photos by Peter Bleakney & James Bergeron
November 22, 2006
There is a war going on in Germany right now, and things are getting ugly. It involves hundreds of charging horses, several pointy metallic projectiles, and a few select armies of speed-obsessed automotive engineers. The bully in this conflict is Mercedes-Benz.
Or more specifically, AMG: the high-performance arm of this Stuttgart-based automaker. Oh sure, BMW’s M division and the RS skunkworks of Audi have sent some worthy warriors to battle, but if it’s purely horsepower numbers you’re after, AMG’s latest volley has just opened up a huge can of whoopass on those duking it out in this arena.
This was plainly evident as I hustled a 2007 Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG sedan around the 2.23 km road course at Shannonville Motorsport Park during a recent press event that featured most of the 2007 AMG fleet.
With this ultra-luxurious, blisteringly fast 2270 kg (5004 lb) performance sedan, AMG has managed to leave the competition in its wake and give Sir Isaac Newton the old one finger salute, all in one masterstroke. Nasty stuff.
The S65’s road melting thrust comes courtesy of a 5980 cc Biturbo AMG V12 that sends, via a five-speed automatic transmission, 603 hp at 4800 rpm to the rear wheels along with 738 lb.-ft. of torque from 2000-4000 rpm.
The soul of every Mercedes-Benz AMG vehicle is the engine, and each one is handcrafted and signed by one of 41 certified engineers at the AMG factory in Affalterbach, Germany. This modified Mercedes twelve-pot benefits from a precision-balanced crankshaft with a longer stroke, larger-bore forged pistons and an upgraded system for oil-spray cooling and bearing lubrication. The newly designed engine cover is made from aluminum and carbon-fibre reinforced plastic.
Step on the throttle at any speed and this sybaritic behemoth blasts forth on a tsunami of torque. Mercedes claims a 0-100 km/h time of 4.4 seconds.
Surprisingly, the S65 not adverse to a little aggressive track work either. You could never call it agile, but with 20-inch performance tires (255/35 ZR front and 275/35 ZR rear) and AMG-tuned Active Body Control (ABC), the sedan feels planted, stable and exhibits very little body lean thanks to the active damper system. Acceleration out of the corners is fierce, accompanied by a distant muted howl from the V12.
The infinitely adjustable seats in the S65 are immensely comfortable, and feature side bolsters that instantly inflate as lateral g-forces increase. It’s a bit weird at first, and easy to dismiss as techno-overkill, but after a few laps I was thoroughly appreciating the extra support.
As would be expected, powerful braking is a big part of the AMG equation, and here, the large composite vented discs with industry-first front twin-sliding 8-piston calipers proved incredibly strong and fade free. If Newton were to ride along in this puppy for a few laps, he’d be scratching out a few revisions on the back of his barf bag.
How many of these $228,000 luxo-barges will see track duty? Likely none, but it certainly was fascinating to see what the AMG crew could do with Mercedes’ full sized sedan.
The S65 AMG’s real mandate is to provide unparalleled luxury with effortless forward thrust, and, with apologies to Rolls Royce, this sedan can “waft” like few others. Blasting silently along in the left lane of the autobahn is where the S65 would be most at home.
This new S-Class body is larger, more elegant and stately than the outgoing model, and to these eyes, is more in keeping with the car’s station as a Teutonic uber sedan. It appears aggressive, yet the body lines flow organically. And lookee here… that trunk looks somewhat familiar. It seems Mr. Bangle’s much criticized “bustle butt” treatment that created such a flap when it debuted on the latest BMW 7-series has now magically migrated over to M-B’s big sedan.
The AMG front fascia, lower body cladding, five-spoke 20-inch alloys and chromed quad tailpipes subtly telegraph the S65’s extra muscle.
Not surprisingly, the interior of the S65 is a paragon of opulence with every conceivable mod-con at your beck and call.
Mercedes’ revised COMAND interface, which is similar to BMW’s iDrive, is much simpler and more intuitive than the previous system. Sure, you’ll have to spend some time with the manual, but welcome to the world of high-tech German luxury sedans. These systems are all part of the experience, but here it’s not all about twirling the “mouse” on the centre console. Redundant controls for climate and entertainment functions can be found on the steering wheel and dash, or you can simply tell the S65 what you want via voice-command.
One could write a whole book on the Dynamic Multicontour Front Seats with Massage, which are standard fare on the S65. Each seat contains 15 inflatable bladders that can be individually adjusted to create the perfect fit via the COMAND controller and a nifty display on the LCD screen. The air chambers also react automatically to lateral G-forces or will work together to reduce fatigue in four massage modes.
The lower seat cushion is adjustable for length, and the back can be adjusted to match the curve of your spine. The seats are also ventilated (warm or cool) and of course heated.
The $5500 Premium Rear Seating Package provides most of these goodies for the folks in back so they won’t feel left out.
The multi-level and multi-zone automatic climate control ensures every passenger is perfectly comfy from head to toe while they enjoy the 600 watt, 14 speaker, 5.1 Harmon Kardon surround sound system.
Optional on all S-Class Mercedes is Distronic Plus proximity control system. This advanced cruise control maintains a safe following distance even in stop and go traffic. Theoretically, I could set the cruise at 180 km/h for my commute into Toronto, and then sit in traffic on the QEW like the rest of the poor sods without touching the brake or gas. Cool.
This tester featured the $2500 optional Night View Assist, which uses infrared beams, undetectable to the human eye, to illuminate the road ahead. The image is then projected on an eight-inch display in the instrument cluster – a useful device for those in moose and deer country.
Being a Mercedes-Benz, passenger safety is of paramount concern, and all 2007 S-Class AMG vehicles come with an enhanced version of PRE-SAFE – a system that furthers the science of electronic automotive safety. If the myriad on-board sensors detect an impending crash, the front passenger seats are instantly adjusted to the upright position, the side bolsters inflated, the sunroof and side windows are closed, and the seat belts tightened.
If something does go horribly wrong, POST-SAFE shuts off the engine and fuel supply, activates the hazard lights, and lowers the windows slightly for oxygen supply.
In the realm of super luxury sedans, the S65 AMG pretty much rules – its only real competitor being the 553-hp Bentley Continental Flying Spur which comes in at a similarly stratospheric $225,000.
Ah, but wars can be protracted things, and I doubt this shot across BMW’s bonnet has gone unnoticed at the M division. There is obviously a market for uncompromising missiles such as the S65 AMG and Flying Spur. Is BMW taking the sensible route and leaving AMG to play on its own in 600-hp land, or could there be a twin-turbo V12 M7 in the works?
At a glance: 2007 Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG
Base price: $228,000
Options: designer silver metallic paint $1940, Night View Assist $2500
Destination charge: $1795
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $234,335
Manufacturer’s web site