There’s something wonderfully romantic about a big, fast, luxurious two-door coupe, the promise of epic adventure and hint of quiet decadence smoldering underneath studied elegance. Take the 2015 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe: It’s perfect for an effortless high-speed dash across Europe to the Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Italy, with a leggy blonde in the front passenger seat, a couple of Louis Vuitton soft bags in the trunk, and a chilled bottle of Dom Perignon waiting on the balcony of the room Madonna calls home when she stays there.
Me? I’m mooching a S63 AMG Coupe through Rhode Island, a state not much bigger than a postage stamp, and with some of the lowest speed limits in the country. In this car it feels like I’m driving around my backyard. My passenger is neither leggy nor blonde, but a sleeping 50-something Argentine automotive journalist who needs a shave and is snoring loudly. At least the hotel in the tiny, toney seaside village of Westerly is nice: Taylor Swift’s mansion is almost next door.
The S63 AMG is one of three new S-Class Coupe models on sale in the U.S. The entry-level model is the S550, powered by the 449-hp, 4.7-liter twin-turbo V-8 with standard 4Matic all-wheel drive, and priced at $119,900. At the top end is the $230,900 S65 AMG, which pairs Daimler’s mighty 621-hp, 6.0-liter twin-turbo V-12 with the seven-speed AMG Speedshift Plus automated manual transmission for the first time. The S65 funnels a herculean 738 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels only, as the 4Matic system isn’t man enough for the job. The S63 neatly splits the two: 577-hp, 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8, seven-speed AMG Speedshift MCT transmission, standard 4Matic all-wheel drive, and a price tag of $160,900. One in every three S-Class coupes will be an AMG version, and the majority of those will be S63s.
The factory claims a 0-60-mph time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 186 mph, pretty solid stats for a car that tips the scales at 4,687 pounds, and one reason AMG’s carbon-ceramic brakes are available as an option, though most U.S. customers order them because they want an S63 with the lot, not because of the unquenchable stopping power and 20-percent reduction in unsprung weight.
Nail the gas from a standstill, and the S63 AMG Coupe launches hard enough to affirm those numbers, and careful acoustic tuning ensures a gratifying basso profundo snarl despite the two turbochargers spinning in the exhaust gas stream. The S63 Coupe’s 4Matic setup is unique: Instead of the usual 45/55 front to rear torque split, it’s 33/67. The decision to make 4Matic standard on the S63 was driven by a simple math equation, says MBUSA product manager Bart Herring. “To get a half second out of the acceleration times, it was either all-wheel drive or another 300 hp.”
But 4Matic also makes the car a viable year-round daily driver from Maine to Miami. For all its autobahn-storming cred, the S63 AMG Coupe is perfectly content idling around Beverly Hills or South Beach — or Newport, Rhode Island, for that matter, regardless of the weather. Move the transmission out of M (manual) or S (sport modes) and select C (for “controlled efficiency,” says Benz), and the exhaust flaps stay closed longer, quieting that V-8 rumble, and the transmission upshifts earlier, surfing the torque curve to keep revs low.
The standard Airmatic suspension doesn’t provide quite the same magic carpet ride in comfort mode as it does in the S-Class sedan, but the S63 AMG Coupe is nonetheless remarkably serene at low speeds for a car rolling on 20-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tires.
Taking it easy in the S63 AMG Coupe gives you time to enjoy the wonderful ambience of the opulent cabin. Though it shares a lot of hardware with the S-Class sedan — most notably the massive high-def screen that makes up the instrument cluster and the COMAND System interface — the Coupe gets a unique dash fascia dominated by a large leather-clad bolster that sweeps across the car. It looks rich and expensive; feels it, too, thanks to the cosseting Nappa leather seats. And that’s exactly what the S63 AMG Coupe customer, whose median household income is $500,000 a year and who owns an average of three other cars, wants in a car like this.
You see, outside of a handful of wealthy Germans with leggy blonde girlfriends, no one’s ever going to use Mercedes’ luxurious uber-coupe the way we enthusiasts dream of using it. Or the way it’s been engineered to be used, for that matter. Big, fast, elegant grand turismos — Mercedes’ list of S-Class coupe rivals includes Rolls-Royce Wraith, Bentley Continental GT, Aston Martin DB9, BMW 6-series — are these days mostly doomed to spend their lives loafing around some of the world’s most expensive real estate, quietly idling past neatly manicured hedges and fortress-like front gates as their owners head for Sunday brunch at the Yacht Club.
The Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe is an expensive anachronism, a throwback to an era when a big, fast, luxurious two-door was the last word in transcontinental travel. These days, when it comes to crossing continents, most S63 Coupe owners will likely take a private jet instead. And that’s their loss. Money is wasted on the rich.