2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
The grille is more prominent than before, a shape that is integral to the entire design. Headlamps are bold, bright and beautiful. The side profile is sweeping with curves and subtle design surfaces. This leads to a rear end that integrates the best of what Daimler AG has had to offer.
The model we drove is the S63 AMG. AMGs usually arrive with aggressive details, including grille textures and performance items. However, if you did not pay attention to the badges and the twenty-inch black alloy wheels, you might think it looks like any other S-Class. True, but that is what attracts us to the S-Class in the first place: The luxury and presence of the car regardless of what is under the hood.
The S-Class also has one of the most advanced interiors ever created for a Mercedes-Benz. For North America, we get a long wheelbase that offers up a spacious cabin both front and back. If the space is not enough, settle into the sports-contoured seats inside the AMG model. There are plenty of adjustments to work through from the door controls to the COMAND screen. Front occupants also get the option of several massage settings, including a hot-stone treatment.
Rear passengers are treated to the same sports seating, with a few differences. These seats have power adjustments available from each door, including a recline feature. There is a folding center armrest with storage and dual cup holders. Back-seat passengers also get their own skylight and power-operated shades for the rear and door windows for the ultimate in privacy.
The instrument panel is a complete break from previous versions. With two wide screens across the top, circular vents and an IWC Schaffhausen analog timepiece, there is a mix of old and new amid the detailing around these features. The screens offer many options for set-up. The instrumentation screen in front of the driver provides excellent readouts for all vehicle functions, trip information and a night-vision screen in between the speedometer and tachometer.
Toward the center of the car is the COMAND screen. From the large dial on the console, drivers have control of the audio system, navigation, Bluetooth-connected mobile devices and other vehicle functions.
Settle into the S63, and drive it for a bit. It feels smooth, elegant and poised. Surprisingly, there is a hand-built, 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 under that hood. The buttery-smooth AMG engine actually puts out 577 horsepower. Power is sent through a seven-speed multi-clutch gearbox—called AMG Speedshift—that includes an ECO setting, along with a Sport mode to make full use of those 577 horses. The final drive is through Mercedes-Benz’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.
The ride and handling mix is exceptional. The ride is not too firm or soft—just absolutely perfect. You go through the curves flat—no lean or roll present. One could switch the suspension set-up from Comfort to Sport for a firmer driving experience. You will find the S63 as taut, lithe and poised even at the firmer setting.
Being a big car, another huge surprise is the steering system. The on-center feel is excellent, with the right amount of weight on the turns. Though the turning radius is a bit on the big side, the feel through these maneuvers is superb.
Fuel economy is on the downside. The S63 averaged 17 miles per gallon.
If you are exploring the S-Class, your starting point is the S550 with its 449-horsepower twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V-8. The S550 starts off at $93,325. If the S63 AMG tickles your fancy, be prepared to spend a lot of money. The sticker on our S63 tester came out to $163,835. New for 2015 is a pair of V-12 models, the S600 and the S65 AMG, the latter putting out 621 horsepower.
—Randy Stern, automotive freelance writer