Revised S63 Cabriolet adds performance to high-level refinement
Mercedes-AMG S63 Cabriolet 4Matic
Price: £141,000 (est)
Engine: 4.0-litre, V8, bi-turbo, petrol
Torque: 664lb ft
Gearbox: 9-spd automatic
Kerb weight: 2185kg
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 28.8mpg
CO2, tax band: 229g/km, 37%
Mercedes-AMG didn’t make many external styling changes to its 2014-model S63 Cabriolet in this 2017 update. Apparently, customers were more than happy with the S-Class Cabrio’s appearance, so most of the updating effort has gone into areas that are normally out of sight.
So, a 4.0-litre V8 bi-turbo engine replaces the 5.5-litre V8 and a nine-speed wet-clutch automatic gearbox comes in too, along with a bunch of high technology that’s just been added to the S-Class saloon.
Of course, ‘zero exterior changes’ would be unprecedented in any car update, and the new S63 Cabriolet is no exception to that rule. There are new side skirts, OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) tail-lights and a new AMG ‘panamericana’ grille and front apron with ‘jet wing’. That grille is there to distinguish this model from the two other S-Class Cabriolets, the entry-level S560 and the range-topping S65, which has the same grille but with a V-shaped cool air intake.
Mercedes hasn’t given any pricing details yet, but based on the old S63 cabriolet costing £135,675 and the coupé starting from £127,515, we reckon the new model should be in the region of £141,000. That’s Aston Martin DB11 and Bentley Continental GT money, so this is an interesting test of the S63 Cabriolet’s prestige rating.
The car we tested in Los Angeles had 4Matic four-wheel drive, the S63’s only option, except in the UK, where all models will just have rear-wheel drive.
We loved the outgoing S63 Cabriolet. AMG’s decision to broaden its appeal feels right from the first moment you get behind the wheel. The DB11 is great fun, but it’s much ‘cosier’ (or claustrophobic, depending on how you view these things) than the less sports car-like, more ultimate grand tourer-like S63.
Although at 2185kg it weighs over 400kg more than the Aston, you’re never lacking for grip around bends. The DB11 is wider, but 293mm shorter, and feels more compact and wieldy in the same sort of bends, but its market is rather more focused. Anyone can get into a S63 Cabriolet, mash the throttle and be safely amazed by the speed of the beast.
It now has 612bhp (a 26bhp increase), 664lb ft of torque, and the nine-speed multi-clutch automatic from the E63. In the 4WD version this combination delivers a 0-62mph time of 3.5 seconds, which is 0.7 secoinds shorter than before, half a second shorter than a DB11 V8, and 0.7 seconds shorter than the new (rear-wheel drive) S65 Cabriolet. The absence of 4WD in UK-spec S63 Cabriolets knocks that 0-62 time back to a still not exactly hanging around 4.2 seconds.
The fact that such speed comes with such comfort and such refinement, even in the soft-top version, is perhaps the most impressive aspect of the S63. Mercedes thinks that Comfort will be the most popular of the three modes, and we can get behind that as this mode makes this S63 behave like a regular – but very good – non-AMG car. That’s a compliment.
If you had to identify any shortcoming in Comfort mode it would be that the steering isn’t mega-sharp, but that’s just in comparison to the two other modes, Sport and Sport+, which also alter things like the gearbox mapping, damper settings and engine responses as well as the steering weight. In Sport+ the S63 is a genuine DB11 competitor in terms of its fast driving experience.
Mercedes’ new widescreen cockpit makes an appearance here and the options include a £1600 Driver Assistance Pack with all the slick semi-autonomous technology from the new S-Class saloon. We tried out the active distance control and active steering assist. Though not yet legal, this tech lets you drive ‘hands free’ for up to 30 seconds. With this engaged the S63 will also gain or lose speed and find its own way around around bends. Tesla is still in the lead with this type of stuff but you wonder for how much longer. It’s impressive.
The hardest decision you’ll be making here is between the established prestige of brands like Bentley and Aston Martin and the less exclusive image of Mercedes. The AMG connection is certainly taking the brand up into that more rarefied atmosphere, and this specific product wants for nothing really: the S63 Cabriolet is a beautifully rounded proposition, beating its rivals in its overall package of comfort, handling and speed.
If you’re on some sort of a budget, the cheaper (£116k or so) S560 is there. It’s not nearly as impressive as the S63 but will keep most happy – as long as they don’t make the mistake of trying the AMG when it’s too late.