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Here's a story from our archives of two cars that push the boundaries of luxury and performance unlike most others - Mercedes-Maybach S650 and the S 63 AMG Coupe
Mercedes-Benz isn’t particularly modest when it comes to describing the S-Class. ‘The best car in the world’ is thrown around liberally, ‘the epitome of the automobile’ has been mentioned occasionally and the last time it revamped the S-Class, the headline of a press-release stated it was the ‘automotive benchmark in efficiency and comfort.’ A self-proclaimed benchmark, we would like to add — never take anything a manufacturer tells you at face value. We’ve driven it though, and we love it. It is the go-to limousine to be driven around in from your mansion to the golf course with a quick stop by the office to make sure the CEOs of your five companies are bringing in the moolah.
What do you do if you’re the type with petrol in your veins and not just in your stock portfolio? You find time to drive between all that golfing and money-making! However, the S-Class limo, as comfortable as it is, isn’t a car you want to be thrashing up a mountain pass. Mercedes-Benz’ in-house nutters, the AMG department, have something a little more suited for the job. Something that will keep your rump cocooned in luxury while still giving you a liberal dose of white knuckles and dilated pupils.
And stuffed a stonkin’ V8 under the hood. Mercedes-AMG has used the oldest trick in the book — horse power. Now, the S63 Coupe is still an S-Class, so it isn’t particularly light by any measure. There’s no stripped-out philosophy going on here, luxury hasn’t been compromised one bit. Instead, you’ve got an engine derived from the Mercedes- AMG GT range of cars to lug that weight around. The ‘hot-inside-vee’ as they like to call it — a 4-litre V8 engine with two turbos nestled within the engine banks to keep them more responsive and efficient. The engine makes 603bhp and 900Nm of torque. Just let that sink in for a second. More than what the AMG GT R makes, and that’s a proper unhinged track monster. You’re rolling around in an S-Class that will light up the rears if you floor it in third gear!
The S63 AMG Coupe is a car that has dichotomies built into its very DNA. But it doesn’t end up a muddled mess with no identity, instead it is a car with a supreme breadth of abilities. You can point it down an arrow- straight highway, put it into comfort mode and it will just swallow up the miles — the V8 burbling along to the tune of your right foot. You’d think a car with a 63 in its name and AMG on its bum would rattle your teeth out on our uneven roads but the suspension actually takes it all in its stride. It wafts over bumps and only really big ones remind you that the suspension travel doesn’t allow you as many liberties as the sedan. It’s Mercedes-Benz’s take on a grand tourer — a car that you can drive from Monaco to the south of Italy, catch a ferry across to Sicily and still be ready to kick back with a bottle of wine and make interesting conversation (or lord knows what else) with the missus. If you’re sensible, you might even be able to do it without stopping every hour! The S63 has a clever system where it deactivates four cylinders (cylinder two, three, five and eight if you’re nerdy about these things) while cruising below 3250rpm and makes for a rather efficient machine. I’d know — my enthusiastic use of the throttle during the course of this shoot meant not using four cylinders and nursing it back to a fuel pump before it ran dry. However, I can assure you that it is the most frustrating way to drive an AMG, and would not recommend it to anyone.
Tank up, click the drive mode selector twice to slot it in to Sport+ mode and this car channels all 52 years of AMG’s history, and becomes a certified tyre-shredder. For once, India gets the entertaining-spec — all right-hand drive markets get it with rear-wheel drive only, while left-hand drive ones in Europe get it with all-wheel drive. Which means, you’re in a two-tonne luxe-barge that will go sideways at will. Floor the throttle and it will hit a ton in 3.5 seconds. But instead of your head being slammed against some minimal padding that passes off as a headrest in a bucket-seat, it sinks in to a rather soft one. These heavily bolstered seats wrapped in quilted leather are cushy enough for when you’re taking it easy but they’re also properly sculpted to hold you when you are hooning around. Corner hard, and the side bolsters on the seat adjust themselves according to the g forces applied to hold you better. The combination of luxury and performance is addicting. It never leaves you wishing it was sharper in the bends, or more comfortable in the city. A few buttons morph its identity to whatever you wish, and allow you to play spoiled exec on the weekdays and boy racer on the weekends.
