FOR as long as there have been sumptuous S-Class Mercedes-Benzes, there have been S-Class coupes.
Over the decades the model name may have changed – from CL-Class, it reverts to S-Class Coupe for the new W222 generation – but the tradition of an opulent two-door, four-seat, upper-crust coupe is fundamental to Mercedes’ presence in the ultra-high end segment.
And nothing BMW or Audi offers comes close. The S63 Coupe’s natural rivals really emanate from Bentley, Aston Martin and Maserati. Probably even the Ferrari FF.
None, however, match the Mercedes’ peerless blend of refinement and lavish four-passenger comfort, combined with agility, crushing performance and a ride/handling combination that makes this the most desirable of all S-Class variants.
Flowing confidently from limousine standards of luxury to belting sports car, without compromising either personality, the Grand Turismo just took one quantum step into the future.
The S63 Coupe is lighter than the CL63 it replaces, thanks to a steel-aluminium body, a lithium-ion battery, a lightweight brake system and, especially, lighter wheels.
The Coupe sits on a 2945mm wheelbase, 90mm shorter than the sedan, is 58mm lower and 89mm shorter, but weighs a hefty 1995kg. Still a massive size, then.
Most people love the swoopy styling, with two crease lines peeling back from around the front wheel arch in convex and concave conflict that seems to work. It’s laden with chrome, clearly intended to appeal to Americans and Chinese buyers who will make up a large percentage of the customers.
I’d like 10percent bigger glass all round, especially for the rear window, to improve visibility to the rear, and for back-seat passengers. The ratio of shallow glasshouse to deep side flanks works for stylists in creating an exaggerated, super-sleek shape, but surely goes too far in practical terms.
In the name of style, boot capacity is reduced from 490 litres to 400 litres. Still, it’s great to see Mercedes persisting with a B-pillarless design that suggests a cabriolet is not far away.
The Coupe drives like the sedan, only better. The difference in agility is profound. It rides 10mm lower, with greater negative camber at the front, wider tracks and quicker steering rack, while the air suspension uses firmer settings.
Steering offers more feedback and weighting and feels quicker and more precise around the straight ahead (2.4 turns lock to lock).
For a car of this size and weight, the handling is brilliant. Its brake-based torque vectoring means it changes direction superbly, the air suspension minimising squat, dive and roll.
The wheel itself is a superb new three-spoke flat-bottom design in place of the sedan’s weird two-spoke item.
The two-stage exhaust is quiet, but under full throttle the V8 rumble pierces the otherwise silent cockpit. The engineers claim this is the quietest Mercedes ever. I believe them.
The S63 Coupe can be ordered with four-wheel drive in left-hand-drive markets, but in terms of steering precision and handling balance, the rear-driver is preferable, only losing out when driving on a slippery surface.
Expensive rubber – 255/55R-19 up front and 285/40R-19 in the rear – normally ensures plenty of grip.
The seven-speed AMG Speedshift MCT transmission (with a wet starting clutch instead of a torque converter) is quick to shift and responsive to small throttle inputs. Only at parking speeds does it hesitate.
Even the Coupe lacks launch control, a strange omission given that this only involves programming and not hardware.
Thanks to the fearsome M157 5.5-litre twin-turbo V-8, there’s plenty of thrust. To be precise, 430kW at 5500rpm and a near monstrous 900Nm from just 2250rpm. Monstrous in terms of performance, yet smooth and responsive, so never intimidating.
That’s the S63’s secret ingredient. No car in memory better delivers both brutal performance and precise driving manners, combined so fluently with refinement and true luxurious comfort.
Model: Mercedes-Benz S63 Coupe
Engine: 5461cc V8, dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Max power: 430kW @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 900Nm @ 2250-3750rpm
Transmission: 7-speed auto
Kerb weight: 1995kg
Price: $430,000 (est)
On sale: December