A German changed the BMW M5 e39 to an e60
Fearful that Mercedes-AMG’s relatively rare S63 cabriolet is becoming, dare we say it, familiar? Visually, it might be. In spite of a mild update for 2018—which brought revised bumpers, headlights, and new organic-LED taillights—it looks pretty much the same as it did upon its debut a few years ago. That’s fine, because it’s gorgeous even in old age, like the Kylie Minogue of large, powerful four-seat luxury convertibles.
And wouldn’t you know it, just as Kylie keeps putting out music, AMG is keeping its sportiest S-class caste—the 63-badged models—fresh with a new engine. Everyone say “hallo” to Mercedes-AMG’s hand-built twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8, which replaces every S63 variant’s twin-turbo 5.5-liter this year and sits behind a grinning new Panamericana grille with striking vertical slats. Horsepower jumps 26 ponies to 603, the same state of tune as in the highest-output versions of the smaller E63 sedan and wagon. Peak torque remains 664 lb-ft, just as in the outgoing 5.5-liter, although it hits 500-rpm higher up the tachometer, at 2750 rpm.
On paper, the horsepower infusion edges the S63 further from the non-AMG, V-8–powered S-class (now called S560 and using a detuned, assembly-line-built version of the same 4.0-liter engine) and closer to the massively more expensive S65, whose 621-hp twin-turbocharged V-12 lopes into 2018 unchanged.
In reality, the S63’s switch from AMG’s old, jerky seven-speed automatic transmission (that used a multiplate wet clutch in place of a torque converter) to a new nine-speed unit (which also employs the clutch coupler) outshines its power upgrade. The new transmission’s spread of 8.92 is nearly 50 percent greater than the seven-speed’s, including a shorter first gear and a taller top gear, to the benefit of acceleration and fuel economy—if such a thing exists with 603 horses strapped to the reins.
And because the nine-speed retains its predecessor’s connection to the engine’s crankshaft, launch control is again part of the experience. To engage, hold the brake then mash the gas (in the hardest-core Sport+ driving mode), the engine revs to 3500 rpm or so, then release the brake and be prepared for the S63 to catapult forward as its four tires claw the pavement.