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Mercedes-Benz S-Class


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST

Summary

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Ever since the middle of the 1990s, I've been captivated by the Mercedes-Benz S Class. It used to be known as Sonderklasse - special class - and teenage me certainly thought it was. The one that caught my attention was the W140. A huge, two-tonne beast when that sort of mass was rare, it was loaded with amazingness and owned the road.

Part of its unique appeal was that that it was properly ugly. When it hove into view it was like a battleship entering Sydney Harbour. And it used almost as much fuel, with the V12 on board.

Over the years, genuine style has invaded the S-Class and today I found myself, for the first time, in an unusually pretty pair of S Classes - the S560 and S63 Coupes. And, astonishingly, it's the first time I've ever driven an S-Class. So with all that baggage I've built up over the years, they had a lot to live up to.

Safety rating
Engine Type4.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.5L/100km
Seating5 seats

Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST

Picturing yourself driving a Ferrari is always a pleasant way to waste a few 'when I win Lotto' moments of your life. 

It’s fair to assume that most people would imagine themselves in a red one, on a sunny, good-hair day with an almost solar-flare smile on their faces. 

The more enthusiastic of us might throw in a race track, like Fiorano, the one pictured here, which surrounds the Ferrari factory at Maranello, and perhaps even specify a famously fabulous model - a 458, a 488, or even an F40.

Imagine the kick in the balls, then, of finally getting to pilot one of these cars and discovering that its badge bears the laziest and most childish name of all - Superfast - and that the public roads you’ll be driving along are covered in snow, ice and a desire to kill you. And it’s snowing, so you can’t see.

It’s a relative kick in the groin, obviously, like being told your Lotto win is only $10 million instead of $15m, but it’s fair to say the prospect of driving the most powerful Ferrari road car ever made (they don’t count La Ferrari, apparently, because it’s a special project) with its mental, 588kW (800hp) V12, was more exciting than the reality.

Memorable, though? Oh yes, as you’d hope a car worth $610,000 would be.

Safety rating
Engine Type6.5L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency15L/100km
Seating2 seats

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz S-Class7.3/10

Both of these vast vehicles are phenomenally comfortable - this is the kind of car that Mercedes does so well, and has done for decades. The S Class is rarely a disappointment but it's difficult to believe that such a big, heavy GT car can also dance the way the S63 does.

The S560 is far more weighted to being a GT - supremely comfortable with that active suspension, a growly, refined V8 and a cabin full of gadgets and comfort. The S63 is altogether more aggressive, to look at and to drive. Lopping the roof off both of them adds weight but, like any cruiser, also puts you out in the sun, the breeze and into your surroundings. Plus, in the case of the S63, you get more exhaust noise.

They're two very different cars and not just because of the engine. After all these years admiring it from afar, the S63 has delivered on my teenage expectations - fast, smooth and utterly mad.

Is the S Class still the car that springs to mind when you think ultimate luxury? Or has another brand taken its place? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST7.4/10

Clearly, this is not a car for everyone, and you’d have to question whether it’s a car for anyone, really, but people who like spending $610,000 on Ferraris, and waiting in a queue to do so, will be delighted, because it delivers the kind of exclusivity, and bragging rights, that you’d have to hope a car called Superfast would.

Personally, it’s a little too much, a little too over the top and definitely too mad, but if rockets are your thing, you won’t be disappointed.

Is the Ferrari 812 Superfast a bit of you, or a bit too much? Tell us in the comments below.

Design

Mercedes-Benz S-Class7/10

The S Class Coupe is obviously related to the sedan but manages a svelte appearance. Slimmer hipped and with a more Coke-bottle shape, the Coupe - if you squint a bit - has a bit of the classic old pagoda about it. Obviously you can't do pillars that slim anymore, but the glass roof takes away some of the visual weight inside and out. 

The cabriolet's roof is nicely integrated and looks good when it's  up, which isn't always the case.

They all look long, though. It's obvious to see why the cars all run on 20-inch wheels - anything smaller would look hilarious.

The cabin is a fairly sensible re-imagining of the E-Class. The big twin-screen layout of the dash and multimedia system seems a bit more at home here. The chintzy Burmester speakers in the doors let down an otherwise classy cabin, which steers clear of otiose vulgarity in looks and materials.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST9/10

It’s very… big, isn’t it? And it looks even bigger in the flesh with a bonnet you could use to put a roof over your tennis court. In all, the Superfast is 4.6m long, almost 2.0m wide and weighs 1.5 tonnes, so it certainly has presence.

