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Merc S63 AMG tested

2007-06-15 08:07

Wilmer Muller

Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG

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What's it about

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been called a "cathedral on wheels" before. If one has to stick to the religious theme then the S63 AMG model is probably a "charismatic church on wheels".

It is rocking and hip while you might even speak in tongues after driving it. The S63 AMG is indeed a holy experience as it is an engineering masterpiece for Mercedes.

Let's be honest, this car won't be on many car buyers' shopping lists.

With a list price of R1 260 000, your riches will have to be on par of that of the Vatican.

And like churches, the S63 AMG is all about numbers too: V8 power, 386 kW, 0-100 km/h in 5.77 seconds. Impressive stuff for a two tonne devil!

However, unlike other S-Class models this is car you will drive yourself, and not to be driven in.

These are wheels to show off in a sort of "classy-pimped-up" way? very charismatic. It will grab the attention of youngsters as it ditches the stuffy image of the church, sorry Merc, and it might just convert them too.


The S63 AMG features the distinctive AMG styling with sporty touches such as chrome-finished twin tailpipes.

This super car is also luxury at its best and it does make you feel like the million bucks you paid for it.

Inside, a plush ambience is created by the extensive use of fine wood trim elements and nappa leather upholstery.

But the latest S-Class is actually more about advanced technology than looks and luxury. The new S63 AMG is a showcase of clever gizmos, some of them very useful and others perhaps a bit intimidating.

You amy need a bible to use Merc's Comand operating system at first, but once you get the hang of it, it isn't too complicated. It operates audio, navigation and general car settings.

It is clearly modelled on BMW's controversial iDrive and, like iDrive, is operated by a rotary wheel and some fixed buttons to guide you too.

But we still prefer Audi's MMI system, which is simple and straightforward.

An optional extra is Merc's night view assist system, which uses infrared light. Two infrared headlamps illuminate the road, significantly extending the driver's range of vision when on low beam.

An infrared camera mounted on the inside of the windscreen records the reflected image of the road ahead and displays this in the instrument cluster.

It is very impressive and gives a real-time image of the road ahead. It shows all obstacles such as vehicles, people and livestock as far ahead as the normal high-beam headlights can illuminate.

Other toys include Merc's Linguatronic voice activated control system, TV tuner and a DVD player. A vast list of gadgetry is available too.

Under the skin

The S63 AMG is awash with delicious engineering with some impressive advanced safety features. For example it comes with Brake Assist Plus (BAS PLUS) function which helps to prevent accidents, improve occupant protection and assist the driver.

This high-tech innovation uses two different frequencies of radar beams that also feed the (optional) Distronic Plus active cruise control.

If you get too close to the vehicle in front if you it will warn you but will also calculate the ideal braking assistance in fractions of a second and makes this available immediately - even if the driver applies too little pressure to the brake pedal.

Also, if the S-Class's sensors detect an inevitable accident they activate an improved version of PRE-SAFE, which now pumps up various parts of the seats to help cushion an impact as well as closing windows and setting the optimal seat positions.

There is also a futuristic park assist-system using radar technology.

Made entirely from high-strength aluminium, the V8 engine, with a displacement of 6.3-litre, has a power output of 386 kW at 6 800 r/min and a maximum torque of 630 Nm at 5 200 r/min.

Transmission is Merc's 7G-TRONIC gearbox. The seven-speed automatic transmission can also be operated using shift paddles on the steering wheel.

The S63 also comes with AMG's sports suspension and a special high-performance braking system.

The suspension is based on the Active Body Control (ABC) dynamic suspension technology.

Driving it

Fire up the engine of the S63 and you will be in awe at the chorus coming from the engine.

Pull off and you go "hallelujah". Then you start praying, asking for forgiveness as the speedo needle tries to reach for heaven.

You also pray that this car knows how to stop, though if you have some crisis you know there will be divine intervention from all those safety gizmos.

In a straight-line the S63 is amazingly fast but despite that, all that brutal muscle comes through in a quiet civilised way that keeps the ride smooth.

The Active Body Control keeps guard over all the Merc's movements ensuring that it stays on the straight and narrow. It eliminates much of the body movements that occur when moving off, cornering and braking.

This means that if you the push the S63 through bends and corners there is less roll and the car keeps its pose gracefully.

Grip is good too and in general the Merc inspires confidence. Overall the AMG model still feels like an S-Class with a certain detachment from the "real world".


Does it get our blessing?

Well, tough one, as the drive can be quite sinful. But it is a fine car which does impress, no matter what your thought on Merc products are.

Realistically the S500 makes more sense than the S63 as buyers of the AMG model will hardly ever be able to experience the vehicle's full potential. But the S63 does offer an unmatched presence, and one can't help to marvel about the engine.

It is a super star after all...


  • Strength and robustness
  • Million bucks feeling
  • Build quality


  • Sinful drive
  • S500 more realistic buy

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