Mercedes-AMG S 63 E Performance first drive review

The S 63 AMG is downsized to the 4-litre bi-turbo V8 but gets plug-in hybrid performance to make it the most powerful S-Class ever, ripping up the tarmac with an astonishing 1430Nm of torque
Every generation of the S-Class comes with AMG treatment along with big fat engines.
Every generation of the S-Class comes with AMG treatment along with big fat engines.Shot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

There's no question the S-Class is the best car in the world. It rides like a magic carpet. Is as quiet as a library. Pampers plutocrats cutting deals in the back seat. And does nothing remotely indulgent as a spot of drifting. Except, this S-Class rips apart the playbook. This is an S-Class possessed by the Devil. It has been to the gym and downed way too many protein shakes. It’s so loud, you’ll get thrown out of the library. The ride is nothing like a magic carpet. And if your driver isn’t prudent, it will shake its ass. It makes no sense. Except, I’ve never been in anything so absurdly epic. You see an S-Class and your brain defaults to full chill mode. And then this turns your brain into deliciously smooth mango pulp. I am incapable of processing this car. However, there is precedent. Before the S-Class was even called the S-Class, the fledgling tuning shop of AMG took the Big Benz and turned it into a monster race car. The Red Pig based on the W108 and since then, every generation of the S-Class got the AMG treatment with big fat engines. It started with the 6.3-litre V8, bored out to 6.8 litres. There was the 6.5-litre V12. The last S 63 AMG had a twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 and we grumbled about the downsizing from the previous 6.3-litre V8. And now, there’s an electric cable plugged into its bum. Which brings me to the heart of the Mercedes-AMG S 63 E Performance 4-Matic, to give it its full name. This is a plug-in hybrid. Fully juiced up you get 33km of full electric range. Which makes the S 63 even quieter than the library-hush you got in the regular petrol or diesel S-Class. There’s brake energy recuperation, four different stages of it, the highest of which recovers kinetic electricity produced during braking and on the overrun, at up to 90kW. Or you plug it in and charge it. There’s no DC fast charging, this does it at a very leisurely 3.7kW on an AC charger.

Although there’s nothing leisurely about the rest of the package. All this electric business, in tandem with AMG’s standard-issue M177 twin-turbocharged 4-litre V8 engine, puts out 790bhp and an absurd 1430Nm of torque. Of those totals, the V8 produces 603bhp, with the electric motor good for 93bhp of continuous output and up to 187bhp in short bursts. In terms of torque, the V8’s 900Nm is available between 2500rpm and 4500rpm, with 320Nm coming from the electric motor. The electrified rear axle is similar, but not identical, to the one found on the GT 63 S E Performance and new C 63 E Performance. The energy capacity is more than double that of the battery used by the GT 63 S E Performance and the 400 volt, 13.1kWh, 1200 cell battery pack uses liquid-cooling to maintain optimum operating temperate. All of which leads to weight. A lot of it. 390kg, which brings the kerb weight up to 2520kg. But with 1430Nm of torque, you can strap an elephant to the roof and it will still accelerate like a psychopath. 0-100kmph takes 3.3 seconds. That’s supercar territory. Remember the AMG GT-R, that beast of the green hell? That took 3.6 seconds to 100kmph. This souped-up S-Class is faster! Top speed? This is the Edition 1, which gets the AMG Driver’s Package as standard which means 290kmph top speed. We will come to that, but first let’s take a walk around the Edition 1.