Making something this big look good is a challenge even for those as talented as Ferrari’s design team, but they have nailed it. The front has what appears to be a mouth, poised to swallow lesser cars whole like some whale shark Terminator. 

The bonnet appears to be flaring its nostrils, and looks fabulous from the driver’s seat, and the swooping side and taut rear complete things nicely.

Personally, it still just looks too big to be a Ferrari, but then this is not a mid-engined super car, it’s a grand touring rocket ship, and the ultimate expression of unnecessary excess, and it pulls off that aura perfectly.

Practicality

Mercedes-Benz S-Class6/10

Well look, if you end up in the back of the S Coupe, it's not a riot of space. Obviously it has back seats (the SL doesn't even squeeze a jump seat into its considerable length) but they're for occasional, if luxurious, use.

The boot is a reasonably decent 400 litres, obviously the cabriolet loses a few litres with the roof folded. Front and rear passengers will both enjoy a pair of cupholders and the whopping long doors will each hold a bottle.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST7/10

Practicality isn’t really your concern when you buy a two-seat mega car like this, so let’s just say it’s about as practical as you would expect it to be. Not very, then.

Price and features

Mercedes-Benz S-Class7/10

One thing hasn't changed in nearly 20 years - the S isn't cheap. Available in coupe and cabriolet, the S560 starts at $314,900 for the former and $336,900 for the latter. Step up to the S63 pair and you'll pay from $370,500 for the coupe and $399,900 for the cab. If you're super keen for something spectacular, the twin-turbo V12-powered S65 is available for between $508,900 and $520,500, and features Swarovski crystals in the headlights, for some reason.

As you can imagine, there's quite a bit to cover, so for both cars I'll stick to the edited highlights. The S560s roll on 20-inch alloys, has a 590-watt 13 speaker sound system, digital TV, auto parking, active cruise control, panoramic glass roof, Nappa leather, active seats and power-closing doors.

It also comes standard with a heating pack that not only heats the seats but the steering wheel and centre console. In the cabriolet you also get the 'Airscarf' neck heater.

Both cars also feature's Mercedes' Magic Body Control with curve function. More of that wacky feature later.

The S63 AMG is a step up in power, price and spec. One notable change from the S560 is the loss of 'Magic Body Control', which is replaced with mere air suspension. The 20-inch alloys are 10-spoke forged units, the brakes higher performance composites with red calipers, while an AMG sports exhaust brings the noise.

Naturally, both are swathed in high-quality leather and feature dual-zone climate control, heated and cooled electric seats that adjust in every direction, deep carpets, keyless entry and start, fully digital dashboards and just about every gadget to which you can point your imagination.

Entertainment and sat nav are via Mercedes' 'Comand' system, which is displayed on a massive 12.3-inch slab of glass at the top of the dashboard. The 13-speaker Burmester-branded system is predictably impressive and with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you only have to use the basic software for the radio or various car controls.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST6/10

Is it possible that any car - save one made from gold, dusted with diamonds and stuffed with truffles - would represent good value at a price of $610,000? It seems unlikely, but then people who can spend that much assay value differently, and would probably say that something as profound as the 812 Superfast is worth buying at any price.

Another way to look at it is price-per-litre, which is less than $100,000, considering you do get 6.5 litres of V12 Ferrari donk. Or you could go by kilowatt, which works out at nearly $1000 each for your 588kW.

Other than that you do get a lot of leather, a high-quality interior, superior exterior styling, badge-snob value that’s hard to put a price on and vast swathes of F1-derived technology. And a free car cover.

Engine & trans

Mercedes-Benz S-Class8/10

All four coupes and cabriolets ship with Daimler's formidable 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. The S560 scores 345kW/700Nm to drive the rear wheels through Benz's own nine-speed automatic. With all of that available, the S560 will crack the ton in 4.6 seconds and make a wonderful racket on the way.

Moving on to the S63, the same engine delivers a massive 450kW/900Nm. The run from 0-100km/h is dispatched in just 3.5 seconds and if I thought the S560 made a good noise, the S63 with its standard sports exhaust makes a better one. Again, Mercedes' nine-speeder is along for the ride.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST9/10

I did want to give the epic, enormous 6.5-litre naturally aspirated V12 engine a perfect 10 here, but when I paused to think about it I had to admit that it is, quite possibly, a little too powerful.

