With a new engine and a new transmission the 2018 Mercedes-Benz is faster, and smarter, than ever before – Motormouth drives it in Switzerland, and not with our hands on the wheel at all times
This may sound ridiculous, but the best bit in the new 2018 Mercedes-AMG S63 is a little metal button on the steering wheel that you press, and just surrender 612 horsepower. Guided by lasers, cameras, sensors, and radars, the car tracks true and stays between the white lines all by itself. When a corner comes up the big Merc reads the road ahead and the speed limit road signs, adjusts speed and wafts on through.
As it isn’t regulated everywhere yet, after 30 seconds the car beeps for you to take back control, but it does make you wonder – with a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine worth 900Nm of torque and zero to 100kph in 3.5 seconds, why would you let the robots have all the fun?
The new Mercedes-AMG S63 begins to ask the hard questions – how will autonomy play out in Affalterbach, where Mercedes’ performance arms built a reputation for powerful hand-built combustion engines. Fortunately, this car doesn’t have all the answers, so for now we get the best of both worlds, one minute a super-limo that has to be limited to 250kph, and the next a business class waiting lounge that can park itself and crawl autonomously with traffic.
For 2018, Mercedes has gone with some big updates, ditching the old 5.5-litre engine in favour of a smaller and more powerful new unit that’s prevalent across the latest AMG line-up. The 4.0-litre develops 27bhp more than the old engine, and now comes mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels, instead of the old seven-speed ‘box.
This power plant is wondrous, a torque monster that makes absolutely nothing out of shifting around a 2.1-tonne behemoth like an S-Class. From low revs the power builds up consistently and the surge of 900Nm of torque stops short of knocking your head back into the plush headrests. The speed comes quick but not abruptly, and the Merc muscles ahead like drag is no big deal. It devastates straights with ease, the only problem being a total detachment from the concept of speed with the S63’s lack of drama, lack of noise, and anesthetic comfort of the cabin. Every time you look down however there is a ridiculous number displayed on the 12.2-inch screen. In any of the nine gears the S63 pulls with authority, but in the right gear it just disappears down the highway with a massive hole in its wake.
Fairy absurdly, this is a limo that also comes with launch control and it’s a laugh to pull the trick at least once, sinking into the plush seat and trying to hang on to the steering wheel as the big car squats for take off.
With all-wheel drive and adaptive suspension, there are several driving modes including Sport+ which turns the S63 into a laughably capable car around tight roads where Motormouth tested the car outside Zurich, Switzerland. With assured grip and speed-sensitive steering it is easy to place (the front axle design is new) despite being over 5.2 meters long and 2.1 meters wide. Around every corner the S63 goes faster than such a limousine should ever be able to.
Between corners 900Nm of torque is so much you can’t hardly drive it with a full throttle anywhere while contained in the real world. A private airfield or an autobahn is the S63’s only real match.
Apart from the performance from the new 4.0-litre V8 the focus here is still on comfort and luxury, with technology that works well enough to take some driver responsibility away, although only once you’ve spent days with the car getting used to it all and setting it up.
Customers can choose from a load of options including carbon fibre packages, but the best bit is the new AMG Race Track app which allows owners to record their S63 lap times and then sit analysing telemetry data. Well, some SUVs have delusions of off-roading.
Otherwise in Comfort driving mode the S63’s standard sports suspension lives up to S-Class standards of ride comfort and on the standard 19-inch wheels the car is smooth, quiet, and supremely stable.
It’s easy to make a mess of the interior though, with white leather and purple mood lighting, but in classic colours the 2018 S63 earns its asking price with that new more aggressive front bumper, and AMG pipes out back. This is, true to tradition, one of the best super-limos money can buy, and that makes it harder and harder to surrender.
2018 Mercedes-AMG S63 4Matic
4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 | nine-speed automatic, all-wheel drive | 612bhp and 900Nm of torque | 0-100kph in 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 250kph | $175,000