2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class first drive review: driving the most- and least-expensive models


The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is widely recognized as one of the most luxurious full-size cars on the market, and with that luxury comes an exclusive price. But there is luxury and then there is luxury and there is exclusive and then there is exclusive.

We already reviewed the 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and declared it a relaxation chamber.

That drive, which took place in Switzerland and Germany a couple months ago, featured the volume model, the S560 4Matic, and the high-performance S63 4Matic+. This week I got the chance to test out three additional models that nicely round out the product range, two more ultra-luxurious choices that top the range, and the car at the very bottom of the lineup. Let's take a look at each.

2018 Mercedes-AMG S65

2018 Mercedes-AMG S65

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2018 Mercedes-AMG S65

2018 Mercedes-AMG S65

Enlarge Photo
2018 Mercedes-AMG S65

2018 Mercedes-AMG S65

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2018 Mercedes-AMG S65

Sometimes eight cylinders just aren’t enough. Some buyers want to check every box, and the Mercedes-AMG S65 is the car for them, even with its $230,495 starting price. It comes with a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-12 that churns out 621 horsepower from 4,800 to 5,800 rpm and 738 pound-feet of torque from 2,300 to 4,300 rpm.

Despite all that power, the S65 is not the fastest car in the S-Class lineup. Offered only with rear-wheel drive, it just can’t put the power down like the all-wheel-drive S63, and therefore its 4.1-second 0-60 mph time takes a backseat to the S63’s 3.4-second 0-60 blast. Both cars, however, top out at an electronically limited 186 mph.

But off-the-line sprints are not the only way to judge an engine. The V-12 is the embodiment of effortless power. It is the smoothest engine in a lineup full of smooth engines, and it feels like a big ol’ jet airliner upon takeoff when accelerating. Mercedes usually reigns in all those cylinders, keeping them to a reserved purr in all but the hardest acceleration.

Opt for the Sport Plus mode, though, and the exhaust note perks up, announcing its refined rumble more vociferously and letting out some burbles, snaps, and pops upon deceleration. The sound isn’t as boy racer as you get with other AMGs. It’s more mature and commanding.

2018 Mercedes-AMG S65

2018 Mercedes-AMG S65

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The V-12 adds about 400 pounds to the front end, and the S65 also doesn’t offer the S63’s air suspension. Both of these considerations mean it can’t handle like the S63. The S63 has a quicker acting air suspension while the S65 has Mercedes’ Magic Body Control hydraulic suspension. It’s more comfort oriented than the S63’s setup, and it has some cool elements of its own.

The hydraulic suspension allows the S65 to tilt the car inward 2.65 degrees in a turn. This counteracts the effects of g forces in the turn for passengers, creating a more comfortable driving experience. It isn’t meant to make the car go faster through the turn, though that may be a side benefit.

Magic Body Control also reads the road ahead with a stereo camera behind the windshield and readies the suspension for bumps and potholes, letting the car glide over them like they weren’t even there. Again, this is quite luxurious.

The other features that make the S65 stand out are on the outside. It gets the same grille as the S63, but its exterior details are chromed, and its wheels are alloys polished to a high gloss. The most important elements of the exterior design? The S65 and Biturbo V12 badges. They show you have arrived, even before you get in the car.


 
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