Johannesburg - There is an economy button in the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, but it is as pointless as painting the barrel of a machine gun pink, or adorning it with flowers.
No matter what you do – short of being an illusionist like David Copperfield – will get you anywhere near Merc’s claimed combined average fuel consumption of 10.1 litres/100km.
Even if you tipped it down a mineshaft, I could see the brute 430kW 5.5 litre twin-turbo motor loudly bursting into life and trying to attach itself to the walls as it hurtles down… and using around 15 litres/100km in the process.
Try as I might (and I am light-footed, even in performance cars) I seemed to get around that, in a mix of city and highway travel.
Yet, and this is the sad reality of our Gini Co-efficient-shaped world, fuel consumption would also be a glorious irrelevance for whoever stumped up R2.2 million (including just over R12 000 in CO2 tax for Pravin Gordhan) for what is one incredibly quick saloon car.
The S63 AMG will hit 100km/h in well under five seconds, even at our Highveld altitudes. That power will blow most supercars into the weeds. Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h… because the Germans all agreed some time ago that 250km/h was all one could possibly ever need.
But Mercedes-Benz and its AMG performance arm have done what should be impossible: they’ve created something which blends limo and sports car. And, arguably, this is the best car in the world at the moment.
The S63 AMG is the top of the recently launched S Class and all the models have comprehensively raised the bar in the top saloon segment of the market. That’s not just me saying that… it’s the opinion of motoring journalists from around the world. BMW’s Seven Series and Audi’s A8 are now looking second class.
The top range Merc has myriad electronic systems to take care of safety, comfort and entertainment (oh, and economy, if that really matters to you…).
But the star of the show is the electronic brain which helps eliminate bumps and potholes. Available as standard on the S63, this system uses stereoscopic cameras, sensors and fast-reacting air suspension components to see a bump in the road ahead and react so that the body position of the car remains the same, regardless of what the suspension is doing.
It is quite uncanny to ride over a speed bump, without significantly reducing speed and carry on without a movement of the bonnet.
However, the other safety systems are the best available on any car and range from warnings about deviating from your lane, to protection and avoidance of pedestrians, to safety systems which deploy when an accident is unavoidable.
There is an infrared night sight system, too.
Yet, as with all elegant design, that is something in the background ... like a good butler, there precisely when it is needed.
It goes without saying that the S Class is a limo – the ride isolates you almost perfectly from road imperfections and outside noise and pollutants, even in the more overtly sporty S63 AMG.
Surprisingly, the big Benz is nimble on its feet and handles like a sports saloon should. At the same time, it does not feel, from behind the steering wheel, as big as it actually is. And that is testament to great design.
This car is amazing in so many ways… yet I would probably opt for the smaller-engined (but just as luxurious) diesels or less powerful petrol engines. That’s because they have more than enough ability and the S63 AMG smacks a bit of overkill.
I must admit I am not a fan of huge cars, capable as they may be. I prefer something smaller. So, I would look at the Merc CLA or wait for the C Class, which is about to hit our streets.
It looks like a baby S Class and still has Big Brother’s Wow! factor. -Saturday Star
Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG
Engine: 5.5-litre V8, twin-turbo petrol
Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic
Power: 430kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 900Nm @ 2250 - 3750rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 4.4 seconds
Top Speed (claimed): 250km/h
If you get less than 18 litres per 100km in the city, you’re driving like a granny. On the open road, cruising at 120km/h, that might approach 11 l/100km. Nowhere near what Merc claims but it’s in the ball park for the performance on tap. And, if you buy a car like this, economy is not an issue.
BMW 760 Li (400kW/750Nm) - R1 949 276
Jaguar XJR (405kW/680Nm) - R1 905 990
Maserati Quattroporte GTS (390kW/710Nm) - R2 244 000
Porsche Panamera Turbo S (419kW/800Nm) - R2 591 000