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Apr / May 2015
Power Tool

WRITER: Nicolas Shammas

Bucking the trend for smaller engines, the 6-litre biturbo V12 powered S65 AMG Coupé isn’t just sleek, clever and wonderfully fast, it’s also a modern interpretation of an old school grand tourer. This is a car you’d actually enjoy crossing continents with. 


They used to say there’s no replacement for displacement but these days, there isn’t a carmaker on earth that’s not downsizing the engines across their model range in order to meet ever stricter emissions and fuel economy requirements. Just look at America (the foremost lover of large thirsty V8 motors) where four-cylinder cars now account for nearly half of all new sales while a decade ago, that figure stood closer to 25 per cent.

Formula One, the pinnacle of motorsport, is even a better example. Where once a large displacement V12 was the mainstay, V10’s led the way to V8’s and last year, the puny-sounding 1.6 litre V6 became the new standard.

Given this context, it may surprise you to learn that Mercedes-Benz still produces a large V12. That they let the mad boys at AMG tinker with it and turn it into an outrageous beauty of a thing is also extraordinary – and rather edgy, we’d add.

The result is six litres of displacement, an aluminium crankcase, a forged crankshaft in high-grade alloy steel, two turbos, 630bhp and an almost preposterous 1000Nm of torque. If there ever was something that could be so gloriously at odds with the modern world, this engine is it. And following the four-door S65, the SL65 and the G65, the new S65 AMG Coupé is the fourth and latest high-performance Mercedes to be made available with this magnificent engine.

The most pressing question is, why should we care? That’s a tricky one, considering the 448bhp S500 is all the coupé you’ll ever need. And if a healthy dose of excess weighs well on you, there’s always the 585bhp V8-engined S63 AMG 4Matic. Though this four-wheel drive AMG might cost 40,000 USD more than the rear-wheel drive S500 Coupé, it’s also a massive 70,000 USD less than the rear-wheel drive S65 AMG Coupé. Then take into account that the smaller V8 is actually faster than its V12 sibling, albeit by 100 milliseconds (or a tenth of a second) to 100 km/h, and you really start to wonder about the big bruiser’s significance.



It’s probably better if we take a step back at this point so I can give you some background. Mercedes-Benz won both the Driver and Constructor’s Championships in Formula One last year and is therefore quite the expert in extracting big performance from small power units. Additionally, although they manage to cover their tracks well by retaining the old monikers, the S-Coupé range has actually been modestly downsized since its CL days. The AMG 63 V8 engine is no longer the large, naturally aspirated 6.2-litre but rather, a lighter 5.5-litre twin-turbo unit. And the AMG 65 also has less cubic centimetres than its name might suggest, with six litres of V12 goodness coupled with two large blowers. It’s a glorious motor, which we see as an ultimate swansong for old school muscle.

When pushed to comment, Stuttgart engineers even confirm as much – yet they won’t do so on the record. “We continue to produce a V12 engine because Ferrari, Lamborghini and BMW still make one,” our anonymous whistle-blower says. “But I would expect future S65’s to go with a larger displacement V8 engine instead of a V12.”

A death to the V12 would be terrible shame and I say this mindful that I prefer the S63 AMG 4Matic anyway. The thing is, I’m pro-choice though. And just as I would not have stood for Henry Ford’s option list of “any colour as long as it’s black” or Ferrari’s decision to do away with the manual gearbox, I would also urge Mercedes-Benz to think long and hard before taking any rash decisions concerning their V12.

Now you could very well ask me why. Well, for a given displacement, and assuming an equal bore-stroke ratio, adding cylinders might mean more frictional and thermal losses but the upsides of the V12 are minimal vibrations and a natural balance, with no need for any extra shafts or counter weights. Essentially, the V12 is one of the smoothest engines ever created. One that can rev higher than any V8, and with plenty of torque throughout its power range. What’s more, a V12 can idle almost silently, if so desired. Of course, the V12 in the S65 doesn’t’ aim for quietness and though it may not be as raucous as its V8 sibling it’s still a far superior engine. Silky smooth, torquey and gratifyingly effortless in its power delivery, the only two negatives, as far as I can tell, are that it’s bloody expensive and takes up too much room in the engine bay for the addition of a 4Matic system. This is why, personally, I would opt for the S63 4Matic Coupé. “I can understand your rationale but there are AMG fans for whom only the V12 biturbo engine will do,” explains Dirk Fetzer, Director Sales and Marketing at Daimler Middle East & Levant, “ and considerations like price are an irrelevance for them.”

So, let’s get into the rest of it. I must admit that not having 4Matic drive does have certain benefits, chief among them is that you can spec the brilliant new ‘Curve Tilting’ function, which at speeds between 15 and 180 km/h, actually leans the car into corners in exactly the same way a motorcyclist would. This is not for performance gains but to make journeys more comfortable, especially if you’re blazing into corners. Another clever bit of comfort tech is the Magic Body Control, which employs cameras at the front of the car that scan the road surface ahead and feed relevant data to the variable dampers so that they’re able to best compensate for impending irregularities.



As you can tell by now, the S-Class Coupé values comfort and this is something I found wonderfully refreshing. Manufacturers’ endless pursuit of faster lap times around the Nürburgring might be good for bragging rights, but in the real world we drivers spend most of our time either commuting on dull speed-restricted roads or stuck in mindless traffic. The S65 Coupé however is the kind of car I’d love to be stuck in. Not only do I have more than enough power to flash into lane openings, it’s also supremely comfortable and totally sheltering. In fact, the S-Class Coupé has the quietest and most insulated cabin of any car ever made, with the real pièce de résistance being those magical seats, which are so comfortable, so adjustable and so supportive that I was actually considering replicating them as armchairs for my home. And did I mention that they perform six different types of massage, all the way from your shoulders to your coccyx?

The S65 Coupé does have an insane level of equipment. There are so many bits and bobs that it was impossible to master them all in the single day I had the car. There’s a standard head-up display, two 12.3-inch colour TFT dashboard screens, a new touchpad COMAND system, a 360-degree parking camera, active park assist, Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control, cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance, night vision, 12-way airbag safety, a Magic Sky Control tinting glass roof system and a 24-speaker Burmester surround-sound audio system. Let’s face it, you might prefer the look of an Aston Martin or a Bentley but neither will ever come close to this kind of technological mastery.

But what really makes the S65 Coupé so special, beyond its great engine, fantastic looks and crazy techno wizardry is the inimitable wellbeing this car offers. There’s nothing else on the road today – Rolls-Royce included – that can provide the comfort, power and peace of mind that the S65 AMG Coupé does. Should you buy one? By all means. I’m already dreaming of one myself.

Model:  Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG Coupé
Engine: 6.0-litre twin-turbo V12
Drive: Rear-wheel
Power: 630 bhp
Torque: 1,000 Nm
Gearbox: 7-speed
Top Speed: Limited to 250 km/h
0-100 km/h: 4.1 seconds
Price: 277,000 USD


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