It even has rear seats! They’re a pretty sorry excuse when it comes to space though, and anyone larger than a hobbit will find it cramped. I’d recommend chucking your gym bag or weekly groceries in there, but that’s about it. If you want an S where you can close multi-crore rupee deals in the backseat, you’re going to have stick to the regular one. And if that is too pedestrian for your billionaire tastes, Mercedes will sell you something even more exclusive. Something called the Maybach.
Because where the S63 tightens up the S-Class, the Maybach does the opposite. It stretches it out, adds more space, more luxury and even more cylinders. The Maybach is about as far as you can go within the Mercedes fold when it comes to luxury — if it isn’t enough, you’re going to have to get a Learjet. What you’re looking at is the Mercedes-Maybach S650, the more expensive of the two Maybachs on sale in India, and the one you should be going for if you want to make a statement. Why? Because it has got a teeny- tiny V12 badge on its flanks and a mahoosive V12 engine under the hood.
Heads up, this is my first V12. This wasn’t entirely how I imagined things would go — I always imagined my arse on the floor, flicking up the airplane-like flap to get to the start-stop switch on a Lamborghini Aventador or something equally dramatic. Loud, raucous, attacking the limiter, with the Grim Reaper riding shotgun to remind me of what would happen if I got too enthusiastic with my right foot. The V12 in the Maybach is quite the opposite. It wouldn’t be fair to call it anti-climatic, just... different. Honestly though, at this point of time where regulations are shackling big engines to the racetrack (or the history books), I’ll take what I get. The engine starts without any drama, settling into an idle that is inaudible from inside the cabin. Rev it while it is standing still, and you can hear the combination of the forced induction from two turbos and a light growl from the exhaust. Doesn’t sound particularly powerful, but you can feel it even at a standstill — the centrifugal force on the crank rocks the whole car to the right ever so slightly when you step on it. It’s a proper beast under there. It would be unclassy to talk numbers in a Maybach, but it makes 620bhp and 1000Nm. And you thought the S63 was going overboard?
The Maybach has soooo much torque, and is sooooo focussed on keeping the person in the back comfortable, that it sets off in second gear by default. Close your eyes, and you won’t even feel it move. Where the AMG is all about whiplash-inducing responses, the Maybach envelopes you in a gentle embrace. It has got a 7-speed ’box that shuffles up and down to keep you in the torque band at all times, but you barely feel it happening. What stands out the most? The refinement. The combination of a V12 (an inherently balanced engine) and the obsessive levels of comfort means very little of the engine’s vibration or harshness enters the cabin. Go easy on the throttle, and its almost like the engine isn’t there. The sheer torque, no matter where you are and how fast you’re going, is another. It was mind-bending — step on it while you’re cruising at speeds close to 200kmph and it will still pull cleanly, barely breaking into a sweat. We tried this at a secret test location, swear. Dynamically, well, it’s massive but the air suspension keeps it fairly comfortable. There’s a stiff edge to it and this can be a bit unsettling considering our roads but the seats do help make up for it. There’s even a ‘Curve mode alongside Comfort and Sport that counters how much it rolls in corners — similar to how you lean into a corner on a motorcycle.
The backseat is where the party is at. With 200mm added to the legroom of the long-wheelbase S, stretching out should be the least of your worries. The rear seats recline, give you hot stone massages, and there’s a footrest for you to quite literally, kick your legs up. Proper business class stuff. The car will pump in fragrances in the cabin according to what you like and play energising music if you are drowsy. Wood and leather are used liberally on the inside and, yes, it gets screens at the back. I actually felt unworthy stretching out in the backseat of the Maybach, dressed in t-shirt and trousers. But, hey, days like these don’t come very often so I did it anyway, and had the most comfortable drive home, hot stone massage et al.
Driving the S63 Coupe and the S650 back-to-back, you can tell how drastically different these two cars are. The AMG with its duality, and the Maybach with its singular focus on comfort and refinement. This really is the epitome of what Germany has to offer the world when it comes to the automobile, drawing on the finest of performance and luxury. Think about it, both AMG and Maybach started off independent of Mercedes-Benz — honing their cars when it came to performance or luxury. They were then absorbed into the Mercedes-Benz family and were eventually given their own sub-brands — Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes-Maybach. Who knows where the two would have been if they weren’t bolstered by Daimler’s expansive car-building knowhow — whether they would have stood the test of time, or become rolling pieces of nostalgia. I think they’ve done well for themselves. After all, they now build the best versions of the best car in the world.