Yes, it is amazing to think Ferrari can build a car that has 588kW (800 horsepower - hence the 812 nomenclature; 800 horses and 12 cylinders) and doesn’t just dig itself a hole in the road as soon as you put your foot down.

And yes, it does provide the kind of performance that makes all other cars seems a bit piss poor and pathetic, even the really good ones. 

But honestly, who could ever use it all, or need it all? They might seem like irrelevant questions, I guess, because it’s all about conspicuous over-excess, a car like this, so really the question is, would anyone want to live with 588kW and 718Nm of torque, or is it just too scary in reality?

Well, a little bit, yes, but Ferrari’s engineers have been wise enough not to actually give you all of that power, all the time. Torque is limited in the first three gears, and maximum mental power is actually only available, in theory, at 8500rpm in seventh gear, at which point you’d be approaching its top speed of 340km/h.

The fact that you can rev an engine this big, and this lusciously loud, all the way to 8500rpm is, however, a joy that would never tire.

In more practical terms, you can run 0-100km/h in 2.9 seconds (although cheaper, less crazy cars can do that, too) or 200km/h in 7.9 (which is a tiny bit slower than the far lighter McLaren 720S).

What you can’t do, of course, is achieve any of those numbers on winter tyres, or roads with snow on them.

Fuel consumption

Mercedes-Benz S-Class7/10

The lower-powered 560 drinks 98RON at the rate of 8.5L/100km for the coupe and 9.9L/100km for the heavier cabriolet.

The S63 ups the ante with 9.9L/100km for the coupe and an identical 9.9L/100km for the cab.

Our launch program contained some...er...spirited driving, which would explain the mid to high-teens fuel figures.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST5/10

Much as you can’t have a good volcano without some serious lava, you can’t have 800 horsepower without burning a lot of dead dinosaur goo. The Superfast has a claimed fuel-economy figure of 14.9L/100km, but on our drive the screen just said "Ha!" and we burned through a whole tank of fuel in less than 300km. 
Theoretical emissions are 340g/km of CO2.

Driving

Mercedes-Benz S-Class8/10

Let's start with the S560. That smooth V8 rumble is all you'll ever hear if you just slot into drive and go for a leisurely spin. The nine-speed automatic continues to be a revelation to me - in the GLC63 it's good and here, once again, it's excellent, finding the right gear for the occasion and riding the fat torque curve. Other nine-speed autos are not very good at all.

The test route for the S560 played to the strengths of the car. It had some lovely winding roads, which brought the trick suspension into focus - the Magic Body Control with curve function is hilarious. While the active suspension works hard at all times to ensure the ride is smooth and drama free, the Curve mode (no, really) actually leans the car into corners.

Those of you who remember the video game Wipeout 2097 will be big fans of Curve mode. As you approach a corner, you turn the wheel and then the car leans into the bend. This isn't active damping reading the road, it's the outside suspension lifting the car and the inside lowering it, so the car feels like it's gliding, like a hovercar. It's wild but oddly calming. Mercedes reckons it's great for those who get car sick. As I didn't have my wife on hand to test this theory - she chucks at the first sign of a corner - I couldn't verify this claim. That will have to wait.

The S63 AMG is a completely different proposition. The air suspension is more than up to the job of helping smother the effects of the car's considerable weight, meaning that no matter what you're up to, the car feels reasonably light on its feet. It never feels small, though, commanding the respect of the driver and plenty of space from other road users.

And boy, do you need some space if you kick the S63 into Sport mode. In true AMG style, the electronic reins relax and the big luxury coupe cheerfully kicks off. The tail will wriggle under an unsympathetic right foot, that signature V8 roar, crackle and hiss filling your ears. The S63 is always the harder-feeling car, but it delivers with a more sporting drive than the S560.

Being the generous soul I am, I volunteered to return the S63 to its home for the evening rather than consign it to the back of a truck. On the back roads I took to reach the highway, it was rock solid - fast, predictable and a lot of fun. Once I found the boring straight bits, it turned into a supremely comfortable cruiser, ticking along in ninth at the legal limit (and being Melbourne, it was very much the legal limit), dispatching overtaking with barely a flex of a toe. 

