PRODUCT EYE: Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG L

By Glenn Brooks | 24 January 2014

The long wheelbase S 63 is only available in the UK and certain other RHD markets

The long wheelbase S 63 is only available in the UK and certain other RHD markets

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On a recent trip to Mercedes-Benz UK's HQ, Glenn Brooks tried out various newly released models, including the S 63 AMG L supercar limo.

Like all jobs, in this one, there are great days to balance out the less than memorable ones. Being invited up to Milton Keynes to drive the new-to-me S-Class counts as one of the highlights of 2014 thus far. There were a couple of examples available so I started off in the S 500 L AMG Line. This one combines a 455hp 4.7-litre V8 and 7G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic gearbox with the long wheelbase (3,165mm) body style and a package of aero additions.

Base price is GBP 88,130 but would you believe the as-tested car is listed at GBP 123,630? Let me mention some of the big ticket items: a nappa leather package is GBP 6,530 and includes things such as illuminated doorsills and extra wood trim; ‘Executive Rear Package’ means electrically reclining and ventilated seats and a powered sunblind; GBP 4,340 for Magic Body Control; Night View Assist Plus at GBP 2,080; and lots more besides.

You would have to think long and hard about adding many of the extra-cost items (imagine that you must pay extra, GBP 1,430 in fact, for a panoramic electric sunroof) but Magic Body Control has got to be worth having. I’ve driven the A8 L, S8, 7 Series Li, LS 460 and XJ L as well as the old W221 series S-Class. Without a doubt, MBC lifts the W222 S-Class into a different category from its rivals. You cannot believe that a car which weighs 2,015kg before all those options and me are added in can possibly handle as it does. And the ride? Considering that it’s  onwide 19-inch rims, it’s nothing short of amazing. As good as a Phantom, I’d go so far as saying.

I loved all the techy stuff inside the S 500, especially the Comand Online system. This bundles digital and analogue radio, a single CD/DVD slot, HDD, Speed Limit Assist, Linguatronic voice control, a WLAN hotspot, a 10 gig music register, and a 3D nav map with live traffic feed displayed on a 12.3-inch monitor.

The S 500 was an impressive drive but I ached to try its badder brother, the S 63 AMG L. This one looks pretty mean, sitting lower on its special 19-inch wheels plus 255/45 (front) and 280/40 (rear) tyres. It has the same 5,287mm overall length as the S 500 L but at 2,130mm it’s wider. So you have to think more about the size of the thing, especially on B-roads as even though it handles like something far smaller, the width tends to slow progress - you don’t want to risk losing the mirror or touching a kerb in a car costing a hundred and twenty thousand pounds.

Well, the price isn’t quite that amount. It’s listed as GBP 119,565 but again, there’s those tempting extras which in this case, lifted the total to GBP 139,735. There’s safety tech, such as Night View Assist Plus (GBP 2,080), Pre-Safe Rear Package (GBP 1,230), and fun stuff such as AMG Driver’s Package. The last of these, priced at GBP 2,760, lifts the top speed from a restricted 155mph to 186mph and entitles you to training at the AMG Driving Academy.

I loved every second in the S 63. Its AMG Speedshift MCT transmission has seven speeds like other S-Class model versions but none available in the UK has the 900Nm and 430kW (585hp) of the 63’s turbocharged 5,461cc V8. Zero to 62mph is reached in just 4.4 seconds but press this car hard and you'll see fuel consumption somewhat worse than the sobering official Combined average of 10.1mpg. CO2? Surprisingly enough, it isn’t as bad as you might have guessed: 237g/km. Traction, even on wet roads, was flawless and that’s doubly impressive considering this car is rear-wheel drive only. There IS a 4MATIC option but that’s only available in certain left-hand drive markets.

The S 63, which was launched at September’s Frankfurt IAA, was the fastest of the W222 range for a relatively short time, that honour now belonging to another S-Class with an AMG suffix, the S 65 AMG, which premiered at the LA and Tokyo shows last November. Rather than having a biturbo V8, the fastest S-Class yet is powered by a 463kW (680hp) 5,980cc biturbo V12. It also produces 1,000Nm of torque. This one, now available to order in Germany, costs a breathtaking 232,050 euro there. Before options.

Another recent debutante is the S 600 L, which goes on sale in the coming months in relevant markets, having been revealed at the Detroit show earlier this month. Like the S 65 AMG, it has a turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 but its output is a more modest 530hp.

Aside from all these top-end cars, the S-Class range includes V6 variants and later this year, a four-cylinder car will be added for some countries. This is the S 300 BlueTEC Hybrid. Its powertrain will consist of the same combination of a 150kW (204hp) 2,143cc diesel engine and 20hp brushless electric motor as the existing ML 300 and E 300 BlueTEC Hybrids.

All of these additional versions continue to be added to the S-Class launch range announced in May 2013. This consisted of just three variants: 190kW (258hp) 2,987cc diesel V6 S 350 BlueTEC, 225kW (306hp) 3,498cc V6 petrol + 20kW motor S 400 Hybrid, and 335kW (455hp) 4,663cc petrol V8 S 500, the latter badged S 550 in North America. All are available in standard (3,035mm) or long wheelbase (3,165mm) form. In the UK, the current range is as follows: S 350 BlueTEC and S 400 Hybrid in two wheelbase lengths as well as SE and AMG trims, and then the S 500 L and S 63 AMG L range toppers.

The S-Class has multiple claimed world firsts, including no lightbulbs (LEDs instead, with modules supplied by Automotive Lighting), heated armrests, and a suspension system that is primed for the road ahead. This big sedan also brought with it a new platform, MRA. This, in modified form, underpins the new C-Class and it will also be used for the forthcoming S-Class coupé and the next E-Class.

Thus far, the S-Class is being built only at Sindelfingen in Germany, but assembly of the S 350 CDI in India is due to be added from the second half of this year. As for the S 63 AMG, S 63 AMG L, S 63 AMG L 4MATIC and S 65, these all start life at Sindelfingen but final assembly takes place at AMG’s base in nearby Affalterbach.

Daimler will continue to expand the line-up, the S 400 and S 400 L having been named but not yet revealed. Another addition will be the S 500 Plug-in Hybrid, which premiered in prototype form at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2013.

The company stated in June 2013 that "there will be now three new models in addition to the short-wheelbase and extended wheelbase [S-Class sedan] variants and the S-Class coupé". There is some talk of the Maybach name being revived for the priciest of what are rumoured to be a couple of XL-sized cars. Let's see what April's AutoChina motor show in Beijing brings, or failing that, Moscow in August or Paris in September.

Despite having taken my time to try the latest shape S-Class, I somehow managed to bag a drive in the best of the lot, that amazing S 63 AMG L. It's not without some potentially annoying faults (see the picture caption regarding what the optional champagne chiller does to the boot's ability to take a big suitcase) but is there a better four door supercar on the British market? I wouldn't have thought so.