9 Sept 2012

Driven - Mercedes S65 AMG L

Matt Hubbard reviews Mercedes-Benz S Class in AMG guise

The Mercedes Benz S Class represents the ultimate in luxury transport.  The big Mercedes is huge, fast,  comfortable and almost silent.

In the metal the car looks fantastic.  Big, low, huge wheels with massive brakes to stop it.  The bodywork, which can look bland in photographs, has creases, bulges and gills in all the right places to make it interesting without resorting to vulgarity.

The S Class I drove, the top of the range S 65 AMG L (L for long wheelbase), has a 6 litre twin turbo V12 with 630bhp and 1,000Nm of torque and costs, with options, £172,690.

It is easy to see, when reading through the spec sheet, where all this money has been spent.  The S Class has always been at the forefront of automotive technology and this one is no exception.  As well as that enormously powerful engine it is loaded with gadgets from driver aids through to the best sound system found in any car on the market.

Sit inside and you are cosseted with wood panelling, aluminium trim, plush carpets and a steering wheel that oozes opulence.  Unlike, say, a Range Rover there are very few buttons.  Just a line of simple switches across the centre console, a couple of control units on the steering wheel, some buttons where the handbrake would live in any other car and the knob (that controls everything else) which sits under your left hand's fingers.

That said, it can be an incredibly complicated beast and took me five minutes to get acquainted with the basic controls, and find out how to start it.  In contrast the SLS AMG has a normal electronic key which you insert and turn to fire up the engine.

Once I had started the engine I could hardly hear it.  A low, quiet hum in the background.  Mercedes, less powerful, sports cars with their V8s like to make the driver, and those within a half mile radius absolutely aware of their presence.  The V12 in the S Class produces a whisper in comparison.

As in the rest of the car the engine is quietly unassuming whilst leaving you in no doubt as to it's capabilities.

It took me some time to settle in and get comfortable.  The seating position is less sporty than other Mercedes and requires adjustment to get into the required position - but that adjustment couldn't be easier with the electronic controls located just in front of the arm rest on the door.

On the road and it becomes immediately apparent what this car is for.  It is not built to race or to fling around corners - although it will do that if asked to.  It is for cruising.  For getting from A to B with the utmost refinement and with the minimum fuss.  The engine noise never rises above a lovely V12 thrum in the background.  The road noise obliterated by the insulation and that famous double glazing.

Being stuck in traffic is less frustrating than the sportier Mercs.  Because there are plenty of gadgets to play with.  I set the seats to give me a lovely massage.  I played with the distance control - which tells you how far ahead of you the car in front is, and can control that distance if required.  I played with the various gadgets via the main control knob but also found that the controls on the steering wheel could short cut a lot of these.

Whether you would continue to play with these if you owned an S Class, or just set everything once and then leave it alone, is questionable.

At speed the S 65 AMG L does not suddenly turn into a fire breathing animal.  It just remains calm.  This car can leap from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds but you wouldn't know it.  It just does everything you ask of it with ease.

The steering is light, the controls weighted for comfort rather than performance and the brakes, whilst hugely capable, are slightly wooden and over-servoed.

The S Class Mercedes is, and remains, king of the luxury car sector.  Other marques may have more status but no other car comes close to it in terms of it's ability to do everything calmly, efficiently, quietly.

I wasn't surprised at what the Mercedes could do.  They've been at the top of their game for years and with the next evolution of the S Class due in 2013 should continue to remain so.

In fact the only two surprises were that S Class looks so fantastic when seen up close (I had previously been rather disparaging about it's shape) and the other surprise was what happened when I first turned a corner.

Turn left and the right hand side of the seat bolster immediately inflates to support the driver and keep him absolutely in the seat.  This is just one of many marvels this car has in store for a driver.

The Mercedes S 65 AMG L is a stunning car.  It just doesn't like to shout that fact from the rooftops.