"I was no longer a responsible, 50-year-old automotive writer/editor/photographer with a mature outlook on the subject. I was 30 again."
These are not exactly the words you want to read if you are considering a Mercedes-Benz. Moreover, would you consider reverse aging if you were in the market for a $165,000, 577-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V8 flagship sedan?
It was an absurd thought that came over me when I drove the black 2014 Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG sedan at the Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally last month at Road America. The absurdity came when I had to decide whether to be a working member of the media corps or revert to being a being a kid in the candy store.
However, there were holes in my automotive experience. For someone who loved Mercedes-Benzes during my puberty, how could I not had a chance behind its brightest, most technological and highest valued product in its lineup?
The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class already set the tone for $100,000-plus luxury, with its new technology and high levels of opulence for the well-heeled consumer. At first, I thought the W222 was an exercise in overkill. An initial touch-feel-fitting of a S 550 almost proved my initial reaction, but was I missing the point?
While I drove the Lexus LS 460 and Hyundai Equus since last fall, I considered the S-Class maybe a bit out of reach for evaluation. These two were fine – under $100,000 for flagship sedans that rival the S-Class. Yet, in the back of my mind – these were fine, but they are not the S-Class.
That was why I found myself driving the S 63 AMG in the countryside.
Consider what I drove. I had a 577-horsepower 5.5liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine, 4MATIC all-wheel drive, all of the optional packages you might want to have – predominantly, the extensive Driver Assistance Package full of the latest active safety features from Daimler AG. Top it off with a slew of AMG badges, a black-on-black-on-black-with-some-chrome color scheme, and a set of menacing twenty-inch forged alloy wheels. It was huge, comfortable, roomy, somewhat complicated with the gear selector on the column and the COMAND infotainment system on the console. Yet, I only had to change a station to truly experience the Burmester 3D surround sound system from its 13 speakers located everywhere inside the cabin.
It was not just a drive into the countryside around Road America with its twisty roads and changing elevations. This S 63 AMG 4MATIC was simply unleashed – and it only had to ask once. The S 63 went like stink, pounding massive grip to the road and kept an even keel through the curves. The only soundtrack that is worth listening to was not from the Burmester audio system, but the exhaust note from the AMG engine. That sound is pure rock-and-roll!
As for luxury, the S 63 offers a sports interior with more of the good stuff from mortal S-Class models – namely the S 550. The seats are supportive, but extremely luxurious at the same time. You certainly get all of the good things expected from an S-Class model, plus a few AMG touches here and there.
The driving experience is unparalleled. The ride was not taut, but supple. Handling was near flat and the grip is tremendous through the curves. You would rather not stop, but if you do – the brakes were superb.
This Q-ship is not as rare as you think. It does cost a pretty penny – $139,000 is the base price. This example I drove came with a sticker price of just over $165,000.
While I admired the greatness of the W116 S-Classes of my childhood/puberty, honored the arrival of the W126 towards the end of my high school years, passing up the chance to drive an S-Class for years was a self-inflicted wound driven by fear and other crazy thoughts saying "it won't happen." Why would I think as such? Perhaps the whole age reversal thing was a kernel of an outcome of driving one.
In truth, that reaction would not have happened if I drove the S 550. This is why you sell cars with the AMG badge. It is to tell those of us with the money that you found the fountain of youth. The S 63 will, in the words of Lionel Ritchie, make "an old man wish for younger days."