One-day test: Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG
This is officially the most expensive car that I have ever driven. But I guess that is what you get when you take the most luxurious of Mercedes-Benz models, drop if off at AMG, and tell them to give it ‘that’ performance treatment. And you aren’t referring to that lowly V8 they have been putting into some of their cars: no they want the V12!
This is exactly what the S65 AMG is. It uses the same extended length chassis as the S600, including all the luxurious bells and whistles like massaging seats, reclining rear seats, night vision heads up, two display screens bigger than tablets, rear pillow headrests which make Tempura feel like rocks, and a host over other luxuries that ensure this S-Class represents the pinnacle of opulence.
But then you add to that the equivalent of an engineering unicorn: a V12 bi-turbo 6,0-litre AMG motor. While ever manufacturer has been scrambling to build smaller, more efficient engines, or to develop hybrid technology in order to supplement power, there is a small branch within AMG that still builds a V12 engine, for Pagani.
Pagani then takes that engine and uses it on its Huayra ultra car, where it produces 537 kW and 1 000 Nm of torque. So on the rare occasion that this engine makes its way into a production Mercedes-Benz, its actually been detuned to only produce 463 kW and 1 000 Nm of torque.
You would think that with that much power it would also be available with 4Matic, the Mercedes-Benz all-wheel drive system, but no – all that power gets channeled through a seven-speed Speedshift gearbox to the rear wheels, where it will overpower the fattest of tyres from first gear all the way to third (the S65 has 285/35 R20 tyres at the back).
But Mercedes-Benz is aware that this is still a luxury cruiser, and wheel spin is something that has no place on a car like this, so it limits the car’s power delivery until you get up to speed. The result is that it doesn’t feel as fast as you think it should.
Don’t get me wrong: there is PLENTY of shove off the mark and you’re pressed back deep into the lounge chair-like seat. But it feels like there should be more. That said it will still execute a 0-100 km/h sprint in 4,3 seconds.
You only really feel that power if you are already on the go in a higher gear and then flatten the accelerator. Going from highway speeds to silly speeds occurs in a fraction of a second, and because the car is so big, and the air suspension ensures it’s supremely comfortable, you hardly feel the speed build up.
It is undoubtedly the king of all S-Class cars, merging the luxury you’d expect with power that seems unreal. But unfortunately, it doesn’t get that mix quite right. It feels more at home as a cruiser than a bruiser, and with that in mind you could be better off with a normal S600 or an S63 AMG, or even the S500 with the new turbocharged 4,0-litre V8.
There is also the question of who would buy a driver-oriented extra length S-Class? It’s a car more enjoyable from the rear passenger seat than as a driver, so that leaves people who want to be driven around but who also want to be able to make a quick getaway as the most obvious target market. Outside of Jason Statham, I cant really think of too many potential buyers.
Then there is the small problem of the R 2 956 500 price tag – and that it will burn fuel faster than an iron smelter.
Would I buy one? If I had the money, quite probably. The only real downside is that there are cheaper Mercs that could deliver a similar set of functions – but to be honest, if your buying budget was four-bedroom house money, then do you really care about optimising the money you spend? I think not …
Mini Review from an Owner:
A few months ago a friend of mine traded in his S600 for the S65 AMG so I asked him for his opinion. He said that while it is nice to know that you are driving the ultimate in S-Class, and thereby maybe also the ultimate Mercedes-Benz if you think of their heyday as the Grosser, the power is somewhat unusable and the ride quality is compromised compared to the S600. He misses the S600 when it comes to absolute comfort, but he says the trade-off is worth it for the knowledge that you have all that power underfoot.