Mercedes-Benz S-Class VS Mercedes-Benz E63
- Fantastic V8 engine
- Brilliant interior
- Jekyll/Hyde chassis
- Very heavy
- Service costs
- Incredible performance, easily accessed
- Amazing duality between performance and luxury
- Relatively subtle looks for battling tall-poppy haters
- No wagon version for Australia
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.
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The faster you go, the less comfortable things become. Any race car will prove this theory, and the current C 63 S AMG also backs it up with its, shall we say, 'performance-focused' package.
As you’d expect, its mighty E 63 S bigger brother is faster again. But surely it can’t afford to be less comfy than its C-Class sibling, particularly when it adds more than $80k to the sticker price and typically appeals to a more mature audience.
And sure enough, it isn’t, but rather than simply becoming the larger equivalent of the C 63 S, the new fastest E-Class somehow has enough bandwidth to satisfy expectations of three-pointed-star luxury and boast more performance than any four-door AMG ever.
Oh, and it’s also all-wheel drive (AWD) for the first time in Australia. None of this seems to add up, so how have they done it?
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
The new E 63 S is proof that you can be supercar quick without having to feel like you’re in a racecar all the time.
It’s hard to find a single thing wrong with it once you’re past the near-quarter of a million dollar asking price, but even that’s more than 10 grand cheaper than before.
The only thing I’d like to see is the wagon version in Australia, but not enough us want to buy one.
In my opinion, it’s the best four-door AMG you can buy, and the new M5 will have to be pretty amazing to topple it.
Would you be happy to park an E 63 S in your garage, or would you wait to see how good the new M5 is? Tell us what you think in the comments below
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.
Like the C 63 S, the easiest way to pick the E 63 S is by its bespoke front air dam, pumped front guards and the AMG-characteristic double-bulge bonnet. To the uneducated, it looks little more than an AMG-kitted lesser model, but is smartly distinguished from the regular body treatment.
No doubt a lot of $200k-plus performance sedan buyers would prefer it this way, instead of a giant rear wing and a bunch of extraneous vents to underline its supercar-like capabilities.
The wheels are unique to the E 63 S, with the 20-inch cross-spoke forged design measuring 9.5 inches wide up front and a full 10 inches at the rear. That’s as wide as Brocky’s Group C Torana A9X racer by the way, yet they snugly fit within the standard rear wheel arches.
The interior isn’t too far removed from a regular E-Class either - which is already a pretty swish place to be - but gets grippy, hard-backed 'Performance' seats, Alcantara grip sections and a straight-ahead marker added to the AMG steering wheel, plus a smattering of AMG logos.
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.
No supercar will ever be as easy to live with as the E 63 S, with the passenger-car requisite two cupholders front and rear with bottle holders in each door, ample legroom and headroom for rear-seat passengers, and a 40/20/40 split-fold back seat leading to a cavernous 540-litre boot.
The E 63 S’s Performance front seats do lose their map pockets, though.
Price and features
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.
With a list price of $239,611, it’s more than 2.5 times the price of a base E200, but Mercedes boasts that it’s also more than $10,000 cheaper than the model it replaced in May 2017, with a lot more equipment fitted standard.
This still puts it $82,000 higher than a C 63 S sedan and $80,000 more than the quite-quick V6 E 43, and a full $30,000 more than the regular E 63 that joined the range in December.
Whether the E 63 S’s extra fruit is worth it is up to you, but Mercedes expects most E 63 buyers will opt for the S.
Its extensive list of standard kit helps to justify its ask somewhat, with the only concession for performance being the deletion of the PRE-SAFE Impulse Side system because of the more sculpted Performance seats.
Our E 63 S was also optioned with $4200 worth of designo Selenite Grey magno matte paint, and the ceramic composite brakes signified by the gold calipers add a further $9900.
Engine & trans
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.
The E 63 has also followed the C 63 in bucking the “no replacement for displacement” adage, dropping 1.5-litres over the model it replaced but gaining 20kW/50Nm for new totals of 450kW/850Nm.
This is thanks to an uprated version of the 4.0-litre twin turbo M177 V8, which is paired to a multi-plate clutch version of the excellent nine-speed auto for the first time.
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.
This area is unlikely to be a top priority if you’re shopping for a $240k V8 performance saloon, but the E 63 S’s 9.3L/100km official combined fuel figure should catch your eye if it is. We experienced 11.6L/100km on test, which is pretty amazing given how tempting that throttle pedal is.
Also helping to forgive this temptation is a bigger 80-litre fuel tank (20-litres more than the base E-Class) which promises a comfortable range between fills.
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.
Push the start button and the ensuing rumble will annoy your neighbours if you leave for work early. This has come to be an AMG V8 trademark, but even with the exhaust button’s ability to liberate a few more decibels, it’s still a smidge more discreet than the C 63 S.
