces. With a pleasingly caring kidney squeeze, they imbue great comfort - in a dynamic sort of way - pushing from the right on left handers and the left on right handers. So much so, that when I moved on to a similar-priced but lesser beast after the S 63 AMG, I genuinely missed their assistance and hope they will trickle down soon.

The heated wheelrim is gorgeous too, and the "valet arm" (borrowed from the mid 80s US market, methinks) which offers you your seatbelt when you sit in the car, and the various fragrances you can allow the cabin to offer up to suit your mood.

Back to that pale expanse of cabin luxury. The Nappa leather is exquisitely cut and applied and I daren't ask how big the herd was that gave its all to upholster this car. Each chair is vented and heated, minutely adjustable and in case the feeling of comfort and cosiness isn't enough, the cabin lighting can be made to glow with everything from purple disco modern, to softly lit smoking saloon. It really does make you feel special, and the car's two great market combatants, Bentley's Continental GT and the Aston Martin Vantage feel almost underdone in comparison. It appears the Benz has thought of everything, while the others are still thinking.
My personals favourite driving mode is to unshade the glass sunroof and allow the natural light to lift the pale upholstery's glow and thus set, the cabin feels unlike any other car's as you explode to the horizon. At night, a night vision screen picks out pedestrians for you, while the standard sat-nav is beautifully detailed and intuitive, and it all seems contrived to make you feel good about the driving at hand.

As well as being able to course around corners as if they aren't there, with only those cosseting seats reminding you of how quickly you're taking them, the S 63 AMG Coupe is more than happy to gargle quietly though the transmission's seven ratios at sensible and more socially acceptable velocities. The suspension, which is as adjustable for firmness and comfort as the powertrain is, soaks up even the quake-mangled suburbs of Christchurch with great aplomb, transferring not a thump or shudder to the cabin.

The S 63 AMG Coupe is a satisfying car to drive. Exhilarating at high speed, comforting at lower numbers, it really does show where every one of your third of a million dollars have gone, from paint that still looks wet, leather that cossets like none other and technology designed to keep you and other people safe, not to mention the volcanic power of that hackle-raising V8 as you erupt towards the horizon. If lava had come out of the exhaust pipes, I wouldn't have been at all surprised.

Upholstery? Yep, I'll take the pale hide. You don't wear Levi's in a car like this anyway.

  • Drivetrain: Front, inline-mounted rear-wheel-drive, 5.4-litre Quad Cam 32 valve V8, seven-speed automatic transmission.
  • Outputs: Max 430kW at 5500rpm, 900 Nm at 0000rpm, 10.1/100km, 237g/km CO2.
  • Performance: Max 250kmh (governed), 0-100kmh 4.2 seconds.
  • Connectivity: Full suite of sat-nav, bluetooth, MP3, iPod, hard drive, USB functionality.
  • Safety: Front, side and curtain airbags, full suite of traction, stability, antilock and chassis control, lane departure warning, radar cruise control, five-star rated crash safety.
  • Dimensions: L 5044mm, W 2945mm, H 1422mm, W/base 2945mm, Weight 2070kg, Fuel 80L.
  • Pricing: S 63 AMG Coupe $350,000, other S Coupes from $260,000 to $445,000.
  • Hot: Style, performance, sense of occasion, space and sheer exuberance.
  • Not: Eye-wateringly expensive; pale trim is easily stained; V12 is even more exclusive.
  • Verdict: Even in the company of Aston Martin and Bentley it's the best and most practicable coupe you can buy.

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