New engines, but still buttery smooth
The engineering behind the S-Class has always been focused on helping its occupants relax, and it also gets an upgrade for 2018. The S-Class launches in two models: S560 4Matic and AMG S63 4Matic+. Both versions feature new engines and the S63 also benefits from a new transmission and a new all-wheel-drive system. The suspensions of both models carry over mostly unchanged but with one new feature.
Both models are powered by a 4.0-liter V-8 with twin turbos located in the "hot inside V" between the cylinders. This location creates a compact engine design, a short path for the airflow, and therefore quick turbo response.
In the S560, the 4.0 replaces a twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V-8 that made 449 horsepower. The smaller engine makes 20 more horsepower for a total of 469 while delivering the same 516 pound-feet of torque.
2018 Mercedes-AMG S63Enlarge Photo
2018 Mercedes-AMG S63 4Matic+ 4.0-liter V-8Enlarge Photo
2018 Mercedes-AMG S63 4Matic+ 9-speed automatic transmissionEnlarge Photo
The version in the S63 turns up the volume considerably, blasting out 603 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque, besting the 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8 in the outgoing S63 by 26 horses. Both versions shut down four cylinders under light loads to save fuel (in the case of the S63, that's like throwing a few chairs off the deck of cruise ship).
The S63’s new transmission is a 9-speed automatic instead of a 7-speed and instead of a torque converter it uses a wet-starter clutch that saves weight and improves response to throttle inputs. The new 4Matic+ AWD system can vary torque front to rear continuously and send all of the power to either axle, depending on the need. When the road gets slippery, power can go to all four wheels, but rear-drive is the default.
How do these new goodies work on the road? Like a good chauffeur would want. The 9-speed automatic and 4.0-liter V-8 propel the S560 with a quiet dignity. It doesn't start with a jolt or suffer from shift shock between gears, even in Sport mode. An all-out foot to the floor run will yield a 4.8-second 0 to 60 mph time, but it'll be the most reserved sprint you'll ever feel. The engine emits a restrained growl when floored, but is muted the rest of the time.
The S63 is markedly bolder, with so much power on tap that it can get carried away with itself and send occupants heads into the soft head restraints while it barks a louder tune. It’s easy to drive this car smoothly, but opt for the additional Sport+ mode, or even choose the Race start, mash the throttle, and the car takes off like a shot, accelerating to 60 mph in a Russian mobster-approved 3.5 seconds.