Not all AMG exhausts are created equal you see, with the E 63 S’s particular flavour sitting somewhere between the C and the SL tune, based on my recent experience.
What you’re left with is still up there with the industry best, with the range of tunes from angry burble to pops and cackles on overrun setting the scene well for the E63 S drive experience.
Range is a key word when it comes to the E 63 S, with an incredible 0-100km/h claim of 3.4 seconds headlining the performance end of its personality. This is a full six tenths faster than the C 63 S sedan, and it feels every bit of it.
It’s difficult to articulate just how fast this is, but bear in mind Ferrari’s mid-noughties F1 racer for the road, the Enzo, carried a 3.6 second claim. The E 63 S is 0.2s faster than that!
The AMG’s full 850 Newton metres are available from just 2500rpm (to 4500 for the record), making any prod of the accelerator very effective.
The nine-speed auto doesn't fail to impress either, with fast and responsive shifts in the sportier drive modes, with none of the slow-speed lag or shunting and clunking you tend to get from some rivals' dual-clutch units.
Helping all those Newtons get to the ground is the fully active AWD system, which has been set up to preserve the AMG-characteristic tailiness with a 31:69 default torque split front to rear.
Controlling the apportioning of power side-to-side is an electronic rear-axle limited slip differential (as opposed to the regular E 63’s mechanical unit), and the net result will let the rear end hang loose just enough before the torque vectoring sends more power to the front to pull you back into line.
Unlike pretty much every AWD system this side of a ute, the E 63 S is able to send 100 per cent of its power to the rear wheels when ‘Drift Mode’ is engaged, with Race selected from the drive menu.
This also means deactivating the stability and traction control altogether, flicking the transmission to manual mode and pulling on the shift paddles, but in the interests of retaining employment and my general wellbeing, we’ll save Drift Mode for the race track.
Another claim we’ll have to leave purely theoretical is that the speed limiter has been relaxed by 50km/h to permit a full 300! This is a large four-door sedan, remember. How very German.
The abundance of aluminium in the W213 E-Class shell has led to a feeling of lightness that I feel detracts from the classic E-Class ‘bank vault’ sensation in the lesser models, but this actually works in the E 63 S’s favour.
At 1955kg, it’s a full 300kg heavier than the C 63 S sedan, but doesn’t really feel it. Granted, a lot of that weight would be down low, due to the AWD system, but it retains a general feeling of lightness and a willingness to change direction.
Also helping are bespoke front suspension architecture for a wider track and more hardcore geometry, a unique steering column, and the S also gets hydraulic engine mounts that tighten up to sharpen feel in the more aggressive drive modes.
Grip from the 265mm wide front tyres and 295mm rears is fantastic, but they will break away gently to give confidence when driving at the limit. This also makes a bit of tail wagging out of corners a lot less nerve-wracking.
The ceramic composite brakes fitted to our car also do an excellent job of reighning in all that performance quickly and consistently, and unlike a lot of similar setups they don’t squeal when cold.
Beyond this outstanding performance and driver appeal, the E 63 S’s trump card is its ability to return to regular E-Class luxury at the flick of a switch - back into Comfort mode.
The airbag suspension is arguably what is most responsible for this duality, but it’s also a sign of all the mechanical components being developed together to work in harmony, with such a spectrum of ability being targeted from the get-go. This is not an E-Class with AMG mods, this is an E-Class that’s been designed to be an AMG from the beginning.
Adding a “but wait, there’s more” edge to the E 63 S’s drive experience is the fact that like all versions of the new E-Class, the active safety systems work together to enable Drive Pilot semi-autonomous driving, which represents Level 2 autonomy.
This means you can drive down a motorway with only an occasional touch of the steering wheel as an input, and it will even change lanes if the indicators are activated. As amazing as they are, we recommend exercising great caution when using these features, however.
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.
Like all versions of the W213 E-Class, the E 63 S carries the maximum five-star ANCAP (tested 2016) and EuroNCAP safety ratings. A brilliantly integrated suite of active and passive safety features go well beyond its standard AEB, nine-airbag count, 360-degree parking cameras, rear cross-traffic alerts, and a pedestrian-protecting active bonnet.
The only slight compromise is the deletion of the PRE-SAFE Impulse Side system which moves the occupant away from a collision if a potential side impact is detected.
This is because of the E 63 S’s standard “Performance” front seats, but the system is restored if the less sculpted “sport seats” are optioned through the Active Comfort package.
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.
As with all Mercedes passenger cars, the E 63 S is covered by a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Service intervals are either 12 months or 20,000km and the first three services are capped at $736, $1472 and $1472 respectively.
This compares with $668/$1356/$1356 for the E 43, and 456/912/912 for a base E200, and the latter two models have 25,000km intervals.