When Mercedes-AMG announced that its next C63 - a car named after a V8 engine, let's not forget - would halve the cylinder count in favour of greater electrification, it’s probably fair to say that the decision wasn't greeted with widespread approval. Not even at Mercedes-AMG itself, if all the rumours are true. Thankfully, for lovers of thunderous exhaust notes, the firm hasn’t totally given up on big engines altogether as its new S63 E Performance resoundingly proves.
Billed as the “most powerful S-Class of all time”, the S63 brings AMG’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 back for another showing with 612hp and 664lb ft of torque. Of course, as this is an ‘E Performance’ model, you also get an electric motor on the rear axle providing a further 190hp and 236lb ft, bringing the total output up to a whopping 802hp and 1,054lb ft (!) of torque. Those are hypercar numbers in a model still best known for delivering the ultra-wealthy to a quayside somewhere. New owners can expect their commute to shrink a bit; the S63 can comfortably hit 62mp in 3.3 seconds and go on to a limited top speed of 180mph, providing you go for the optional AMG Driver’s Package.
Like the C63, the flagship’s hybrid system is a complex beast. It’s a P3 hybrid, with the rear-mounted electric motor hooked up to a two-speed gearbox – separate to the nine-speed auto for the combustion engine. With the electric motor, two-speed ‘box and eLSD positioned at the rear, it bypasses the nine-speed automatic transmission up front, meaning AMG is able to utilise as much torque as possible from both drive units.
The battery is also slung over the rear axle, comprising of 1,200 cells that are cooled by 14 litres of coolant. By circulating coolant from the top to the bottom of the battery, the new S63 is able to maintain a battery temperature of 45 degrees, even when it’s rapidly being charged and discharged. AMG calls its latest battery HBP 150, and thanks to its 13.1kWh capacity – a big jump over the 6.1kWh available from the C63’s HBP 80 pack – is good for an all-electric range of 21 miles.
As ever, AMG is very keen to stress that the powertrain is inspired by learnings taken from its Formula 1 team’s engine division in Brixworth. This includes software that, coupled with the kickdown switch at the base of the accelerator, unlocks the 802hp for a temporary boost. And just like a modern F1 car, it’s immensely heavy. Having two drive units, plus a chunky battery, means the S63 weighs in at 2,565kg – or 90kg lighter than an EQS. While not nearly as eye-opening as the 2.1 tonne C63, that’s still nearly 400kg heavier than the old S63. The upside of the batteries, though, is a combined 64mpg when used efficiently. Assuming you've kept the battery topped up.
Elsewhere, AMG’s Active Ride Control+ comes as standard, complete with self-levelling air suspension and adaptive dampers. Two valves at each corner of the vehicle open and close “within milliseconds” depending on the road surface or driver mode, meaning the ride can switch from pillowy smooth to sporty in the blink of an eye. The valves can also be used independently to keep the car from leaning over and making your VIP guests in the rear unload a five-course meal over the backs of the front seats.
With the weight kept in check, the standard rear-axle steering does its best to virtually shrink the 3.2-metre wheelbase for improved agility. Below 62mph, the rear wheels move by up to 2.5 degrees in the opposite direction to those up front to improve manoeuvrability, while at higher speeds it moves parallel with the front wheels for greater stability. Additionally, the S63 will hunker down by 10mm when cruising at 75mph or above to reduce drag.
As you might expect, there are many, many driver modes as well. Electric, Comfort, Battery Hold, Sport, Sport+, Slippery and Individual. Each mode adjusts the boost power from the electric motor, along with engine, transmission, exhaust note and suspension settings. That’s before you get to the AMG Dynamics control system, which manages the ESP and eLSD to make the car as grippy or as slippery as you like. It’s broken down into three settings: Basic, Advanced and Pro, with the latter improving the car’s agility and feedback with the road while allowing more slip from the rear.
On that note, for those who are crazy enough to take their S63 on track – and we’d salute you for it – there’s the Track Pace app. Essentially, you can rock up to one of 70 circuits in the world and your car will clock your lap times and display your lap delta in real-time. Best of all, it’ll record onboard video and telemetry data, and share it directly with the Track Pace app so you can prove to your friends that you’re mad enough to take a near-2.6 tonne luxury limo on a track day.
With that said, the S63 still majors on luxury. It’s standard S-Class fare on the inside, with a giant central infotainment display and a 12.3-inch virtual cockpit. An AMG steering wheel, upholstery and seat stitching set the S63 apart from the boggo version, plus there’s the usual mix of Nappa leather options and a liberal smattering of Affalterbach logos. Optional displays are available for those in the rear, and you can even access the Track Pace app back there so passengers are able to follow a lap while being flung about.
On the outside, it continues the Russian doll styling of the rest of the Mercedes range. It gains the AMG One-inspired air intakes at the base of the bumper, a Panamericana grille – a first for the S63 – along with AMG’s new Affalterbach logo on the bonnet. The wheels go all the way up to 21 inches, and behind them sit carbon ceramic brakes (400x38mm up front, 380x32mm at the rear) with six-piston callipers. If any car needs brakes this big, it’s this one. AMG won’t put an overall downforce figure on the car, but a beefy rear diffuser does play a role in reducing drag, it says.
So there you have it, the most powerful S-Class ever made and, hooray, confirmation that the V8 lives on (for now). There’s no word yet on pricing or when the order books will open, but we’ve already had a sneak peek at the car in real life – so presumably it won’t be too long until it hits the showrooms. It’ll be expensive, but that's par for the S63 course. Expect fans to react accordingly.
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