If you were lamenting Mercedes’ decision to swap out the burly 4.0-liter V8 in the C 63 for something with half the cylinders, the new-for-2023 S 63 E Performance might just help Mercedes make amends. The most powerful S-Class ever features a similarly complex hybrid powertrain as the new C 63 AMG, but under its long hood is no four-cylinder. Oh no, the S 63 E Performance retains that classic twin-turbo V8, and with the added help of the electric motor and a bigger battery than the C 63, makes power figures that are frankly astronomical.
It certainly looks the part. For the first time, an S 63 features AMG’s signature Panamericana front grille. The front and rear ends both look far more aggressive, too, but inside, little has changed from the standard S-Class. Being Mercedes’ flagship, the S is already a tech tour de force with its optional augmented reality head-up display, 4D surround-sound system, and all of its driver assist systems. The new S 63 takes all of that with it in its transformation to AMG-powered machine. Rear-wheel steering, air suspension, and a new anti-roll system featuring electromechanical anti-roll bars support the new S 63 and are all standard kit. That’s all well and good, but the real headline grabber is the power figures.
Thank Affalterbach: The V8 returns!
It starts with the engine we enthusiasts are already missing in the C 63. The 604-horsepower 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 is plucked from the previous S 63 AMG and mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, but here it’s combined with a 13.1-kWh battery pack that feeds a rear-axle-mounted electric motor. The motor is integrated with a two-speed transmission and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. The engine and electric motor combine for a total system output of 791 horsepower and 1,055 lb-ft of torque. All that juice is sent to all four wheels, 0-60 mph is set at an estimated 3.2 seconds, and top speed is limited to 180 mph.
Complex though it may be, there’s no denying the performance gains the added hybrid system offers. The electric motor augments the V8 by adding 94 horsepower at all times, but horsepower can be ramped up to 187 hp for up to 10 seconds. The two-speed transmission is there to ensure the e-motor always stays within a peak operating rev range, and it’s similar to what Audi and Porsche have done with the two-speed transmissions in the e-tron GT and Taycan, respectively.
The battery pack itself is directly cooled by 3.7 gallons of a nonconductive liquid that flows around each of the 1,200 battery cells and cools them individually. Mercedes says the result is a battery pack whose average temperature is 133 degrees. According to Mercedes, this is the perfect operating window for the batteries, and ensures they discharge energy quickly without a drop-off in performance. Charging speed for the battery is capped at 3.7 kW, but the comparatively small pack should mean that even at such a low charging rate, you aren’t spending too much time topping up the battery at your local charging station.
If you never want to set foot near a charger, though, there are four regeneration modes on the new S 63. Like most energy recovery systems, it takes energy that is typically lost under braking or while coasting and feeds it back into the battery. In its most aggressive mode, Level 3 regen, the S 63 also offers what Mercedes says is “almost” one-pedal driving. Level 0 offers the least regeneration and allows the S 63 to simply coast along as if the car was in neutral. Level 1 is the default setting, and according to Mercedes, feels like engine braking in a standard car. Level 2 is more noticeable, and Mercedes says that the brakes rarely need to be touched in this mode because of how much regen is happening.
If four regen modes weren’t enough for you, don’t worry, the S 63 has seven drive modes to pick from. In order, the modes are Electric, Comfort, Battery Hold, Sport, Sport+, Slippery and an Individual mode. In Electric mode, the S 63 relies entirely on the e-motor at the back, and Mercedes estimates the S 63 will be able to go about 20 miles on battery power alone. Battery Hold mode keeps the battery at whatever level it was at when the mode was selected.
For example, if the battery was at 50% when you switched into Battery Hold, the car will minimize power consumption to make sure the battery stays at that level. Individual, as you might have guessed, allows you to change the settings for the powertrain, the transmission, the stability control system, the suspension, steering weight and exhaust to your liking. Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Slippery ramp up power delivery, change the shift patterns of the transmission, and adjust the firmness of the air suspension and how the electromechanical anti-roll bars react.
There’s so much trick tech here that it’s hard to see how all these systems will work together in harmony in practice, but we’ll be sure to find out once we get time behind the wheel next year. As for a price, Mercedes isn’t saying yet, but we’d be surprised if this car wasn’t significantly more expensive than the last S 63 AMG, which started at over $150,000. Whatever the cost, we’ll know more come 2023.