More than a year ago I walked around the S-Class Coupé on Mercedes-Benz’s massive stand at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Back then we already knew that it would be heading for production, taking on the likes of Bentley’s Continental GT and Maserati’s GranTurismo.
The concept illustrated that the Coupé would have a different identity to that of the S-Class grand saloon – and so it should; it will be the company’s most luxurious and advanced car to date. The S-Class is, in many ways, focused on its rear passengers and the Coupé needs to swap that around to involve its driver rather than other occupants.
Behind the wheel
Replacing the CL, the Coupé is shorter, lower and even narrower than its predecessor. Although loaded with technology, the new Coupé is approximately 65 kg lighter. Make no mistake, at just over two-tonnes it is no lightweight, but Mercedes-Benz couldn’t have selected more challenging roads on which to launch this car.
The twisty and narrow roads of Tuscany might be better suited to a Mini or a Ford Fiesta ST, but we actually couldn’t have asked for better roads to use the first few gears of the seven-speed transmission and the monstrous 430 kW and 900 N.m.
You start off by using most of the available torque, which means you rarely feel the need to push past 3 000 to 4 000 r/min. The S63 AMG Coupé takes this sixth to seven tenths driving in its stride. Switch the drivetrain and suspension settings to Sport, and suddenly the suspension firms up a little, the transmission drops a few cogs and the exhaust soundtrack livens up. Pass the 4 000 r/min mark and this heavyweight is hurled towards the horizon at speeds that a SLS AMG owner might not believe. It is that fast.
As you brake before a corner the transmission kicks down gear (or two) and the burbling exhaust note, which complements every downchange, adds further enthusiasm to your throttle input as you press the loud pedal down as you exit a bend. The S63 AMG Coupé feels – expectedly – sportier than the sedan.
After a couple of hundred kilometres I’m amazed at how nimble, yet composed, this Coupé feels through some of the tightest corners Europe has to offer. Benz’s newcomer is actually not meant to be driven and explored in such a manner, but rather used to relax and cruise over long distances. Make no mistake, that it will do all day long without missing a beat and, all the while, cocooning its occupants it top-class comfort.
There is more to the Coupé than simply being a two-door S-Class. The body, front to rear, is significantly different to that of the sedan. Open the long door and the interior is immediately pure S-Class, but several parts, such as the dashboard design, is different compared with the sedan. The touchpad that we’ve recently encountered on the C-Class has also found its way into the Coupé .
The number of technologies and safety features is enough to make your head spin. However, Mercedes-Benz put a major emphasis on its new curve-tilting function which debuts on the Coupé.
In simple terms, if you go through a left bend (for example) between 15 and 180 km/h, the inside front and rear suspension will contract, lowering the car in the process, while the suspension on the outer sides will lift the car. The aim is not for the car to go faster through corners, but to decrease the lateral forces on the passengers.
It is one of those technologies that function in the background and is at times hard to detect as the seats can offer additional lateral support through the bolsters that inflate when you drive through a corner.
The curve tilting function is activated by pressing the ABC (active body control) suspension button. But, although it’s a nifty technology, there is little use for it. The car already soaks up the road perfectly, which means you either choose the comfort setting and, if you feel a little naughty, the subtle sport setting which allows better body control. Somehow I think this technology shows what Mercedes-Benz is capable of, but slightly superfluous.
We knew it would be loaded with technology and no slouch – the automotive version of Germany’s ICE high-speed trains. I didn’t expect it to be so composed and sporty. It hides its weight better than expected, but switch all the settings to comfort and its offers a relaxing driving experience quite unlike that of any other car that’s currently available at this price – or even more.
The S-Class Coupé, both the S63 AMG and S65 AMG (R3 087 014), have just been launched in South Africa. Due to production delays, the S500 version (R1 921 619) will reach our shores only at the middle of the year. See the March issue of CAR for a full road test of the S63 AMG.