The world is all aflutter about the new generation of luxuries and technologies that Mercedes-Benz is cramming into the 2021 S-Class. And rightfully so, as that sounds like a marvelous thing. However, it'll be a while before those innovations filter down through the entirety of the S line. The coupes and cabriolets will take some time, and the performance variants thereof will take the longest, so it'll likely be a year or more before we get a replacement for the stately beast you see here.
That's OK, because this is still a remarkable car. It's the 2020 Mercedes-AMG S63 Cabriolet, and what it lacks in facial recognition technology and rear-seat voice assistance it more than makes up for with a 603-horsepower V8 and and among the most opulent interiors found in anything this side of the QE2. But, you might be wondering, isn't that all a bit much for a two-door convertible? The answer is yes, yes it is.
Mercedes' twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V8 engine is so commonly found across the brand's cars, and indeed those from other marques, that it's easy to disregard the thing. That'd be a mistake, because here it's delivering 603 hp through all four wheels, enough to drag this 4,888-pound luxury bruiser to 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds. That is outrageously quick -- 0.6 quicker than the V12-powered S65, in fact. Claimed fuel economy is 15 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, though I'm seeing a mere 13.6 mpg in my… somewhat aggressive touring of mostly country roads.
Pick the coupe or cabriolet and you get the same performance and same (electronically limited) 186-mph top speed, despite the droptop flavor carrying an extra 203 pounds in ballast -- plus a $12,100 premium. That fabric top goes up or down in just 20 seconds at the touch of a button, and can do its dance at speeds of up to 37 mph. That was a boon to me when my final drive in the S63 turned from sunny skies to torrential downpours in the blink of an eye. I didn't even have to linger too far beneath the speed limit to get myself a little shelter.
That big motor is paired with a nine-speed, dual-clutch transmission and AMG's 4Matic Plus all-wheel drive. This rear-wheel-biased system only sends power to the front when it's needed. Given we're talking about an awful lot of power it is indeed frequently needed, but that redistribution of is never abrupt, never really even detectable.
15.4-inch brake discs up front are squeezed by six-piston calipers, while an optional carbon-ceramic set of 16.5-inch stoppers are available for those who like their top-down jaunts to be a bit more aggressive.
Everything is controlled by a suite of safety and stability systems bundled together under a series of AMG Dynamic Select driving modes. Toggle your way from Comfort through Sport and Sport Plus all the way up to Race and the car gets progressively more aggressive. If none of those quite fit your needs, Individual is your ticket.
Slotting in behind the wheel of the S63 Cabriolet for the first time is a little bit overwhelming -- especially when the car has been layered in the variety of Designo elements you see here. The entire thing just sweeps around you in the sort of way a cathedral might embrace a pipe organ, and once on the road you can tell the AMG exhaust has been just as precisely tuned.
The S63 is loud and raw in a way that most turbocharged cars are not, but of course muted civility is just a button press away. In fact, an awful, awful lot of things are just a button press away, because this interior is absolutely riddled with the things.
With more and more cars burying functionality in sub-menus of touchscreens, this S63 proudly shows off its many and various functions with discrete, deliciously tactile inputs everywhere. After a week behind the wheel I was still finding new ones, often marveling at their function and location. There's a button for toggling the night vision system right there on the dashboard, for example, yet the headlight controls are awkwardly tucked beneath the dashboard. The controls to drop the top? They're hidden inside the armrest.
Don't get me wrong, while the placement of these buttons sometimes leaves a bit to be desired, I am still a fan of tactility and I appreciate Mercedes' willful festooning of physical controls. For better or worse much of this will go away in the next generation. Also going away? The COMAND infotainment system. It does support Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, thankfully, but is overall rather clunky compared to Mercedes-Benz's new hotness, MBUX.
Front to back, from the leather wrapping the Affalterbach-embossed armrest to the Dinamica headliner, materials in the S63 are stellar and comfort is high. Rear seat legroom is modest, sure, but otherwise there's no bad seat in the house. Even at speed with the top down, rear passengers can hold a casual conversation without shouting. This is helped by not one but two pop-up screens that eliminate buffeting and kept my baseball cap where it belonged.
Still, up front is undoubtedly the best place to be, enjoying a massage, taking in the signature AMG #63 scent wafting from the vents and generally appreciating all the Energizing Comfort system has to offer.
If all you wanted to do is waft, however, you probably wouldn't have gone with the S63 in the first place.
The S63 Cabriolet is nearly as good at being a cosseting chariot as the rest of the S-Class line, its comfort chops are only challenged on broken asphalt thanks to the 20-inch wheels wrapped in performance-oriented, 255/40R20 front and 285/35R20 rear tires. There's a bit more wind and road noise than you'd find on the hardtop, but honestly you'd barely notice without poking the headliner.
What is apparent, however, is the outrageous amount of power at your disposal. I already mentioned the insane 603 hp available at 5,500 rpm. What I didn't mention is the outrageous 664 pound-feet of torque at just 2,750 rpm. That is a tsunami of force propelling this big car forward. The engine's maniacal, crackling furor just makes it feel all the more momentous.
The S63's active air suspension and Dynamic Cornering Assist (which brakes the inside rear wheel when cornering) help make it engaging, too. However, where some big performance cars like the Porsche Panamera feel like they're effortlessly breaking the laws of physics, the AMG S63 instead seems to be shoving them out of the way. Maybe it's the lack of rear steering or maybe it just comes down to suspension tune, but that doesn't make this any less of an effective tool on your favorite roads.
How much will this thrill-ride cost you? Fasten that safety belt because things are about to get expensive. The 2020 Mercedes-AMG S63 starts at $184,495, including $995 destination. That gets you in the seat, but you'll surely be wanting to tick a few more boxes before you start going. Which boxes? Well, $2,250 for the Driver Assistance Package is a must, and the Burmester sound system is so good that I wouldn't balk at its $6,400 price tag. I could do without the $2,260 night vision package outfitted on my test car, and as lovely as all that Designo features are, $12,700 for the leather alone is a bit hard to stomach. The $7,500 for that amazing Deep Green paint, however, is a steal.
I won't spend too much time running through the options because this isn't really a car where a typical buyer will sweat such fiduciary details. Suffice to say the car you see here is $227,005 as configured and, while it feels every bit suitable of such a price, that just makes a $150,000 S560 feel like a bit of a bargain. For those privileged few who can manage the entry fee, the extra performance of the AMG S63 a standout package -- regardless of the weather.