Available only in this gorgeous Manufaktur Alpine Grey colour – Nardo grey to you and me – it looks properly stunning. 21-inch forged wheels are standard and sitting behind them are carbon ceramic brakes. Up front you get the new-look bumper with the AMG-specific Panamericana grille with vertical louvers and the AMG emblem replaces the star on the bonnet. The Edition 1 also gets the AMG Exterior Night Package – basically that’s lots of dark chrome while the front and side skirts and mirror caps are in carbon. Over at the rear you get an integrated diffuser and trapezoidal tailpipes in dark chrome, which are fake. If you look closely though you will still see quad exhaust pipes. Rounding off the features and accessories are the red-finished brake callipers and the silver-chrome fuel filler cap with the AMG logo. Inside, the gorgeousness of the S-Class is enhanced with the AMG Performance steering wheel, AMG graphics for the digital instruments, hybrid displays on infotainment, an IWC watch to time your laps, AMG-embossed upholstery for the front seats and AMG-specific trim for the dashboard like this red thread impregnated into carbon weave on the dash. Specific to the Edition 1 is red topstitching on the AMG-specific Nappa leather, all of which can be yours for Rs`3.8 crore. The Edition 1 is limited to just three units for India, including the one you see dancing on these pages, which means you most likely have already missed the bus for the ultimate go-faster S-Class. Fret not though, because you will end up saving Rs`50 lakh when you opt for the “standard” S 63 AMG that’s priced at Rs`3.3 crore. To which you can option the AMG Driver’s Pack for Rs`2.8 lakh and unlock the 290kmph top speed. Everything about the S 63 AMG is over the top!

Back to the driving. 1430Nm is way too much for only rear wheel-drive, so you get fully-variable 4-Matic+ four-wheel drive with torque vectoring for the rear wheels. There are two gearboxes – the 9-speed AMG Speedshift MCT automatic for the ICE and a two-speed gearbox for the e-motor – and here’s where the S 63 AMG doesn’t quite feel like an S-Class with the occasional transmission shunt coming through. Stick it in Sport +, AMG Dynamics in Pro, ESP off, brake torque it with the left foot, right foot full on the gas, Race Start on the digital cluster, and launch. The S 63 AMG accelerates with brutal sledgehammer performance in the best AMG traditions. And with the e-motor's torque filling whatever little holes are there in the ICE’s torque curve, there’s no pause, no let up in the forward thrust. It really does make the electronically controlled limited slip differential work, but work it does, delivering mad traction and inexhaustible determination. Unless you are on a runway you will run out of road before you run out of juice. As for the sound this is where the S 63 AMG shows some restraint. There’s a V8 burble that builds up bass with revs and sometimes when you short-shift at 3000rpm you can even hear the turbos whistling. It’s a fascinating soundtrack over which you even hear the e-motor though that’s synthesised through the speakers and can be turned off. Engage Race Start and then you get the V8 roar over which is played a synthesised 4000rpm rev cut out through the speakers, which all sounds a bit crazy and which you can make no sense of because the minute you launch it your brain stops thinking. In fact, your brain doesn’t even process that the nose is pointing at the moon when you launch it and it’s only when we sifted through the footage that we noticed just how dramatically the S 63 squats on its rear dampers during full-bore standing starts.

These dampers are specially tuned air springs mated to AMG Ride Control suspension that is clearly stiffer than a regular S-Class. Particularly at city speeds you feel the firmness in the damping but then again you need that firmness to control all the madness! That said the S 63 is never unrefined, never uncomfortable, and the shorter wheelbase, 110mm shorter than the long wheelbase S-Class we get in India, means you don’t worry about scraping its underside (provided you use the suspension lift enthusiastically). The body is reinforced with an aluminium stabiliser under the engine and a motorsport style cross brace linking the front suspension towers. The rear is stiffened thanks to the hybrid’s battery situated in a carbonfibre reinforced compartment in the floor of the boot. There’s active roll stabilisation via electromechanical anti-roll bars and 3-degrees of rear-axle steering, all of which combines to deliver genuine agility and fantastic control of its equally fantastic weight. Over smooth f lowing roads it feels smaller and sprightlier than anything of this size and weight should feel. Build up speeds and it carries faintly ludicrous cornering speeds – after all if you ignore the details this is an S-Class and your brain just can't process how quickly it is powering through corners. There is a fair bit of tyre squeal and there’s also noticeable body roll even in the firmest suspension setting but that’s a good thing because you can feel the limits of the car approaching. Switch off ESP and the tail will step out, and I can tell you that this is not a very pleasant experience. There’s so much mass, and so much momentum, that the S 63 AMG is an absolute handful when it goes sideways. Good thing then that the ESP never stays fully off, jumping back in to save you from a sure-shot spin or worse, and that’s as good a time as any to take a step back, crank up the tunes, feel the bass in your ass courtesy the 4D Burmester sound system, turn on the fabulous seat massagers for added measure and marvel at the sheer absurdity of The best car in the world, on steroids.

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