2018 Mercedes-AMG S65 First Review
Man, I need to win the lottery. That's about the only way I can see swinging the $241,295 as-tested price of this new 2018 Mercedes-AMG S65. Granted, $60,000 more than the average price of a new house in the U.S is a hell of a lot of money to spend on a car. But if I had the money, I'd buy the hell out of this.
With its price tag, Mercedes-AMG went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that it gives you virtually nothing to complain about. Note I said "virtually nothing." There's no heated steering wheel, which seems like an odd omission in a quarter-million-dollar sedan. Despite its size and five seatbelts, it's really a four-passenger vehicle, although those four people are living large. The 621-horsepower twin-turbo V12 engine is also thirsty, averaging about 15 mpg during its stay with us. It's also a ticket magnet, simply because it's so serene at speed that you'll invite unwanted attention from a variety of black and white Fords, leaving you at the mercy of the thin blue line.
Power and serenity
OK, so I've complained, and now I'll gush a bit to balance it all out. That big V12 puts out 738 lb-ft of torque, launching this 5,000-pound sedan from a standstill to 60 mph in about 4 seconds. Top speed is limited to "just" 155 mph, but without that artificial restriction the S65 would handily exceed that. Not that the car does much to make you aware of that. It's exceedingly quiet inside the AMG S65 at all times, and even at high speeds there's only a whisper of wind, the burble of exhaust, and a distant hum of the massive tires on the ground. No wonder Germans view cars like these as an alternative to flying.
Mercedes-AMG packed the interior of the S65 with all the luxury and technology you'd expect, and then exceeded those expectations and ventured into the land of absurd. You can control the ambient lighting through presets or, if you have the patience, your own color combination. You can do that in a Mustang, but the S65 lets you choose two colors and then fade them back and forth like a moody European nightclub. The Air Balance fragrance system squirts a bit of aromatherapy your way every now and then, and you can switch out the fragrance bottle for different experiences. If it's not made of metal, wood, or high-grade plastic, it's covered in Nappa leather inside. The lone exception is the shiny and hard triangular plastic housing on the A-pillar that holds the exceedingly cool telescoping tweeters; it feels like something you'd find in a 15-year-old Kia. The Burmester audio system, by the way, sounds incredible at volumes from barely-audible to eardrum-shattering.
Curve tilt suspension
Yet the S65's coolest trick is one you feel, not see. The suspension benefits from Mercedes-Benz Magic Body Control, a silly name for groundbreaking technology that scans the road surface, and then instantaneously adjusts suspension firmness. You'll watch lesser cars bounce over bumps that the S65 simply absorbs, the body controlled in a way that borders on magi...uh, voodoo or something. But there's more to it, in the form of the car's curve-tilt function. Select this in the drive mode--or program it into your Individual setting--and the S65 leans into the corner by a couple degrees, like a motorcycle. Mercedes says the idea isn't to increase cornering speed, but to increase comfort by simulating the feel of a banked corner.
The upshot is that when active, curve-tilt virtually shrinks the car, giving it a measure of agility and nimbleness that's astonishing for something this big and luxurious. To drive the S65 with the curve-tilt function on makes it feel like a C-Class. It's so good, in fact, that it renders the Sport and Sport+ modes obsolete, at least for me. The one downside is that when going in a straight line, the car occasionally has a very slight side-to-side motion, as if the system were deciding for and against tilting the body. That's easily solved though; just switch back to Comfort.
Granted, a lot of that technology is available on the standard Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which manages to still be expensive while costing half as much as this car. But you won't get the hand-built and signed V12 engine--nicely done, Mikail Ozbay--the cachet and performance that comes with the AMG badge, or any of the other less tangible qualities that come with owning a quarter-million-dollar car. Is it worth it? We'll leave that to you to decide. As for me, let's just hope 5, 17, 25, 29, 34, and 41 work out.