The active cruise took the stress of keeping away from the State Revenue Office's clutches while being quiet and utterly pleasant.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST8/10

Insane. It’s a word that people often lift from their lexicon when describing a supercar experience, because clearly, as forms of transport, things like Ferraris and Lamborghinis are not sane options.

But the Superfast really deserves the word, because it feels not only the opposite of sane, but truly bonkers. As if someone built it for a dare, realised it was a bad and possibly dangerous idea, and then put it on sale anyway.

Picture some tiny-handed child with his greasy, post-cheeseburger fingers poised over a big red button on his desk that could wipe out humanity, and that’s basically the situation your right leg finds itself in when driving the Superfast.

There is so much power on tap here - even the limited amount of it that the engineers allow you to access in lower gears - that it truly seems possible you’ll have a Road Runner moment, and simply dig a hole in the ground, if you push the throttle too hard.

Yes, on the one hand, the noises this extreme V12 makes above 5000rpm are memorable and moving, like Satan himself singing Nessun Dorma in a shower of sparks. At one stage we found a long tunnel, perhaps the only dry road within 500km that day, and my colleague forgot all about his licence and let rip.

The numbers on my 'Passenger Screen' spun like poker-machine wheels, then turned red and then implausible. I was shoved back into my seat as if by Thor himself, and I squealed like a small pig, but my co-driver heard nothing over the Monaco tunnel during F1 sound.

Even on dry road, of course, the winter tyres we were forced (by law) to run in the foul snowy conditions could not maintain grip, and we constantly felt the rear skipping sideways. Fortunately we were in Italy, so people simply cheered us on.

The likelihood that you will lose traction in this car is so high that the boffins have included a special feature in its new 'Electronic Power Steering' system called 'Ferrari Power Oversteer'. When you inevitably start going sideways, the steering wheel will apply subtle torque to your hands, 'suggesting' the best way to get the car back in a straight line.

A proud engineer told me that this is basically like having a Ferrari test driver in the car with you, telling you what to do, and that they used their skills to calibrate the system. You can override it, of course, but it sounds scarily like an autonomous-driving precursor to me.

What’s disappointing about this car having EPS at all, rather than a traditional hydraulic system, is that it just doesn’t feel muscular enough for a hairy-handed monster of a car like this.

It is accurate and precise and pointy, of course, and makes driving the Superfast, even in stupidly slippery conditions, almost easy. Almost.

It’s actually surprising how hard you can push a car like this along a windy and wet mountain road without careering off into a muddy field.

More time, and more traction, would have been appreciated, but you can tell it’s the sort of car you’d grow into, and perhaps even feel in control of, after a decade or so together.

So it’s good, yes, and very fast, obviously, but I can’t get past the idea that it’s all a bit unnecessary, and that a 488 GTB is simply, in every single way, a better car.

But as a statement, or a collector’s item, the Ferrari 812 Superfast certainly is one for the history books.

Safety

Mercedes-Benz S-Class8/10

The S-Class coupe comes loaded with eight airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward and reverse AEB with pedestrian detection, reversing camera, crosswind assist (I know, right?), traffic-sign recognition and reverse cross traffic alert.

The S-Class Coupe does not have an ANCAP or EuroNCAP rating.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST7/10

It might not surprise you to hear that, unlike every other company’s press kits, the Ferrari ones don’t generally include a section on 'safety'. Perhaps because driving something this powerful is inherently unsafe, or possibly because they believe their 'E-Diff 3', 'SCM -E' (magnetorheological suspension control with dual-coil system), 'F1-Traction Control', ESC and so forth will keep you on the road no matter what. 

If you do fly off, you’ll have four airbags, and a nose as big as a house forming a crumple zone, to protect you.

Ownership

Mercedes-Benz S-Class7/10

Mercedes offers a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with roadside assist for the duration.

The company also offers both service plans (where you pay up-front as part of the vehicle purchase) and capped-price servicing on the coupes. Servicing over three years is in the order $2500.


Ferrari 812 SUPERFAST8/10

Once you’ve paid the vast cost of entry, it’s nice to know you will get some stuff for free, like your first seven years of servicing, including all parts and labour, carried out by trained Ferrari technicians, who even dress like pit crew. It’s called 'Genuine Maintenance', and is genuinely Kia-challenging in its scope.