Back in the good old days, when the Prime Minister was called John and England was genuinely terrible at cricket, the gentleman who wanted genuine comfort and pace clad in a two-door body-style could choose from an extensive list of one vehicle – the Mercedes S-Class Coupé. This had been the case for the majority of the previous decade too: the gracious W126 coupé having dominated the marketplace when Bobby Ewing rocked big hair.
Unprecedented expansion of the luxury marketplace over the past decade saw the big Merc Coupé’s unchallenged position not only diminished, but in large parts of the world, decimated. Where it was once in a class of one, suddenly pretty much every über-brand could offer something as fast, as commodious and as expensive. I’ll stop short of saying they were better, or that they were more comfortable or, in the face of the monstrous S65 Coupé, any faster. But they had exotic badges and somehow a two-door S-Class, however pretty, just didn’t seem enough to lure people away from a Bentley dealership.
In fact the S-Class coupé had completely slipped my mind until last spring, and then Mercedes whipped the covers off the latest one, revealing a long, low, truly beautiful and graceful shape. It reminded me of the raw importance of design and styling – immediately Mercedes was offering a reason not to buy a Continental GT.
Driving the new Coupé in S63 form does nothing but cement that opinion. At times it doesn’t feel like it belongs to the genus motorcar because it does things so differently to anything similar in the marketplace. From the moment you open that huge door, fall into the soft-faced chair and peer at the two computer screens ahead of you it all seems more EADS than Mercedes-Benz. Play for a few minutes and you’ll have a sound driving position and then having nipped into Drive, you experience the most compelling sense of silent thrust since, well – I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever driven anything with such a combination of sheer speed and silence.
It’s quite bizarre: being an AMG there’s some exhaust woofle, but the cabin isolation from suspension and especially wind noise makes a Bentley Conti GT seem like it’s sporting a roof-rack.
And then there’s the ride comfort – real, cosseting, was-that-really-a-pot-hole? suppression. Admittedly the test car was on winter tyres which probably help a bit, but really, this car offers a blend of speed and comfort that sets entirely new standards in the class. I loved my FF, but it couldn’t hope to match this on any sensible measurement of comfort.
It’s terribly fast too. Not FF quick, but with 663lb ft of torque, even a 2070kg kerb weight doesn’t really matter. Top speed is limited to 186mph and it’ll hit 62mph in 4.2sec. If you want to travel quickly, the 585hp S63 is more than adequate.
It is dripping with technology too – Mercedes has a habit of using its biggest Coupé as a clinic for what’s coming next, and the biggest-name toy here is a chassis system that doesn’t simply adjust the loaded side of the car for flatter cornering, but actively tilts it into to turn. It is one of the most bizarre sensations available in a road car, and there’s no denying that it lends this leviathan an agility quite beyond that suggested by its vital statistics.
But I found myself feeling slightly awkward hustling the big-S: be in no doubt it can do it, the car just feels way more at home on wider carriageways. It’s more a case of social responsibility: an S63 on its door handles must look slightly alarming to other road users. Especially if it’s leaning into a corner. Given its comfort credentials, you’ll understand why I’m not too worried about none of the control surfaces offering much in the way of communication. Aim, deploy; smirk. That’s all you need do.
This is a stunningly finished vehicle too. It came with an optional Designio brown leather interior – the hide was of superb quality and whereas its predecessor shared large areas of trim and switchgear with lesser models, this feels like it belongs to a separate brand. The other change in philosophy is in the available rear-seat space – there isn’t much any more. Customer clinics suggested that the rear seats were mostly used to deposit recently garnered swag from the Dubai Mall, so they’ve made the car a little more compact and more a vast 2+2. This was probably the correct call.
The irony of replacing two slow-selling models, at least in European markets, is that the S63 now stands as a more exclusive offering against the hoards of Bentleys and suchlike. Its dynamics set new standards, to my eyes it has real presence and it will likely remain a very rare sight on UK roads. It is the best, and perhaps more importantly, the most desirable car of its type by some margin. An unexpected pleasure.